Big Event for Utah Investors and Entrepreneurs, Nov. 20th

Mark Cuban pointed out on his blog last week that President Elect Obama has made his first mistake: he failed to appoint a single entrepreneur to his economic advisory team, when it is clear that "entrepreneurs that start and run small businesses will be the propellant in this economy." He suggested that the new President should "ask the people who are actually starting new businesses what they need," so that the government doesn’t adopt policies that will backfire by hurting entrepreneurs.

This morning I watched a 1 hour documentary on the Biography Channel about Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart, who by 1985 was the richest man in the United States. It was especially interesting to see how he grew up during the Great Depression, and how many of his values and goals were shaped by watching his father eek out a living during the depression.

After WWII, Sam bought a five-and-dime store that was losing money and turned it around by experimenting with a new retail trend called self-service, where the customers actually browsed for their own merchandise rather than asking a clerk to get it for him. His store sales tripled. Within three years he had repaid the $20,000 startup capital he had borrowed from his father-in-law, and he was ready to expand. However, the building owner decided not to renew his lease, so Sam lost his store location.

The documentary explained the obstacles and hardships Sam Walton faced on his way to becoming the most successful retailer in the history of the world. One decision he made in 1961 that I found particularly interesting (it made me smile) was when he bought controlling interest in an Arkansas bank so he could lend himself more money to open more retail stores. Now that is creative, out of the box thinking, for an entrepreneur!

You can read about the history of Wal-Mart at FundingUniverse, along with thousands of other company histories. Many of them contain amazing stories of entrepreneurs overcoming hard times along their path to success. 

Next week, Utah Entrepreneurs have a chance to learn about steps they can take along their road to entrepreneurial success. On Thursday, November 20th, an important event for entrepreneurs and Utah angel investors will take place:

Starting Nov. 17th, Utah joins more than 100 countries and organizations representing millions of entrepreneurs to celebrate Global Entrepreneurship Week. A highlight of Utah’s celebration is a day-long entrepreneur and angel investing event on Thursday, Nov. 20th.

The one-day event – “Unleashing Ideas: Igniting High-Growth Entrepreneurship in Utah” – takes place Thursday, Nov. 20, from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. at Sandy’s South Towne Exposition Center. Entrepreneurs, angel investors, venture capitalists, and experts in numerous core service industries will attend.

The Nov. 20th conference features the third annual Angel Summit, attracting angel investors throughout the state. Angel investors are high net-worth individuals who fund early-stage, high-potential business opportunities. Registration and additional information are available via www.GewUtah.com. (Source: UtahPulse.com)

I have agreed to participate all-day in this conference by chairing one of the tracks that will address the needs of entrepreneurs and inventors who need help raising capital or doing online marketing.

There is a quality program planned with multiple tracks, and I encourage all Utah entrepeneurs to spread the word and turn this into a well-attended event.

Against the backdrop of national economic crisis, let’s take a day to brainstorm with each other what entrepreneurs can do to create value and generate positive economic activity that will help us, as previous generations have done, claw our way back to prosperity through hard work and innovation.

I’ll see you there.

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iPhone developers, unite!

A few months ago, after feeling the initial rush of getting a million users of our Facebook app We’re Related in just 29 days, I set up a Facebook group with an admittedly dumb name: Utah CEOs With a Facebook Strategy. It now has 488 members. We met a couple of times in Provo earlier this year. Jason McGowan and Michael Jensen from our team at FamilyLink.com shared with about 30-40 attendees how to build an app that is viral and can scale, and I tried to pump the Facebook opportunity as well as I could. I’m a true believer in what Facebook did with their Platform, as you will see from my original blog post the day they announced it, back in May 2007, when I predicted that Facebook would become the world’s leading social network. It only took a year for that to happen, as recent Comscore data shows Facebook with more worldwide users and page views than MySpace.

In the ensuing months we have tried to find other Facebook applications developed in Utah that had more than say 50,000 users, so we could invite other developers to share their learning with the group, but we haven’t been able to find any other Utah company with a successful Facebook app–so this group has kind of stagnated.

I don’t understand why we don’t see more Utah entrepreneurs anticipating and catching these amazing waves of opportunities, as new platforms open up for software developers. After all, Utah once boasted the world’s leading word processing company (WordPerfect) and the world’s leading networking company (Novell). And we still have the world’s best web analytics company (Omniture) and the world’s best online video delivery platform (Move Networks.)

Of course today the world celebrates the launch of another new platform, which might end up being far bigger and more important than the Facebook platform. Apple’s iPhone, despite today’s launch problems, will be purchased by tens of millions of consumers in the next year and hundreds of millions after that. Back in March, Apple announced the SDK that allows developers to build applications for the iPhone. Tens of thousands of developers were accepted into the official beta developers program. Today, hundreds of applications premiered in the app store. I’ve downloaded six or seven, including the ridiculous PhoneSaber app, and the silly Light app (turns the iphone into a really lame flashlight), but a few others with some promise. The iPhone is definitely the most amazing consumer device I’ve ever owned from a design standpoint (although I am more addicted to my Blackberry for its utility and more in love with my Kindle for the fact that it just does books, and I love books.) That it is now a platform for software developers makes it even more amazing.

This time I know at least a few Utah based companies that are planning iPhone apps, including one that I think will be wildly successful. And so, once again, I’ve organized a Facebook group, again with a dumb name: Utah Executives Creating iPhone Apps. We aren’t targeted developers only, as much as business people and entrepreneurs who want to take advantage of this new platform. But maybe we should focus on developers, since they are often way more into technology and are sometimes looking for the next new thing. Who knows? Only 10 members have joined this group, but maybe after this blog post we’ll get a few dozen members and organize our first get together in the next month.

If you are from Utah, and work for a company that ought to have an iPhone app, or after that an app for phones based on Google Android (read this incredible Wired article about what Google Android is all about) or the Symbian OS which Nokia recently purchased and announced plans to open source (this is really big news, since Symbian phones still have the most market share, I believe) then join this Facebook group, and help me rally some support for companies to invest in mobile software.

I’d love to see some entrepreneurs/developers from Utah coming up with some killer mobile software applications, and then showing up in the Deal Flow report on SiliconSlopes.com, the web site that best covers the Utah high-tech economy.

I sometimes miss running the Provo Labs incubator, because with each new platform there are a myriad of opportunities, but then I remember how much I love running FamilyLink.com, where we actually get to take advantage of every new platform that makes sense for families (which may exclude Google’s new Lively virtual world as well as other virtual world’s that have recently been announced) and build applications, widgets, or full-functioning software for these platforms. Our Facebook apps now have 6.8 million users and nearly 150,000 daily active users. And we actually launched on that platform about five months later than we had hoped. (We were really in bootstrap mode back then.) We may be a few months late with our iPhone apps as well, but the opportunity will be so vast in the long run, that it probably won’t matter too much.

Sign up for the Utah iPhone group, and let’s get together to brainstorm and fan the flames of excitement about mobile platforms and how Utah companies can participate in where the high-tech economy is heading.

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UTC Hall of Fame Celebration tomorrow in Salt Lake City

My favorite Utah high tech event every year is the Utah Technology Council Annual Hall of Fame event. It is now in its 9th year. This year James Sorenson, medical device pioneer and billionaire, and Bernard Daines, father of gigabit ethernet, are being inducted. Intel CEO Paul Otellini will be the keynote speaker. The list of past inductees is pretty amazing–Utah has produced more than its share of technology pioneers. I probably won’t make it this year, even though I would really like to. I hope someone will blog about it.

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Utah Events: Blogging for Business; Facebook Strategies

So my friend Robert Merrill (Utahtechjobs.com) reminded me to plug the upcoming Blogging for Business conference in Salt Lake City, scheduled for Monday, October 22nd.

I’m coming up on 4 years as a blogger, and I can attest that blogging has opened up a world of opportunities for me. I think every CEO should blog and businesses should use blogs to communicate with all stakeholders. Frankly, it amazes me that so many businesses are willing to go for years with so many believers/practitioners extolling the virtues of things like internet marketing, search engines, blogging, and social networking, without so much as even assigning employees to try it and see.

I think this conference will be terrific, and I’m encouraging one of my company bloggers to attend. About half of our employees at World Vital Records blog, and I think the other half will be soon. I have said that blogging (people find you) and LinkedIn (you find them) is an incredible 1-2 combination punch for making important business contacts.

While I’m blogging about this Utah event, I also want to plug a new group on Facebook that I set up called Utah CEOs Who Have a Facebook Strategy. We have 20 members after just one day, but I’ll be emailing about 200-300 other Utah CEOs this week and hoping that we can get about 40-50 of them to come to our first event. It will probably be in Provo in the next 3 weeks.

I’m not sure what you will happen if you are not a Facebook member and try to click on this link; somebody please let me know. Maybe there is a better way to link to Facebook groups than what I am doing.

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Race4Madi.com

Next week, on Saturday morning, a 5k race will be held in Provo (very close to BYU and the MTC) to raise funds for leukemia treatments for the most amazing 15-year old girl.

Please visit Race4Madi.com to learn more.

Madi was diagnosed a few months ago, and has been in serious chemo treatments for 3 months. She has a super positive attitude and is always cheering everyone up.

If you run and live in Utah, please sign up for this 5k. We want hundreds of runners to show support for Madi and her family. The event organizers are hoping to raise thousands of dollars to help the family.

If you don’t run, please visit the web site and consider making a donation to this cause.

If you know other runners in the Provo area, or want to help us spread the word to the BYU or Timpview studentbody, please contact me and let me know what you can do.

This is going to be a lot of fun, and at the same time help a wonderful girl and her family.

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Sundance: make room for the new family friendly film festival

My friend Brady Whittingham is a driven entrepreneur. He comes from a football family, and he played football in college. That intensity has stayed with him in business. We worked together years ago at MyFamily.com where he was our best product manager. Fast, smart, and completely results oriented. (Just like the BYU passing game.) He quickly realized that as companies get big they get slow–too slow for him (and later, for me) so he moved on, started his own internet business, and has achieve remarkable success.

He has begun doing some films. In true entrepreneurial fashion, Brady has decided to create a new venue for family friendly films to debut. The team he and his wife have put together to launch this festival is a good one.

Sundance Film Festival was started by Robert Redford just 29 years ago, and it has turned into a major international event.

I can’t wait to see what the Utah Family Film Festival becomes in the next decade or two.

Here’s how Brady describes the impetus for this festival and a little about the first year’s event:

There has always been some sort of draw for me to entertainment, and specifically film. . . .Having been exposed quite a bit to the industry through my passive role as Executive Producer for an newly completed independent film called “Take” (www.takethemovie.com), I’m more than just a little bit intrigued by the process of taking a movie from concept to finished product.

For years, my wife and I have attended the Sundance Film Festival. We have friends that fly in from NY and California every year and it’s always one of our most anticipated holidays (yes, we have made it a two week holiday around our house). As great as we think the Festival is, the film selection doesn’t cater well to the family (we have 3 little girls ages 6, 9, and 11), and we’ve been embarrassed more than a couple times after inviting friends and neighbors to a film without knowing exactly how graphic the material was going to be (there is no formal rating system for most of the independent films at film festivals). This past winter after one such experience, I told my wife that we are going to start a Family-Friendly Film Festival. She of course thought I was a little crazy for thinking that I have the know-how or the time to pull it off, but here we are, 1 week away from our first annual Utah Family Film Festival!

Unfortunately, I can’t take credit for much more than having the idea. My wife was right about at least two of three things…I don’t have the know-how nor the time to pull this off. I actually might be a little crazy too, so I guess she was 3 for 3. Referring back to my “job”, I am currently the President of a large division of a public company and spend a couple weeks each month on the road, and the rest of the time trying to catch up in the office. So to pull it off, I had no choice but to find great people and empower them to go out and make it happen. The initial stages of planning the event location, lining up vendors, notifying filmmakers of the festival, etc. were handled by none other than the 2006 Miss Utah International Brittany Bowden. She did a phenomenal job of setting this up. Once it was set up, we needed an industry pro to execute the plan, so I had to convince somebody both experienced in the Industry and crazy enough to take on the role of Festival Director with such a short time before the event. Tyler Measom was one of the Producers I met on the set of “Take”, and he was a perfect fit. Fortunately, he accepted the offer to become our Festival Director, and subsequently convinced his Partner Jennilyn Merton to join him as Festival Media Director. Add to that about two dozen close friends and family who have agreed to volunteer, and so far it looks like we are going to pull it off in a big way!

Now we just need people to come and enjoy some of the wonderful films that have been submitted by makers of Family Films all over the world. For movie descriptions and to purchase tickets, go to www.utahfamilyfilmfestival.com. See you at the movies!

When: Thursday through Saturday, June 7-9

Where: University Mall Theaters (Southeast of Costco), Orem, Utah

What: Independent Family Films, plus select retro films including Napoleon Dynamite (former Sundance film) and Goonies

Cost: $6 for adults, $3 for children

Info: www.utahfamilyfilmfestival.com

Please spread the word. Let’s make this first event a big success and set the stage for a future film festival that everyone can be proud of, and that everyone can attend without risk of embarrassment.

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Seth Godin Will Speak in Utah! (if we want him badly enough)

Utah blogs are buzzing about the chance we have to get the legendary Seth Godin to visit Utah as part of his new book tour. We just need 500 people to each pay $50 (and get 5 copies of his new book) so that he will stop here on his tour.

I took a trip to NYC two years ago to hear Seth speak, so I paid a lot more than $50. He was the keynote speaker at an advertising conference, and he slammed traditional advertising and explained in a powerful way how the internet changes everything. To hear him speak in Utah would be incredible.

I still think his “Permission Marketing” is the best book ever written on appropriate email marketing. I refer people to it all the time.

So please check out this message from Phil Burns, and jump on the bandwagon. We’re running out of time:

He started one of the first internet companies, yoyodyne, which was acquired by Yahoo, he then became a VP at Yahoo. He more recently started a Web2.0 company, squidoo. He is always talking about internet marketing – he’s one of the experts on it, and he has one of the most popular blogs on the internet.

…. We have a HUGE opportunity to get Seth to come speak to us here in Utah! People have tried to get him to come speak here in the past but to no avail. Now, it will take the efforts of us all in order to bring him here on May 24th of this year!

To get him here, we need to get 500 people willing to pay $50.00 to hear him. Not only will you have an opportunity to hear him speak, you’ll get 5 copies of his new book, The Dip. We are gathering pledges to pay to hear him to see if we can get 500 people to pledge (instead of gathering money up front).

If you’re interested in hearing Seth speak, there are a few things you need to do.

· First, pledge to pay $50.00 at http://www.pledgebank.com/SethGodinUtah

· Next, blog about it! We’re trying to create a blog storm about this, even a quick simple post advertising this will help a lot

· Third, tell everyone at work or who you think will be interested about it!

· Finally, all the details and updates are being managed at a new site, http://www.wordmob.com keep an eye on the site for details

Here’s Seth’s blog post announcing this opportunity: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/the_dip/2007/03/the_dip_tour.html

There’s a big catch here, we have to have evidence of a large motivation to do this my Monday (like, in 3 days)! We have a tentative date from Seth that he’s been kind enough to hold for us, but we have to show we’re going to be able to make it so, please, if you’re interested, stop what you’re doing and go sign up here: http://www.pledgebank.com/SethGodinUtah RIGHT NOW! Then blog about it asap, encourage other to blog about it and talk about it all day!

This is a pure grass roots effort, it will only work if those who are interested (YOU?) take 5 minutes and actually do something about it – so please help out!

Thanks!

Phil Burns

CEO TagJungle.com

This is a brilliant way for an innovative author to start a new book tour. If he gets 5 cities to get 500 pledges at $50 each, he’ll sell 12,500 copies of his book, generate $125,000 in revenue, visit 5 cities with an energized audience, and generate a ton of publicity for once again, being so innovative.

Let’s hope that Utah will pull this off and make it on his list of cities to visit.

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Topics for this week’s “Live Friday”

Every Friday an energetic group of internet entrepreneurs and marketers meets at the Provo Labs Academy at 12:30 for a 60-90 minute run down of the hottest online business news of the week.

Some weeks we are blown away by the exciting announcements and new launches of venture-backed startup companies or the mind-blowing techtonic plate-shifting announcements that come from the major players in the industry, including Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, eBay, Amazon, AOL and IAC.

As I read my 70+ RSS feeds, I keep a running tally of some of the topics we will cover at Live Friday. Yesterday alone I added the following to my list for this week:

a. Michael Eisner, vuguru.com
b. Divvio.com, user generated channels
c. Nintendo Mii challenges MySpace?
d. Google TV ad purchases, print, radio

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Crash Course in Internet Marketing starts March 15th

Yesterday I met with about a dozen entrepreneurs who came to the Provo Labs Academy to learn about the 12-Week Crash Course in Internet Marketing that starts next Thursday, March 15th at 5 pm.

An email will be going out to about 1,000 Utah entrepreneurs early next week, as well as a few additional marketing efforts. We have room for at least 10 more people to sign up for the class, but space is limited, so sign up today at www.provolabs.com/academy/

We’ve conveniently scheduled the class for Thursdays at 5 pm, so that both entrepreneurs and full-time working professionals can attend.

When you sign up for the Crash Course, you are also welcome to attend our Live Friday lectures every Friday at 12:30 pm at the Academy (yes, bring your own lunch) where we discuss all the news of the week that affects internet entrepreneurs and internet marketers. This is one of my favorite hours of the week. I invite my partners at World Vital Records and other Provo Labs portfolio companies to attend. The goal is to try to stay current with all the new companies, technologies, web sites, and marketing strategies, which is hard to do in an ever-changing world.

I go through dozens of RSS feeds each week from all of my favorite sources, including MarketingVOX, and try to select the top 10 news highlights of the week that internet marketers and entrepreneurs should be aware of.

Here’s an write up from one Live Friday session from a few months ago:

Every Friday at noon, our Provo Labs Academy members get together to discuss all the latest internet marketing news. I have promised to read MarketingVOX every day and to visit all the new web sites and try the new tools that affect internet marketing. Then I

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Last chance for Utah entrepreneurs to get $100,000 in funding at Governor’s Summit

Utah is a very friendly state for startup companies. It ranks in the top few states for entrepreneurship. We have a great economic environment, a well educated work force, and a very growth-oriented governor. Plus, we have FundingUniverse.com, headquartered right here in Utah.

FundingUniverse.com and Grow Utah Ventures will select five entrepreneurs to present their business plans on March 22nd at Governor Huntsman’s Economic Summit, in front of a live audience at Grand America Hotel (the finest hotel in Salt Lake City.) The audience will include angel investors from nearly every angel group in Utah. And the winning entrepreneur will receive an investment of up to $100,000 from these angels.

The application deadline is tomorrow, March 6th. Click here to apply.

Even if you aren’t chosen to present at this exclusive event, by submitting your plan to FundingUniverse.com (for free) your plan will be viewable by scores of angel investors in Utah.

FundingUniverse.com operates nationwide, with nearly 750 angel investors and VCs nationwide using the site to find early stage deals. Submit your plan and then call to find out when the next Speedpitching event will be held in your region.

Note: I helped found FundingUniverse.com in early 2005 and Provo Labs is a significant shareholder in the company.

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