I was fortunate enough to attend the first HYPERGROWTH conference hosted by Drift at the beginning of October 2017. 24 hours later, I was still resonating with the energy from the event. I thought I’d share my experience and learnings. Enjoy!
The sold-out event took place at the top of 60 State Street, in Boston. The location was fantastic with sweeping views of the city so far and wide; you could almost glimpse into the future. (It was a bit nostalgic. I started my first company there in the mid-nineties.)
The room was teaming with 1,400 of some of the most diverse, smart, driven, passionate, high caliber people I have ever seen in one place. They included entrepreneurs, sales and marketing professionals, and Drift’s customers from around the world.
Surrounding the community was the Drift team (and a cool DJ on stage). One thing I noticed about Drift people. They have drive. Not in an aggressive way, like world domination, but in a force-for-good way. Not a single one looked like they were just “working”; they were doing what they love.
The invited speakers brought their A game. They each spoke about their passions, sharing direct personal experiences. You could take away what you wanted. It was all true-life. No BS.
I sat in the front to take it all in.
Here is my summary of each presentation I attended:
Ben Von Wong — an Amazing artist famous for “tying models underwater” and “beached mermaids” among other things, reminded me how important it is to love what you do. Love is the belief that you are doing something for the greater good, not just for yourself. He had this epiphany after his sudden internet virality offered him the opportunity to work with corporate brands. He instantly felt disconnected from his soul. He took this feeling and turned it into his life’s work — using his talents to help drive social change. (Btw, has Ben done anything in education? If not, I have an idea.)
Mike Troiano — He delivered the best 20-minute Branding course I have ever seen. Key takeaway? Your Brand is out there in the hearts and minds of your customers. What should they be feeling about you? He offered a strikingly simple framework for creating your brand. I wrote it down — reflect on your client (truly know them), simplify your message (think kindergarten), and deliver it consistently (think repetition).
Andy Raskin — He will forever be known to me as the “story guy.” I am currently reading a great book, entitled “Lead with Story,” by Paul Smith. So it was serendipity to hear the story guy reinforce Paul’s concepts. I have always believed that when you are running start-ups, you must always be bigger than you are. Storytelling is the key to making that happen. People are wired to be attracted to a story and to get good at is a strategic weapon.
Branding Panel — It included the marketing heads of Box (Vaccarello), ClassPass (Lord), and WeWork (Fitzsimmons). It was not only the handsomeness panel I’ve seen, but it was also the most insightful. Again, these folks spoke the truth. Concepts like what is a brand, why it’s important, how to introduce it to the world, how to measure it, and how to protect it would all discussed with depth. The first-hand stories they shared were also gorgeous. Wow! Hiten’s, the moderator, comedic relief was not bad either. “These are not jeans!” LOL.
Brogan Graham — Brogran is a walking, talking personification of a movement. With his help, we “slow clapped” our way to connect to what he calls authentic leadership (prideful, passionate, supportive). He reminded us how important it is to reconnect with the community the old school way. We are all people, not Twitter handles or Facebook posts. How did he do it? He convinced us to rid ourselves of our phones for a moment and encroach on someone’s physical space to hug them, get to know them and genuinely connect. (My hug was shared with Carlos, from Bogota, Columbia. He has been in the US for about seven years. He is currently part of a start-up that helps businesses in the developing world use a safer, more secure messaging App to communicate with their customers, partners, and independent contractors. See Brogan, I still remember!) Seriously though, I don’t know if I will join the November Project in NY, but I won’t soon forget the movement I experienced.
Nastia Liukin — This 5-time Olympic medalist shared an unforgettable, emotional story about her journey to finding her new passion. What’s at the heart of the lessons? Always “finish what you start,” as her father put it. And, she did just that completing a grueling return to competition after a break just to learn how much a defeat can change you for the better.
Mike Volpe — I now know what to look for in great marketing people, how to find them, and how to grow them. Volpe delivered a super simple recipe he uses to do just that — find and nurture great people. Reid Hoffman discusses in one of his podcasts why you need local mafia (groups of successful people from exceptional companies) to have a thriving start-up ecosystem. When you meet Volpe, you get why Boston is silicon valley east.
10% Happier — I have always been a skeptic about Mindfulness. It is ironic really. I have always actively tried to find ways to “rest my mind.” But, that is not what mindfulness is. It’s about being present and experiencing your mind, your breathing, your surroundings, your body, and connecting to your existence. For what purpose? It’s simply to re-learn a long lost skill of just being, so you can “see.” Honestly, this was the first time in all my exposure to reading, yoga, meditation it finally clicked. I had lunch with my wife today and shared my new excitement about something we can both do together. (She has been mindful for over two years now.) Thanks, Ben Rubin and Matthew Hepburn.
CMO Panel — A refreshing look at Marketing from some of the best. My takeaways included how challenging it can be to get marketing to align with sales on outbound initiatives. As Joe Chernov put it, “You need a little Frank Underwood in you.” Carol Meyers explained how events (connecting people) in the field are among their top performing investments. Kevin O’Malley reminded us how we should set content free and create engaging, personalized correspondence with customers and prospects. Everyone agreed it was hard to staff “bots,” but if done well, it is scalable and very successful. Finally, the panel discussed an intriguing concept — Could traditional marketing automation software be superfluous?
Terminus — Sangram Vajre explains how he stumbled upon “the keys to the Ferrari.” It’s a fascinating tour of a young company built on the foundation of the only two things founders can control, the What and the Why. Thanks Sangram for reminding me how important an organization’s mission and its core values are to its success. I too believe the relationship between the people, the mission, and the culture is a “magic triangle” that is rocket fuel for a start-up. If you haven’t taken the time to take control over these aspects of your company, you are a step behind in becoming GREAT.
(Kristen Habacht — I am so sorry I missed this session. I had to step out to meet an old friend.)
Casey Winters — Holy smokes. My head was spinning. This guy was hitting us with nugget after nugget. I changed my flight because I couldn’t stop listening to his tour of insightful approaches to connecting with the customers, doing rapid testing, and living with the data long enough to find a strategy. If you want to know how to get to product value as fast as possible, read everything this guy writes.
David Cancel (aka DC) — The Founder and CEO of Drift, an introvert, and life-long learner masterfully managed to be invisible the entire conference except for the opening and the closing. In the opening, he shared sage advice on the importance of the phrase, “I don’t know.” He says it to himself all the time, reminding him to look outward for answers. He also shared how important it is to surround yourself with amazing people. Get out and join a community. The second time he appears, he delivers a vision for the future (using all of Askin’s story elements), a movement, which left the room pumped. What did I learn? Simple. Drift is on to something big. “No Forms.”
Kudos to David Gerhardt (aka DG) and the Drift team for putting on the stellar inaugural event.
Perhaps for some people in the rooftop room, the event was about helping them find the key to the hyper growth of their venture. For me, #HYPERGROWTH17 was about unlocking my hyper-growth in learning. Thanks, DC and DG!
“The most important thing is, know what you don’t know and how to deal with it…” — Ray Dalio, Bridgewater Associates, Founder.
DC, I know you wanted to create something different. Trust me you did. It’s called passion.
While I didn’t win the lifetime-tickets that were given away at the event, I will be a life attendee.
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