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Saturday, June 28, 2008

Necessity is the mother of Invention (and winning Chinese battles)

Chinese_warriorsI'm reading Predictably Irrational, by Dan Ariely, and came across a story that reminded me of bootstrapping a company.

In 210 BC, a Chinese commander named Xiang Yu led his troops across the Yangtze River to attack the army of the Qin (Ch'in) dynasty. Pausing on the banks of the river for the night, his troops awakened in the morning to find, to their horror, that their ships were burning. They hurried to their feet to fight off the attackers, but soon discovered that it was Xiang Yu himself who had set their ships on fire, and that he had also ordered all the cooking pots crushed.


With their ships gone, the soldiers had no route of retreat. Winning was the only option. And win they did. 9 battles in a row before defeating the Qin forces.

This is similar to when a bootstrapper enters the Valley of Death and commits to their venture, but before they are making money and cash flow positive. They are forced to figure out how to make it work with what they've got. The timeline is not completely in their control.

We're always tempted to leave ourselves an escape route or path of retreat. And usually that's a good idea. But sometimes there aren't enough resources to mount the attack and cover the retreat. In order to be successful sometimes you have to commit the resources to what you believe in because the retreat option isn't acceptable. Sometimes once you head down a path there is just no turning back, so you might as well commit all of your resources to getting to the end.

When I was CEO of SKYLIST, this happened twice. We were growing and needed to shift focus based on customer demand and a rapidly changing market. Both of those times it was focused on eliminating unprofitable customers and focusing sales on specific types of opportunities. Each resulted in a temporary drop in revenue but strengthened the long term sustainability and profitability of the company.

When Datran Media bought SKYLIST, we went through the same exercise again. Each time the SKYLIST business came out stronger than before and had replaced the revenue with better customers within a year.

Each time it was the right thing to do and left us stronger than before, but each time we went into it kicking and screaming. Change is hard. When something works, we often get the urge to just do that over and over - well past the point where it stops working. It felt bad to move away from lines of business we had traditionally dominated.

But it was turning point for the company. Had we not burned the ships behind us, I'm not sure we would have survived and succeeded.


Joshua Baer's latest bootstrap startup is OtherInbox.com.

Reposted from Austinpreneur

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

An Entrepreneur Who's Done It His Way

Bijoy asked me to take my notes from Rick Engel's talk a couple weeks ago and write up a blog. Here it is.

Rick Engel is a serial entrepreneur who currently owns Austin Java, Uncle Billy's, Little Woodrows and Paggi House. I love hearing entrepreneurs speak because there's always something about them that strikes a chord with me, regardless of what industry they have focused on. Listening to Rick was no different. What I enjoyed most was that he wasn't in a particular mold. Hard working...absolutely; focused on the customer...you bet. But most of all, he was real. Given where I am in my journey with entrepreneurship and trying to further understand what drives me, Rick's talk was just what the doctor ordered to help kick off my 4 month sabbatical from work.

As many of you know, I am a massive sports fan. I also hate inefficiency in every aspect of what I do. As such, "Moneyball" is one of my favorite books. If you are not familiar with "Moneyball", it is an exploration to understand why the Oakland A's with one of the smallest budgets in baseball has been so successful over the last decade. Baseball is fraught with inefficiencies, especially in player evaluation. Billy Beane, the General Manager of the Oakland A's, systematically explored and identified a number of those inefficiencies and exploited them. The sense I got is that Rick Engel does exactly the same thing in his specific industries. Not quite the classic entrepreneur with all of the right business school answers, Rick has identified some formulas for building great businesses and parlayed those formulas into a series of entrepreneurial successes in some of the toughest industries out there.

I've got Bijoy (much like Eddie Murphy in Meet Dave) in my ear saying that this truly is the ESSENCE of bootstrapping. Although the tactics of bootstrapping (e.g., demo/sell/build, Power of 2, MRE, etc.) and the lessons learned from other entrepreneurs are important, the bootstrap entrepreneur embarks on a very different journey, the hero's journey. Rather than following the paths that others have carved before, the bootstrap entrepreneur blazes his/her own path. Rick continues to blaze his unique path.

Like many entrepreneurs, Rick indicated he gets bored real quick. Some highlights from the path he has followed definitely support thist:
  • As an undergrad, transferred to UCLA to chase a music career
  • Jumped to the restaurant/bar industry
  • Started 5+ different concept restaurants in Houston
  • Even though he downplayed it in the talk, Rick sounded like he started the first online trading company
  • Moved to Austin and again eventually re-entered the restaurant/bar business in Austin
  • Created a management company for his restaurant endeavors and treated it like a profit center as he would with any of his other businesses.
  • Now heading into the condo business
Most fascinating was that Rick claims that business isn't his true passion. You often hear entrepreneurs talk about how passionate they are that they can't imagine doing anything else. Rick's true passion appears to be music and he is just trying to make enough money to get to that deep running passion.

This is not to imply that Rick is not passionate about business. Spend 5 minutes talking to the man and his passion for his employees, customers, and businesses are very apparent and very real. I don't think that was made more obvious than in the Q&A session where Bootstrap Austin was treated to his deep knowledge. He rattled off details about traffic percentages, well thought out answers about short vs. long term solutions to his parking challenges, etc.

At SolarMetric, the company I helped found in 2001, I played a lot of different roles from accounting, marketing, general management, sales management, management of legals, business development, etc. I had key partners in the company, mostly in engineering and sales execution. In my first year at SpringSource (formerly Interface21), I operated in a very similar jack-of-all-trades manner. I really related to Rick Engel because of my background. Rick was a highly successful repeat entrepreneur who "did everything" himself in his earlier days in Houston. As he grew his career, he was able to get out of the "do everything" mentality by building a restaurant management business to manage his various restaurants and bars. Even as he built the management company, he went against the stream by treating it as a profit center rather than a pass-through company, the norm in the industry. By building the management company in his image and not taking the route that so many others have followed before him, Rick found a way of taking advantage of the scale that additional employees can bring while ensuring the elements of his personality and management style remained. Maybe there is hope for us-chronic do-it-all-ourselves types...one solution is to share the load but make sure the load is shared in a way that you are comfortable.

Another almost passing comment Rick mentioned really struck home to me: he feels like he has to be in control; he has to be a top level decision maker. He wants to know about every curve ball. The times when he hasn't been in charge (e.g., after he sold his trading company but stayed on), Rick hated the curve balls that were sent his way because he was not the final authority on the given topic. This is another thing I've struggled with a lot. I've really felt impotent in the past when I wasn't in control. So many times I wanted to tell employees that I would take care of them and make sure that I had their backs. When you aren't in charge, you aren't the decision maker and the best you can do is attempt to influence the actual decision-maker.

Rick had some great one-liners during the discussion:
"Don't ever have a partner. If you do have a partner, make it a silent partner."
"There are two really difficult things to do: 1) Partner with another entrepreneur - you'll have 2 different ways of doing the same thing. 2) partner with a non-entrepreneur - they can't relate."
"Don't ever get to a 50-50% situation on decisions unless you can get out of it."
"Bootstrap or die!" and this inspired Kyle Johnson to create a new Bootstrap Bumper Sticker in honor of Rick.
The most interesting question posed to me by Business District's Jason Myers was whether I thought I could use some bootstrapping concepts in VC funded companies. My initial answer was a resounding, "Hell no!" but the more I've thought about it, the more I am not sure. I think another blog may be in order to explore this further.

My personal takeaway from this talk was the reminder that I have to be the entrepreneur that I am. There is only so much I can get from reading books, business school, and even other entrepreneurs. I can learn from others and incorporate things I learn from other sources into my version of the best entrepreneur that I can be, but it is my unique hero's (or goat's) journey to embark on.

Neelan Choksi is currently enjoying a 4-6 month break from his efforts on the SpringSource management team, spending time with his pregnant wife and daughter, trying to get in shape, and knocking of the items on his "honey, to do" list.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Introducing Bootstrap Sustainability

"I'm just a small operation with (fill in the blank) employees. There's not much my company can do in sustainability and corporate social responsibility, right? Besides, I'm not even sure what this term "sustainability" really means to me and my business!"

That's a synthesis of what many emerging entrepreneurs have told me during the past several months we've been visioning the new charter for Bootstrap Sustainability. Guess what? Right now in your current business venture, there's plenty of "low hanging fruit" of changes you can make that will improve your company's impact as viewed from the lens of long-term stewardship.

What is Bootstrap Sustainability and how can it help my venture? Glad you asked. Bootstrap Sustainability is an official subgroup of Bootstrap Austin.

Bootstrap Sustainability exists to (1) identify businesses in sustainability that can be bootstrapped, (2) hook those ideas up with entrepreneurs and help nurture new and emerging bootstrap companies in the sustainability (or related) sector, and (3) provide education to the general Bootstrap Austin community.

We recently conducted a 6-hour workshop which brought 20 local thought leaders together in one room to help each other learn more about ourselves and the true nature of our current initiatives.

Bijoy Goswami led us through a fantastic Bootstrap Bootcamp where he informed, enlightened, and challenged us. Most of us start a company thinking we know what the business model should look like. One of the key insights Bijoy conveyed is that, "the business model emerges. You must first say to yourself, 'I do not know the business model' and get to the position of 'not knowing' and then you can start to discover it."

After the Bootstrap Bootcamp, the group rolled up their shirtsleeves and helped each other work through some of their most pressing immediate issues.
In the spirit of the bootstrap community of bootstrappers helping each other perspectives and tactical advice were freely offered. By the end of the day, everybody was delighted with what we accomplished in the workshop and excited with where we are going individually and collectively.

Steve Harvey is the founder and CEO of the new bootstrap startup Cleantegrity, which exists to help emerging "cleantech" companies (such as solar, wind, energy efficiency, green building products, and new water-related technologies) bring more of the right products to market faster. For more discussion or information on Bootstrap Sustainability (or Cleantegrity, of course), please feel free to call Steve during the week at 512.878.6550 or send him an email.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Entrepreneurs Take Filmmaking to the Next Level

In the age of digital convergence and emerging long-tail economies, Bootstrap filmmakers have a greater opportunity to produce innovative content, find their own audiences, discover alternative distribution, and clear profits on their own terms. Nowhere is that more promising than in Austin, Texas. In 2008, MovieMaker magazine ranked Austin as the #1 city to live and make a movie. "As a hot spot for innovation and film, Austin is an incubator for the future of film. Creative talent and technological vision converge with entrepreneurial drive to explore new ways for independent filmmakers to succeed." - Brandy Rainey Amstel, Writer/Director and Chair of the Bootstrap Film Group.
Entrepreneurs forging paths in the film industry are celebrated at the Bootstrap Film Fest. This innovative film festival is on Thursday, June 26, 2008, 6-10:15 PM at Regal Arbor Cinema, Austin, Texas. Taking inspiration from innovation icons, like Apple's Steve Jobs, Virgin's Richard Branson, and Whole Food's John Mackey, Bootstrappers use ingenuity to bypass the constraints of the establishment. The featured bootstrap films, Q&A with bootstrap filmmakers Nils Juul-Hansen, Brandy Rainey Amstel, and Jason Howell, and a bootstrap workshop including Bootstrap Network's founder, Bijoy Goswami, will give the audience a deep understanding of bootstrapping techniques that they can use on their film projects, start-ups, and existing companies.
"Bootstrap offers a fresh perspective to the constraints of traditional models. As a serial entrepreneur, I was able to take the bootstrapping concepts I learned from my start-up and apply them to film making. The Bootstrap workshop that follows the film programming, will truly empower the audience with greater possibilities." - Jason Howell, filmmaker.
To step beyond the bootstrapping buzz and discover your own hero's journey, purchase tickets and view trailers at Bootstrap Film Fest.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Brazlian Jiu Jitsu for Bootstrappers

There's an admirable purity about a person that will step inside a ring and put it all on the line. I'm a big fan of mma athletes, or ultimate fighters as they are sometimes called. If you watch the UFC, you know that in today's modern world of competitive fighting, you either know Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) or you lose. And in BJJ, there's a common saying that is repeated over and over: always face your opponent. I've heard it in boxing as well, but in BJJ, always facing your opponent is law.

BJJ was invented by the Gracie family in Rio De Janeiro, and is similar to wrestling. However, rather than trying to pin your opponent, you try to "submit him" with a submission hold. In wrestling it is common to turn away from your opponent while on the ground. Submitting an opponent in BJJ is typically done by applying a choke or joint hyperextension until the opponent "taps out." If you apply a submission hold and your opponent doesn't tap out you either end up with an unconscious opponent or one with a severely torn joint. In Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, the easiest way to get tapped out is to turn away from your opponent.

I see a lot of similarities between BJJ and starting a business. The easiest way to get tapped out as a business is to turn away from your issues or challenges. As a bootstrapper, you don't have the luxury that investment capital affords. If you don't address your issues, you go out of business and the margin of error is razor thin. The faster you face your challenges, the faster you can address them and move on. If you think your business doesn't have issues, you're probably not looking hard enough

I started a return-on-investment consulting business, Wilson & Company, as a nights-and-weekends side job back in 2001. It was just me (not much of an "& Company") and I created ROI models in Excel and Visual Basic to help sales groups of technology companies sell their products. When your company is just you, it's easy to keep tabs on issues. You are the only tab. In 2005, I started Small World Labs, a social networking platform company that currently employs 27 people and has over 100 customers. When you combine the words "product" along with "employees" and "customers," things get more complex. And when things are more complex, there are more challenges to address.

Over Small World Labs' history we've faced the gamut of challenges as a company - from founder issues to quality control. Anytime I've seen an issue and not faced it, it has come back to bite us in the rear more severely. You only have 24 hours in the day so prioritization is a challenge in itself. However, deprioritizing an issue does not make it go away. Most times, it gets worse and you start to feel submission hold. That's when you absolutely have to face it or tap out.

Sometimes I've found I don't know how to solve an issue at first, but know it exists. Having a good network helps in these situations, from fellow entrepreneurs to business advisors. When you start to share your issues with trusted advisors, you often get a good, honest perspective on how to move forward. However, if you're the CEO, one way or another, it's incumbent on you to make sure your company is facing its opponents and not tapping out. Your employees, customers, partners, and investors depend on it.

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Bootstrap Mantra: "How are we different?" not "how are we cheaper?"

Most new businesses fail. They typically fail not because they can't deliver value, but because they can't capture enough of that value to turn a profit and grow. Capturing value requires a clear value message and an appropriate pricing policy.

Unfortunately, most entrepreneurs do not create a detailed value message and pricing plan. They start with a product (or service, I'll use the word "product" to refer to either), or even a technology and then they seek customers for the product. Then they try to sell those potential customers on the benefits of the product. Often, this involves a comparison with a better known competitor: "It's like ACME's offering, but better, and it's cheaper."

Small companies often feel they need to be cheaper than established companies because they lack the brand value. However, something that's better and cheaper is suspicious. It may sound too good to be true. If there is a risk in going with a small company, how much cheaper does it have to be to mitigate that risk? How much cheaper would a car made by your college buddy in his garage have to be before you'd buy it to save money and use it to transport your kids? Lowering price is not an effective way to reduce risk in many situations, particularly when unknown firms try to compete with established companies.

If you have a good product, though, people will buy it and they will be happy that you made it cheaper than alternatives. They may also negotiate with you to get discounts and other concessions. Unfortunately for you, small price reductions can have a big impact on your financial and personal bottom line. If your business is running at 30% margins, a 10% price reduction means you need to sell 50% more volume just to break even. But at 50% more volume, you may need to hire more personnel, boost inventory, and make other costly investments.

Entrepreneurs tend to be driven people. They want to go the extra mile for their customers. So they make the product better, cheaper, and they throw in better service. This often means the owner spending more and more time supporting customers. Customer service is important, right? But the more service you provide, the more some customers will demand it. Before you know it, you're exhausted, frustrated, and you're having trouble growing the business. (For entrepreneurs who have not experienced this phenomenon, you can read about it in Michael Gerber's popular small business book, The E-Myth Revisited.)

Instead of starting your business with the idea of being cheaper, ask how you can be different. Differentiation is what provides the means to create and capture value. For example, for companies offering website design and support, it's hard to be cheaper than the global marketplace. But if you can offer turnkey solutions for specific industries that boost sales and use automation to send emails, saving time for your customers, you can charge more than commodity rates. Starbucks took a commodity offering and transformed it into a $4 per cup experience.

Not everyone wants $4 coffee, and not everyone is willing to pay a premium for website design. So even for small companies, having a range of offerings like "good/better/best" can be helpful. The important thing is that the different offerings cost you different amounts so even if you sell "good" you can still make money. For example, your low end product may not include personal support. Or you may have to buy in larger quantities to get a discount. The different offerings and price points allow you to capture more value under the demand curve than any single product and price point ever could. Appropriate "fences" prevent customers from downgrading. A common example is the Saturday night stay requirement for cheaper airline tickets. While nobody likes the airlines, we don't complain that movies are more expensive in the evening than the afternoon. We expect that if we want a higher level of service, we might pay more (or we might get a discount for accepting a lower level of service). Those customers who eat up all your time on "free" service might behave differently if they had to pay for the service. You might also be able to hire someone to do the service. Companies don't have supply problems, they have pricing problems.

You don't have to be different or better to everyone, just enough of a market for you to be successful. In fact, neglected parts of larger markets are great spaces for startups. Siebel Systems made a lot of money selling customer relationship management software to big companies, but they couldn't effectively sell to smaller businesses. Salesforce.com didn't start by competing with Siebel, they went where Siebel wasn't and created a more compelling offering for smaller customers.

By determining "how we're different" we differentiate ourselves from other market players, improve the value we capture, and increase the profitability of the business.

Reuben Swartz is the founder and president of Mimiran and author of Dollars and Sense: The Pricing Blog.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

How to bootstrap your business by playing pinball

As the lead of the Bootstrap Ideation Subgroup, I frequently get asked these questions: what is bootstrapping? And what's Ideation? The answer to the first is simple: there's a long and storied history of entrepreneurial endeavors that were launched by lifting one's own bootstraps. The answer to the second takes a little more explanation...

Ideation (and indeed
Preideation and Matrix before it) is where entrepreneurs live before they launch their ventures. It's where they begin to self-examine, understanding why they're driven to launch a business, and begin to chart a path to being a successful entrepreneur. What usually isn't obvious is that it takes nearly as much work to be in ideation as it does to actually be an entrepreneur: there are challenges, both internal and external, that have to be overcome, not to mention constraints on time, resources, knowledge, and talent. Getting up to speed on this path is not easy at all! Otherwise there would be many more entrepreneurs around.

The Ideation Subgroup is where aspiring bootstrappers come to work through this process. And in helping them, I've discovered what I think is the perfect analogy for it all: playing pinball.

Think of your new business venture as the newest, coolest, flashiest pinball machine in the video arcade. As an aspiring pinball wizard, you're entranced and inspired, and so you plunk down some quarters and pull back the lever. And bam!, the ball goes straight down the shoot. No one said this was going to be easy. So you launch another ball, and it bounces around and wham! now you're getting some points. Cool! Another ball, and it bounces in to a bumper and goes in a totally new direction you never thought it could. And suddenly you're racking up more and more points. Sure, some of the balls you put into play don't go anywhere but straight down the shoot. But by continuing to make an investment (in quarters) and launching those balls into play, you will slowly but surely find yourself acquiring the mastery of your new domain...

So how does this relate to entrepreneurship? Ideation is just like pinball: you have to make an investment of time, energy, and of yourself. And you must launch many, many efforts along the way to learn the terrain of your business venture and to gain mastery over it. Absolutely some of those efforts will go nowhere (straight down the shoot) but many others will bounce around, moving you and your business in new directions that will help you achieve success.

So the bottom line is: get some balls in play. And a roll of quarters. You're going to need them on your way to becoming a successful, bootstrap entrepreneur.

Edward Cruz is the founder of Bootstrap Company Melior Technologies, and his first product is Molecular Thinking.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Total Leadership

Today marks the official release of Total Leadership, a book by Stew Friedman (center). Bootstrap had the great pleasure of hosting an event with Leadership Austin where Stew led the audience through his innovative model, which helps individuals integrate the four dimensions of life. Brett Hurt, founder of BazaarVoice, brought Stew to Austin to introduce TL to his company and the larger Austin community.

Heather McKissick (right) the new Executive Director of Leadership Austin, kicked off the session describing her organization's unique charter in the Austin community: to ignite passion and provide support for those who wish to serve their community. I introduced Bootstrap's unique mission to support entrepreneurs through the Bootstrap Model of entrepreneurship.

Phyllis Blees, who leads the Bootstrap Book Club (and FLOW - see John Mackey's upcoming talk) organized the event. Bootstrap Contributor Kyle Johnson, founder of Bumperactive, designed a unique bookmark featuring the Bootstrap and LA logos. Kyle also designed the Bootstrap Bumper Stickers and my t-shirt features the innovative Valley of Death bumper sticker.

Stew riveted the audience with this unique challenge: what if you could not just balance life's seemingly competing aspects of community, work, home and self, but arrange them so they reinforce and amplify each other? Not only an intriguing proposition, but wholly achievable with the right mindset and approach! I am personally very excited as Total Leadership beautifully reinforces youplusU, the third model I evangelize. Stew is one of the few leaders in the business community (Jim Collins, Roger Martin and John Mackey being others) who voices the notion that seeming dualities are to be integrated, not compromised. I was therefore also very glad to add Stew's book to my uplusyou reading list.

Please visit the Total Leadership website to learn more about this innovative and compelling model!

The BootRap Podcast will soon feature Stew's talk.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

The Accidental Licensor

I had dinner this weekend Bijoy, the founder of Bootstrap Network, who has spent the last five years building content, relationships, and ideas for Bootstrap and its community. He has created a brand, and the brand continues to grow.

Bijoy was telling me about the many business collaborations he is involved in through Bootstrap. Most of these partnerships hinge on a revenue sharing agreement. Bijoy owns the content, allows the partner to use the content to create and sell a product, and he shares a portion of the revenue.

Bijoy is in the licensing business, and didn't even know it! He has built valuable Intellectual Property that others are willing to pay to use and embed in their products. His revenue sharing model is the equivalent of a royalty license agreement. For every item sold, Bijoy receives a percent of net sales.

Now the fun part.

Bijoy was complaining that he had a difficult time tracking the sales results of his growing list of partners. He and his "Licensees" had been using email and spreadsheets to keep tabs on sales and payments owed. As a result, there was confusion, delays in reporting, and many partners were way behind on their payments.

It was like a fastball right over the plate for RoyaltyZone.

Luckily, Bijoy had his laptop with him. We created a RoyaltyZone account and published a license agreement for one of his licensees in a matter of minutes. Now Bootstrap has a way to keep everyone on the same page regarding how, what, and when reports and payments are due. Bijoy has a dashboard view of all his partners, what they've sold, what they've paid, and what they owe.

The light bulb went off! Ideas started flying around new ways to license the Bootstrap brand and IP, now that there was a tool in place to track performance and payment.

Welcome to the licensing business, Bijoy! I wonder how many other accidental licensors are out there...

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Lou Ellman is the Founder and CEO of the bootstrap startup RoyaltyZone

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Austin, the Experience City?

Bootstrap member Ash Maurya kicked off a great discussion within Bootstrap Austin about what kind of message Austin sends to the world. He had read an article by Paul Graham about other cities like NYC, LA and the Bay Area and the energy they exude.

The chamber has launched a new initiative, Austin Human Capital for its current external marketing efforts. The website also features short video vignettes featuring various Austinites including myself.

GSD&M has done 'Idea City' which resonates quite a bit as Austin is a fertile place for new ideas to be born because of the acceptance and openness that Richard Florida discussed in his book, Rise of the Creative Class. Unfortunately, due to it now being directly associated with GSD&M, it cannot be adopted by the city as a whole. The Keep Austin Weird movement is also a part of this ongoing encouragement towards Florida's "Tolerance," but it is at best an internal call to the city's residents rather than an external branding exercise.

And we have the Live Music Capital of the World, adopted by the City of Austin in 1991.

I've always thought Austin is a perfect entrepreneurship, and particularly bootstrap entrepreneurship due all the above factors coupled with its low cost of living.

Still, none of these themes captures the overall essence. Perhaps an idea forwarded by Joe Pine in 1999 might provide that encompassing theme: the Experience Economy.

Starting, of course, with the city itself and all the things we already enjoy: nature, the live music scene, etc. Our attitude, which fosters openness and acceptance means that we can all create our own experiences within the city. A brief check of Austin's various event calendars, such as Holly's Hot Happenings, or the Austin Chronicle reveals an almost infinite array of events happening on any given day. But beyond that, the quintessential Austin companies and organizations create experiences for the customers and constituents:
  • Whole Foods Market - turns grocery shopping into an experience
  • RunTex - making getting fit into an experience through weekend races and an involved running community
  • Alamo Drafthouse - beer, food, film, events!
  • Amy's Ice Cream - watch as your ice cream gets made with crushins and goodies
  • Austin City Limits - 3-day music festival at Zilker Park
  • SXSW - Interactive, Music & Film Conference held at the Convention Center and all over town. Indeed, the parties are considered just as important (if not more!) than the conference content
  • The Long Center - integrated approach to entertainment with open and closed space and events
  • Leadership Austin - immerses participants in the city through various programs and ongoing events and shows them how they can make a difference
Bootstrap Austin has many young companies doing the same. Here are a few examples
Certainly, the overall shift on the web is all about creating a participatory experience for uses.

One might even argue that Bootstrap Austin turns entrepreneurship into an experience where we make friends, help each other, learn along the way and have fun doing it.

It does seem that it would be beneficial to brand Austin in an encompassing way that not only honors what we've already done, but captures the essence.

Let's explore the question of the together at the Experience City website. If we are indeed an experience city, what can we do to get better at being one and how will we share this with the rest of the world?


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