Day 2 of “ei2012!” kicks-off this morning

The second day of Tech 20/20’s “Entrepreneurial Imperative” conference kicks-off this morning with a series of panel sessions; a noon luncheon featuring Eric Donsky, Managing Partner of Laguna Ventures; and the “ThrottleUp!” pitch competition.

John Morris, Tech 20/20 President and Chief Executive Officer, said more than 180 individuals had registered for the annual event as of Monday afternoon. It was moved this year to the Knoxville Marriott Hotel.

During Monday afternoon’s opening sessions, the attendees heard what Morris described as a “captivating” conversation with well-known Knoxville entrepreneur Ashley Capps of AC Entertainment. That session was followed by a panel discussion with several area serial and successful entrepreneurs.

The keynote speaker on Monday afternoon was Rob Adams, author of several books including If You Build, It Will They Come? Three Steps to Test and Validate Any Market Opportunity. He is also on the faculty of the MBA program at the University of Texas at Austin and Director of Texas Venture Labs.

At the start of his presentation, Adams told the attendees that he expected them to be “out of your comfort zone” by the time he concluded.

He quickly took a “glass half full or half empty” approach about entrepreneurship, citing statistics such as:

  • 10 percent of start-ups succeed or 90 percent fail.
  • 20 percent of venture capital-backed start-ups succeed or 80 percent fail.
  • $140 billion of annual R & D investment is successful or $260 billion is a failure.

Adams said the failure rate is not about the technology, manufacturing, accounting or operational factors. Instead, he said that “85 percent of the failures are tied back to market-related issues.”

For the balance of his presentation, he continually hit very hard on the importance of understanding and validating the market in 60 days. To do so, the start-up entrepreneur is the one who has to make the calls.

“If the thought of making 100 phone calls bothers you, don’t do this (start a company),” Adams said.

He outlined a three-step process for success.

  • It starts with the “ready” stage, something he characterized as fast triage of the idea. Adams believes the entrepreneur should take a weekend to do this.
  • The next step is “aim,” which is 100 calls in 60 days that the entrepreneur has to make to understand the pain that faces potential customers and whether the start-up’s solution is commercially viable.
  • The third step is “fire,” which Adams described as the “art of making sure everything you did in ‘ready’ and ‘aim’ gets done.”

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