"Don't Fall In Love With Your Plan" Rick Smith of TASER – Entrepreneur Advice From Arizona Innovation Summit

Arizona Commerce Authority and MIT Enterprise Forum Phoenix hosted the first Innovation Arizona Summit yesterday at Tempe Center for the Arts. Hundreds of entrepreneurs, techies and investors gathered to learn more about improving our community and the importance of networking.
The day featured two types of speaking —breakout sessions made up of more focused topics in a lecture format and feature sessions featuring a “roundtable” style discussion with successful entrepreneurs from the community. In addition, the winners of the Arizona Commerce Authority’s 2013 Arizona Innovation Challenge, were announced. Six up-and-coming technology companies shared a pot of $1.5 million to grow their business.
Feature Sessions:
Investing in your community” presentation was hosted by Michael Wolf of Lobodos Ventures with entrepreneurs and angel investors Tom Blondi , Bill Miller, and Rick Gibson on the panel. This discussion focused on helping startups and entrepreneurs in the audience understand the role of an Angel investor, what they do, and why they’re important. Wolf paralleled the relationship between an entrepreneur and an Angel with the hunting metaphor of figuring out the habits and habitats of Angels and then proceeding to “hunt one down.” Other points focused on how to think like an Angel when pitching, the importance of the first 60-90 seconds of a presentation in order to get someone’s attention, being committed to your message, and using your network to keep your business running.
“Entrepreneur Success” presentation was hosted by Dr. Alan Baratz who led a panel with Pat Sullivan (Contatta), Rick Smith (TASER), and Ori Eisen (41st Parameter). The entrepreneurs shared their wisdom on building a successful business and growing as an entrepreneur.
The discussion started with the hiring process; all panelists agreed that getting the right people in your business is the best way to be successful. Eisen discussed a “hire fast, fire fast” method while Smith and Sullivan talked about learning more about person before hiring them.
Next came the question of “when to go to market” and all agreed that there has to be a point when you step back and launch because, otherwise, a product will never take off; and once you launch, if it fails, use the customer feedback and try again. The prospecting method was mentioned and the importance of being flexible and trying a few different avenues with a product and then following the success. In a sense, go where the customers take you and where the money flows. All panelists agreed on this point made by Smith, “It’s really easy to fall in love with your own plans, but take a step back and look at what is working and what is not.”
Entrepreneur Breakout Sessions included:

  • “Is Crowd Funding for You?” CJ Cornell, founder of Propel Arizona, gave a lecture distinguishing the differences between Angel funding, venture capitalist funding, and crowdfunding.
  • “Socializing Your Business” Heather Dopson of Infusionsoft discussed the three ways to socialize: build a referral network, have employees as advocates, and embrace employees’ social networks.
  • “IMPACT Marketing” featured John Marchica and Nils Bunde of Launch Factory speaking about the seven key elements of marketing:  imagination, motivation, perception, authenticity, communication, trust, and execution.
  • “Growth, Profit, and Cash Flow” with Cliff Schertz and James Walbom of Tiempo Development talked about breaking their company up into teams to help employees feel as if they are involved with a voice, thus increasing creativity and participation.

The winners of the Arizona Innovation Challenge:

  • AppsFreedom
  • Gingerbread Shed
  • Nasser
  • ReplyBuy.com
  • Strongwatch
  • Viomics

Read about them on our site here.
Hand Lettering by local artist Autumn Farrell