Tahoe Tech Talk Redefines 80′s TV Shows

About 6 months ago I stumbled across a book called Crush It in a Cost Plus World Market. At the time I was getting the itch to start my own company, and the back of the book struck a chord with me – Gary Vaynerchuk was claiming that the way to success was through interacting with people, driving as hard as you can, and utilizing social networks to get people talking https://experience.tripster.ru/experience/Sochi/sights/. I enjoyed the book a great deal, and in it, he proclaimed that his goal was to interact with as many people as humanly possible. Once I finished the book, I tweeted @garyvee that I enjoyed it, and within 8 hours I had a response @thebooya : ) from Gary himself. He was living up to what he wrote about, which I thoroughly appreciated.

Fast forward to Sept 30th – Gary’s goal was to “humanize business” by putting together the Tahoe Tech Talk at Harrah’s Casino in Lake Tahoe. He gathered an incredible group of people, mostly angel investors & entrepreneurs, and held a one-day conference with an intimate gathering of 300 attendees. The format was simple – each of the eight speakers had 30 minutes, and then everyone took the stage for an epic round table Q&A which was like nothing I had ever seen.

My background is in video games, and I’m used to a different sort of conference. I’ve spoken at a dozen different events in the games industry and attended many more. Most of them are really good, but they are all pretty similar in format: two to three days of sessions, multiple tracks, a VAST range of speakers (from talentless to pretty damn entertaining) and everything in between. The sessions are usually hit-and-miss (mostly miss) because the speaker is trying to teach you about things you probably already have a grasp on. I usually walk away from the conferences saying the same thing: “The sessions were okay, but I learned more talking to people at and around the event.”

The Tahoe Tech Talk was 100% different. Every single speaker had an incredible story, a vast background, and an enthralling presentation. The Q&A session was long enough for EVERYONE who wanted to ask a question get it answered, and it opened my eyes to the tech industry on a massive scale. The speakers’ breadth of experience and presentation chops were all memorable, so let me do a quick recap.

In order to help the random folk to get some context for each person, I’ve likened them to actors from 80′s TV shows…

Chris Sacca

80′s Counterpart: Howard Hesseman in Head of the Class

Why? They’re both teachers, when they’re surrounded by smart people they still can spit some crazy knowledge, and they’ve both got a penchant for facial hair.

Chris’s talk was fan-effing-tastic. He’s got a crazy background – investor, Google-r, lawyer, and back-country hiker. He spoke about a ton of the cool stuff he did at Google, including being on the Google Talk team. Flanked by seven other people, he had the task of building a ‘Skype Killer’. He joked that his team was as big as the emoticon design team at Yahoo, but they were able to pull it off and have a great launch. It was intriguing to see the openness of Google as an organization, but I got the feeling that Chris is much happier now that he’s moved on. Chris is also an avid philanthropist, supporting such causes as charity: water and LIVESTRONG. He was so entertaining that I mentioned to another attendee that I would pay money to attend ‘Sacca-Con’… but only if the theme song dubbed over by Chaka Khan.

Ben Kaufman

80′s Counterpart: Fred Savage in The Wonder Years

Why? It’s their youthful exuberance, they both like to get people’s opinions to build things (except a relationship with Winnie… WTF, Fred?) and you just want to squeeze their cheeks.

I was really inspired by Ben’s background. He started as a product inventor, working at home creating iPod accessories. His parents were so impressed, they took out a second mortgage on their home and invested in his company, which was called ‘Mophie‘. One morning he was on the subway in New York, and noticed someone wearing one of his inventions. He felt so good that he went on a mission to allow people to create products that can live and breathe in the real world. His invention was Quirky – a site where people collaborate in creating and profiting from building new products.

I really felt a connection with Ben’s work, since it is very similar to what we did at Capcom with Super Street Fighter 2 HD Remix. We worked with the community to rebalance the game, the community and fans remixed the music, and fans and artists alike from Udon created the new sprites and backgrounds. It’s amazing to see how he’s adapted to a larger crowd (they now produce two physical products each week), and I’ve been thinking about how it would be possible to leverage the groupthink philosophy in making a video game from soup to nuts.

Dave Morin

80′s Counterpart: Neil Patrick Harris in Doogie Howser, M.D.

Why? Both are retarded smart, got rich young, and are on the bleeding edge of their technologies.

Dave Morin’s talk focused around the age old concept of a global community. Over centuries, we’ve evolved from knowing a few people in the stone ages to being connected through flight, telegrams, phones, and now the internet to billions of people. The concept that we’re all a single phone or e-mail away from pretty much anyone on earth is a pretty incredible thought. Nothing new really, but it’s interesting how we as a society still haven’t adapted to this accessibility yet.

The other concept was in regards to premium content. Dave surmised that people are willing to pay money to read & consume high quality content. He sited Letter.ly as a good example of a service where people can create great content in a newsletter format and sell it for a monthly fee. Dave mentioned he already has 400 subscribers, of which he charges $4 per person per month to write and publish a newsletter for them. I like the notion, but I’m pretty tight with my spending and it becomes hard to quantify the value of a monthly or weekly newsletter.

Travis Kalanick

80′s Counterpart: Grant Shaud (Miles Silverberg) in Murphy Brown

Why? You never see his face, but without his ideas and planning, there would be no news to talk about. They’re both surrounded by divas that they have to manage on a daily basis.

Travis was the sleeper hit of the show. Very few people know about him, but he’s a behind the scenes guy – helping coach and improve tech companies. Travis started his early days as a pirate, founding Scour.net prior to Napster blowing up. The anecdote of the day was Travis getting sued by all the multinational entertainment companies for $250 billion dollars. Yes, billion. He leveraged the lawsuit by settling for around a million, sold a company in the courtroom for $10 million, and then approached the same companies to try and get hired by them.

The other great story was the fact that Travis was at the dinner where Sean Parker met with Mark Zuckerburg to discuss Facebook’s future (you’ve probably seen the commercial for Social Network where Justin Timberlake says “You know what’s cooler than a million dollars? A billion dollars.”) He had a plethora of stories and info to share with the crowd, and as he referred to himself as ‘Mr. Wolf from Pulp Fiction’, the guy is crazy busy cleaning up the bodies of dead tech companies and helping brainstorm the next big idea.

Kevin Rose

80′s Counterpart: John Stamos in Full House

Why? He’s part alt-rock, part hacker-coder, but all-around pretty darn likeable. To top it off, much like John with Rebecca Romaijn-Stamos, the Internet seems to think that Kevin is screwing up the relationship with the love of his live, Digg.com.

Kevin walked through 10 tips in order for entrepreneurs to succeed. It was quite uplifting and positive, with some of the main takeaways being tips like ‘Go Build It’, ‘Hire Your Boss’ and ‘Hack the Press’. Some other aspects focused around engaging with your user base, having a back-and-forth discussion, listen to them, and track your metrics so you can use them to improve & evolve. Utilizing your fans / users to push out messaging and become your ad hoc PR crew was also a focus, which I completely agree with. We did this for many of our game launches at Capcom, and it worked wonders when we engaged with the consumers and worked with them to spread the word.

Dave McClure

80′s Counterpart: Ed O’Neill in Married with Children

Why? Both are chauvinistic pigs whose goal is for everyone else to fail – except where they may get personal gain.

You’d think that Dave McClure, who runs 500startups, would be a guy promoting doing a start-up, since that’s his business. Nope. Not a bit. He did a talk on ’11 Reasons you shouldn’t do a Startup’, which included phrases like ‘You are stupid and lazy’ and ‘You will get a divorce’. I chalked up his talk to him being the class contrarian, and his major point, I believe, was to make everyone understand that the vast majority of startups will fail. Hard. I get that. And yes, he is correct that most people in the audience won’t succeed in his eyes… but that all comes down to what each person’s view of success is.

He mentioned that if you are married (check), have a child (check), a nice house (check), and had a six-figure job (check) then you should absolutely NOT start a new company. My goal with Beefy Media is now just to prove him wrong. Yes, I’ve only been in business for 6 months, but so far so good, Mr. McClure.

Alexia Tsotsis

80′s Counterpart: Sara Gilbert in Roseanne

Why? She’s quick witted, could take on most dudes in a tête-à-tête in regards to internet tech and meme-ology, and if she disagreed with you and comes at you, it’s a full on sass-alanche.

Alexia seemed the least-prepared and the least-experienced in presenting. That’s not really a knock, seeing that the other people that were presenting were some of the best I’ve ever seen. Alexia’s background is as a blogger for TechCrunch,recently acquired by AOL, and she discussed sample e-mail introductions that she receives and what the best approach is for getting a story on TechCrunch. Some good insight, but the main takeaway was ‘Have a cool effin story to tell’.

Gary Vaynerchuk

80′s Counterpart: Tony Danza in Who’s the Boss

Why? Loud, likeable, opinionated, friendly, passionate, and most importantly – they are both the bosses.

Gary focused on the humanity of business. Ever since reading his book, I’ve been a big fan of the human aspect of interacting with people. I also realized that our team at Capcom did this to some degree, but looking back at it, I wish we reached out and interacted with the community much more. Gary spoke about how amazing it is that we’re comfortable with having a personal interaction with a major brand (side note – @unitedairlines responded to my tweet the other day). He mentioned how strange it would be 10 years ago if we complained about a product, and an hour later a product rep was at our door apologizing and offering up an alternative or refund? Pretty incredible evolution, and we’re just getting started.

There were some other great discussions, including a public lambasting of a member who had distributed photocopied ‘ads’ to the audience. Gary felt strongly – and I agree – that the process of cold mailings are exactly the opposite of how we should be operating in this day and age.

The conference then broke into a three hour roundtable Q&A which was like nothing I had ever seen. It was uber impressive, and far too many things were covered for me to even scratch the surface here. I will 100% be attending next year, this was one of the most incredible conferences I have ever attended.


Adam Boyes (@thebooya) is President of Beefy Media, LLC which is a video game production company working on a multitude of games and projects.
He is not a professional writer by any stretch. I’m sure you already guessed that
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About the author

adamboyes - Adam Boyes is a 15 year game industry veteran who has specialized in Production and Business Development. He has held positions such as Executive Producer at Midway and most recently he ran the Product Development group at Capcom US.

9 Responses to "Tahoe Tech Talk Redefines 80′s TV Shows"

  1. Spot on. I was there and this is perfect. Thanks to Gary Vee for pointing it out.

  2. Brilliant write-up! Makes me want to attend next year to see if Scott Baio will show up.

  3. Nice write-up! I was really wondering what the conference was all about. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Super wrap-up here. I came over from Gary V’s site and must say you did a fine job recapping the Tahoe Event. The comparisons work for me with Gary V and Tony D being dead on.


  5. Ha, that is funny. The Kevin Rose example stands out for me! Keep up the work, which is gas. Ryan has a point too, excellent recap for those who are in the UK.

    Dara Bell

  6. Adam,

    Brilliant article!
    I’m espeically interested in Quirky – crowdsourcing product development – which has been attempted with Shapeways and other 3D printing but not on this scale. Now what if you could add social media to that?

    No doubt in my mind you are going to be hugely successful and that’s not just because you’re charming and everybody likes you. Past success predicts future success, for the most part.

  7. Gary Vaynerchuk is an inspiration for many start-ups including myself. Not just start-ups but running companies looking to get to year 5 in style!…

    Awesome post,

    David Edwards

  8. Awesome article….as I know some of the players IRL you are so spot on with your 80s comparative/pop-analysis. I think this bodes well for your future as an entrepreneur.

    Rock on….


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