Flight Midwest Startup Conference 2017

I recently had the opportunity to attend the second annual Flight conference in Akron. Put on by our friends at Launch League, this was a great event promoting and enriching startups regionally. Experienced founders and supporters shared their experiences on a variety of topics, and there were high quality panel discussions as well.

It was refreshing to attend Flight not as a presenter or sponsor but just a regular attendee. It was a useful change in perspective to allow myself to get immersed in the day without being preoccupied with other tasks. One thing that I thought was much improved over last year’s conference was the scope and focus of the the programming. The inaugural conference was very broad with speakers talking about everything from design to dev ops. This year it was honed in on startups and their concerns. I thought this helped with expectations and just made everything feel more organized and coherent.

Heading into the John S. Knight center for the conference

When selecting which presentations to attend I forced myself to go to things I wouldn’t normally go to. I’ve been to enough design and development talks that they really need to be a specific niche or topic to pique my interest. This turned out to be a great strategy though, as I pushed outside my comfort zone and had some great discussions.

Two of the presentations in particular I found really useful:

Mark Weisman from Navidar opened up by explaining that his company works as an technology-focused investment bank; which neither invests anything (in a traditional sense) nor functions as a bank. It was a great start to add some levity to what could be a very dry topic. He explained that their primary service is to work with companies who are entertaining buyout/acquisition offers or seeking them to try and get the best price (and the most offers) possible. There were some great stories of work that they did, and the kinds of details that most people wouldn’t even think could affect deals or valuations.

While we’re not pivoting into the finance industry, it really resonated with me how they only work with companies at a certain point in their lifecycle. It’s something we’ve done as well; we work great with teams who need to build an MVP, or need front end and design help to assist their small back-end staff. How we might better position ourselves that way and options for further defining our best clients were in my head all day after hearing this.

Ryan O’Donnell from Sellhack talked about strategies and tools for a sales process. As someone who’s always been on the creative services side of businesses, I’ve tried to stay as far away from ‘selling’ as possible. But, Ryan’s talk was fantastic and made me consider diving in headfirst to help out. His products Sellhack and Replyify help you build upon some LinkedIn strategies for finding ideal clients for your business, contacting them, and following up in an organized and efficient way. It never felt ‘sales-y’ at all, and he shared some great stories and examples of the things he actually uses day to day. We’ve always focused on passive marketing efforts, using speaking and our work relationships to find new potential clients. As we look to grow though, we’re looking at starting some more legitimate sales and content marketing efforts.

Overall, I had a great time at Flight and look forward to see what next year brings.

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