All good things hit road-bumps eventually – they just came from angles we didnt expect.
Startup Insiders #5 was started with the same anticipation as the previous events, but with what was promising to be an excellent panel as well. Jawwad, Jehan, FQ, Adnan and even Ali Raza and Mansoor came up from Karachi, and Zia Imran and others drove in from Lahore.
We convened at a fairly decent venue – great lighting, projection and great catering – but then I dont know what happened next. Its easy to write a passionate rant but I’ll choose a tougher path here…
I still dont quite understand why there were so many disconnects at the event; why the entrepreneurs who visited felt disenfranchised; why the SI regular panelists felt insulted; and why there was so much discussion about topics that have no relevance within the spirit and format of SI; why everyone came with such a self-centered agenda; why no one in that room gave a *bleep* about entrepreneurship.
All I know is that 10-minutes into it, I lost interest – I sat in the back and enjoyed the food, wishing I was actually back in the office catching up with work.
In an attempt atleast to be comprehensive if not objective, I want to present my reasons why I consider SI#5 a failure.
1- Expectations Disconnect
I think there were 5 different expectations from people inside the venue. Some of the attendees thought SI was a “Workshop” among IT industry stakeholders, including government, industry and students, to discuss issues about the industry.
There were people expecting all of those 100 were supposed to review Startup pitches.
Some of the panelists
had been told expected that the purpose of the event was to put them on a throne and run around them in a circle shouting love chants.
Some of the audience expected a certain message to be presented at the event, and only that message alone.
So many expectations may either represent a confidence in the brand of SI itself (where people want us to solve all the major problems in the industry, cancer and global climate change included), or a failure to clearly communicate expectations to everyone prior to the event.
But the result of multiple expectations is always going to be that you’ll invariably offend or disenfranchise one or more set of stakeholders.
That’s exactly what has happened – the people who probably think the event was wonderful were the people who wanted to use this as a chance to promote themselves, or just discuss about “IT industry issues” among high-level leaders.
They’ll tell you SI5 was a “Great gathering of stakeholders from IT, Telecom, Govt and Education in one place – which has never happened before, and that alone is commendable”. I wouldn’t be surprised if Telenor or others issue a press release along the same lines.
Too bad the people disenfranchised were P@SHA, Green & White, and all the entrepreneurs there.
Ladies and Gentleman – Startup Insiders has one, and ONLY ONE, goal: To help entrepreneurs.
At the end of the session – did entrepreneurs feel helped? No? Then the event was a failure.
Its not our problem that stakeholders between telecom and the govt can never sit and have coffee together to discuss their issues – take it somewhere else. Come here to guide, mentor, pick up and pat scared startup guys on the back and try to take them to the next level.
If you’re not comfortable doing that, and have nothing to say, then stay on your throne – we dont need your gifted presence.
2- Alterior Intents for Participation
I warned about this earlier – I wrote here:
what happens if the only people who participate in these events in general are doing so for pure self-benefit â€” whether it is to try and show others how active their brands are? Or to try to hire people they meet at the events? Or to forget the bigger picture and only worry about how great *their* contribution is? Or to only participate to try to get new business for their own firm?
â€¦ its pretty simple what will happen. Weâ€™ll lose the chance to build the one platform weâ€™ve raised in the past year which soberly and seriously aims to truly help entrepreneurs get out of hiding and step up on the limelight
Literally all of those items listed happened at the event.
From feedback from independent audience members and entrepreneurs at the event, it was felt
that as if the sponsors’ primary and only intent was to use the platform for self-publicity.
I dont entirely share that view – I’d say its just more general in that there was a lot of people even from the audience who had no interest in anything other than their immediate interest – it just created an unhealthy environment for objective discourse and all comments started sounding like self-publicity.
Perhaps we should have a pre-session brainwashing session for the panelists, or maybe try to restrict conversations in some ways — e.g. answers can only be given by panelists assigned by the moderator — although I dont know how that would improve this.
I’ll cut it short and reserve my thoughts and rants for future posts.
The only part that bothered me the most was an entrepreneur who thought we weren’t talking about what we were talking about.
Both were talking about building products, but it was still was an apples to oranges discussion.
That’s alright – but what still struck me was this understanding the young lad had that his POV about the world was fixed and he didnt have anything to learn from the panel.
All in all, SI5 has left me confused. For people who were there – please add your thoughts in the comments…. why did SI5 fail to help? Was it because our brand has outgrown us faster than we thought and we just want to find channels to formalize all the expectations? Is it because the sponsors hijacked the event? Is it because we didnt moderate the event well enough to keep everyone on focus? Is it because the entrepreneurs just dont want to participate to learn anymore?
Ladies and Gentleman, Startup Insiders is not entertainment – we are here to try and help you become the next Google – and all we want is
thanks free food and prayers when you hear we’ve passed on. It doesnt benefit me or my company in any way to try to organize and participate in three events / month. We dont get any financial gains, nor is this a necessary part of our (i.e. CDF Software’s) brand strategy.
We do it to try to get people thinking about becoming future leaders in this economy. We do it for you. If you dont want us to do this anymore, please let me know – it would be good for us to focus on our core business then.
I chose not to attend SI6 in Lahore – honestly I really need a good reason from the entrepreneurs now to care to participate.
If you feel like SI is necessary to help you get from X to Y, email me at email@example.com — in fact also email me with your feedback for future events and I’ll forward it to P@SHA and the other organizers.