Big Omaha 2010: The Convention, The Parties, and Our Good Friend, Gentleman Jack

Big Omaha 2010: The Convention, The Parties, and Our Good Friend, Gentleman Jack

Photo by Malone & Company Photography

Big Omaha was upon us again and we were ready for two nights of mayhem. Reflect7 was giddy after our insane experience at the first Big Omaha. This time around, we knew we could top it. It’s like the second time you have sex - a lot less awkward and much more enjoyable.

Talking business is our crack and Big Omaha is the dealer. Mix crack with beer and then put everything within walking distance and you have a recipe for disaster. There were stogies, Gentlemen Jack cap shots, drinking games with CEOs, kidnappings, and even a one-legged Jason Fried. I heard there was some sort of technology convention going on too… Weird…

The preparty was a blur of fun. We met a lot of really cool people, took some Tequila shots, and proceeded to dance outside the men’s bathroom to Coolio’s Fantastic voyage. The entire Lincoln crew was there including Lateef of Deckerton, David Milligan of Advent, and Ben from Five Nines. We also met Megan and Amy of 9Clouds Inc. from South Dakota. We talked tech, social marketing, and about how this years speaker lineup was nothing short of amazing.\

After last call, we walked to the Magnolia Hotel. Some intense mobile GPS led us right to the entry of the illustrious edifice. The giant mahogany doors slid open, welcoming us. The doorman gave us a wink and said, “I know where you guys are going…” At first I thought I had stepped into a bad rendition of Stanley Kubrick’s Eye’s Wide Shut. Why was this doorman winking at me? Then he muttered something about room 2002 and pointed towards the back.\

We walked past the lobby and patio until we saw a shiny “2002” glowing enamorously. JP knocked on the door. It slowly opened to reveal a room full of assholes. Presidents and Assholes. Scoble was there so I assumed he was the asshole. We walked in and were immediately greeted by Foursquare Co-founder, Dennis Crowley, and Hot Potato Founder and CEO,Justin Shaffer. They told us to pull up a few chairs and we dived right in. Being the biggest asshole in the room, I took over my usual spot and started dealing out the cards (and the drinks).


These guys were all yuckin’ it up and the convo was hilarious. I don’t remember anything in particular, except that JP kept taking out his iPhone to check in to Gowalla, Foursquare’s competitor. How did I know this was happening? Because JP kept looking over at Dennis and saying, “I’m taking out my iPhone now to check in to Gowalla.” And even though he’s a millionaire and a social media powerhouse, Dennis was still cool enough to take it for what it was, a small jab from a big douchebag.

We mixed it up and had a great evening. JP and I really appreciated the hospitality that the New Yorkers had shown us. We’ll vouch for those guys anytime. The night wound down and everybody headed their separate ways. We rolled back to the Hilton just in time for the early morning breakfast bar. Our plates were clean at 6:30am.

When we went to bed, I secretly didn’t bring up setting the alarm because I secretly didn’t want to get up in three hours. And we didn’t. Kudos for the diffusion of responsibility. We made it to Kaneko just in time to catch Scott Harrison’s Charity: Water.

Photo by Malone & Company Photography

This presentation was a wake-up call. Scott had started as a nightclub promoter and decided to channel his connections and charisma into something he was passionate about. That path led to Charity: Water, a nonprofit organization that builds clean water wells in undeveloped countries. A \$5000 well can sustain a community of 250 people.

Harrison’s speech was accompanied with heartfelt photos showing entire communities who had been undermined by dirty water. Kids with massive mouth growths. Mothers filling jugs out of gritty lakes. Entire villages destabilized because women and children had to spend their entire day walking to get clean water instead of going to school.

The fact is, we take clean water for granted. Everyone donated to the cause after Harrison’s speech. Jason Fried and Gary Vaynerchuk each through down \$10,000 while Tony Hsieh helped raise \$2000 with a book-signing the next day. Contribute to the cause by donating here.

During lunch we met some really motivated entrepreneurs who were launching some insane projects. It was inspiring to talk with companies like lyconic who had bootstrapped by finding clients for custom software. We also chatted it up with our buddies Matt from Nebraska Entrepreneur and Toby from Fiercerobot. These guys are putting the Lincoln Business scene on their shoulders. Contact them to get involved with Startup drinks and we’ll see you there.\

Photo by Malone & Company Photography

Back at Kaneko, Matt Mullenweg took the stage with interviewer Robert Scoble. Even though Matt is a cool as a cucumber, I’ll admit, I wasn’t a fan of the interview. I didn’t really learn anything except how big Wordpress’s cock was. Yeah, we know it’s big, so lets ask some better questions. How about some insights on running Automattic? With other programs like Gravatar, I was hoping for a little more perspective on how Matt is able to run so many concurrent projects. Instead, Scoble just fluffed Wordpress, which is fine, but not very insightful.

Photo by Malone & Company Photography

Next up was my main man Gary V. This guy can inspire a piece of toast. Last year he totally killed it and this year I knew he would Crush It!

The V-man took the stage and never gave it back. He spoke about the “Thank You Economy.” A system where people appreciate the fact that you share your ideas, passions, and time trying to help them and others. Your audience may show their appreciation by purchasing your product, or just by telling others about you. Either way, when you act for Legacy over Currency, it’s always a win-win.

The V-Dog also had the best quote for the 2nd year in a row:

“People say that you can’t scale one to one relationships, I say

fuck that.”

Out of nowhere, someone in the crowd yelled out, “That’s Right!” Gary proceeded to give the guy a “you my homie” hug and that guy was our good friend from Lincoln, Lateef Johnson.

Lateef has built a web app called Deckerton that helps businesses scale one to one relationships. G.V. and his new sidekick hugged it out and then Lateef took a seat stage right. He waited patiently until the Wine Enthusiast gave him a segue. Then, the Lincoln entrepreneur stood up and delivered his synopsis on scaling one to one relationships.

There’s one thing Reflect7 likes to say about Lateef Johnson, “That guy makes shit happen.” Lateef made shit happen at Big Omaha with Gary V. and that’s some pretty big shit.

Photo by Malone & Company Photography

The next speaker was Danae Ringelmann, Co-Founder of IndieGoGo, a crowd-funding site for new projects. I like the idea of people pitching their blueprint to the world in order to raise funding. It’s another way for starters to connect with clients who will prepay for their product. This way, entrepreneurs can raise capital from customers instead of investors. Doing this helps businesses focus on their product instead of appeasing shareholders. I’ve browsed Kickstarter in the past and it’s great to see more companies, like IndieGoGo, in this space.

Photo by Malone & Company Photography

Next up was shortest tall man I’ve seen: Jason Fried from 37Signals. Here’s how things work. Your good friend tells you to read Getting Real. You start reading it and, in the wee hours of the morning, you find yourself done. The crazy part? You didn’t even blink. It went so fast, you never got a chance to enjoy it (That’s what she said).

Then, Fried and David Heinemeier-Hansson announce Rework. You’re doing the “I have to pee” dance for the next two months while eagerly awaiting the release. When the book arrives, you clear your schedule for the day. You’re going to want to wine and the dine the book. Take your time and enjoy the foreplay because once you open it, it’s over.

When I finished reading Rework, I engraved the book in gold and put it on the mantel next to the shrunken monkey skull. Do you want to know what the scariest part is? I don’t even have a fireplace…

Fried echoed his Rework sentiments wrapped in a few anecdotal stories from his previous occupation as a shoe salesman. The most hilarious part was when Fried was mimicking customers trying on shoes. How they do a little walk with their new shoe and their old shoe. Then how they jump on one foot to recreate a real-life hopscotch scenario. You had to be there.

I’m not going to go into the details of Fried’s presentation because it will scare your pants off. For those of you who aren’t wearing pants, check out JP’s review of Rework to get the gist.

After the convention, we dined at upstream and conversed about our passions. Once we arrived at the hotel, my body melted into the bed and I knew I wasn’t leaving anytime soon. My head was throbbing and it was time for some sleep. JP and Corey left with the promise that I would catch up.

Later on, several of our new friends told me that they spotted the couple at Urban Wine Company sipping fancy Pinot and whispering sweet nothings into each others ears. When I heard that JP had a sweater wrapped over his shoulders, preppy-style, I knew it had to be true.

While JP and Corey were enjoying their romantic evening, I was sprawled out on the shower floor with the worst hangover in history. After about an hour in the porcelain cocoon I felt revived. A new entity was reborn and I was ready to spread my wings.

I swooped in on Corey and JP at the ArchRival Nomad party. The free drinks were flowing and Corey was hoing. We mixed it up with Amy from 9Clouds, Jake from Elevate, Eric from Sioux City, and Anne from the Dog Blog.

When we got back to the hotel, Dusty’s Twitter feed lit up like a beacon, “Afterparty at the Magnolia.” We grabbed our supplies and rolled out.

Reflect7 strutted into the Magnolia in style: with a handle of Sailor Jerry and a 24 pack of Busch Light. We were ready to rumble. I grabbed a few brewskies and snagged a chair outside to join in on the Convo. Our good friend Gentleman Jack was out along with some premium stogies. I’m not avid smoker, but I’ll enjoy a cigar or two.

After almost burning down the Magnolia, I shut my blowhole and listened up. It was humbling to hear the different perspectives from people with years of experience in technology. We had Rob from Rackspace in San Antonio, Mike from SproutBox in Indiana, and others from Phoenix, Boulder, and Des Moines. Hearing these overlapping and yet different paradigms was an eye-opener. I’ve only been around for a year, but this tech community is really something else. Like a big family. I might be the red-headed stepchild but I still felt the love.

Regrettably, a few Gentleman Jack cap shots found their way to my mouth. That’s when I found my way to the card room where JP introduced me to Shane Mac. Shane co-founded Ask Summit, a conference where you can submit and then vote on questions for the speakers.

Five minutes later, I found myself in a mind-blowing conversation with Mike Templeton from Catchfire Media. Mike changed my paradigm on Social Marketing. I stopped viewing it as a fad and more as an age-old way of business. “Social Marketing” is not even the proper term for it. More like, “Community Integration.” Facebook and Twitter will come and go, they’re just tools to help. Now that we have these tools, businesses are better able to monitor their social impact. They are able to listen to what the community wants and respond quickly. This type of integration has always been there. Now it’s just on steroids.

Reflect7 left The Magnolia around 5am after having some great conversations. We woke up the next day at 10:30am. I didn’t feel too bad for missing the earlier speakers. It was more about the relationships we had developed, not just the convention.

Photo by Malone & Company Photography

The very last speaker was Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos. Tony’s thesis was to develop a company’s culture first, and then everything else would follow naturally. If you get the culture right then you don’t need rigid scripts for your call center because your employees understand your values. Spending Big bucks on marketing is no longer necessary because everything you do is marketing. Every phone call you take is a chance to WOW a customer. If you create a truly unique and great experience, that customer will share it with people they know. There’s your advertising.

Zappos puts their phone number at the top of every page. They want their customers to call them because that is an opportunity to get more information and acquire an evangelist for life. Who needs million dollar advertising budgets? Invest that money back into your call center and pay your employees an awesome wage for what they really do: market the company.

I for one am sick of companies like ebay and paypal who make it almost impossible to talk with a live person. I’m done with automated answer lines and outsourced phone centers. Tony says, “Never outsource one of your core competencies.” I completely agree.

At the end, Tony pulled an Oprah move and gave us all early copies of Delivering Happiness. I’m three-quarters the way through and it’s definitely worth the read if you missed his presentation. Check back at Techneur on Monday for the full review.

Overall, Big Omaha 2010 was an unforgettable experience. We met some great people and left inspired and ready to change the world. We’ll be back next year with our friends in tow…


Big Up Massive Props to Dusty of Brightmix and Jeff of Silicon Prairie News. Somehow, they were able to outdo 2009 Big Omaha. Great Speakers, Great Building, Great Parties, Great Food, Great Music, Great Vibe. Amazing work guys. JP is getting married next year, do you guys do weddings?

Props to Dennis Crowley, Justin Shaffer, and Robert Scoble for inviting us into your President’s and Assholes game (and throwing us a few beers). All class acts.

Props to Rob from Rackspace for being downright hilarious and ordering pizza at 3am.

Props to Gary V. for bringing insane enthusiasm. Second best quote: “You know how I’m going to make the Jets America’s Team? When every kid turns seven, I’m going to send them a fucking Jets jersey.” You crazy fucker, you’ll do it too.\

Props to Lateef for having huge bollocks and not spamming the speaker forum.

Props to Jason Fried for making the most god damn unintuitive common sense that I have ever witnessed. If you don’t own Rework, go get it.

Props to Scott Harrison for making me tear up worse than when I watched The Notebook\

Props to Mike Templeton of Catchfire Media for giving me the lowdown on social marketing.\

Props to Megan and Amy for shooting the shit with us at the parties.

Props to the delicious cookies that the Hilton Garden had at the front desk. Props to me for grabbing a handful.

Props to all of the cool people we met but forgot to mention.\

And Props to my boys JP and Corey. We always have a hilarious time and even though I was a big hungover puss, we still had a blast.


Big Sloppity Slops to my stomach and my liver. Why must you fight me? Just go with it and it will all be over soon.

Slops to the bathroom line at Kaneko.

Slops for not being able to bring food into the conference room. It’s not like we’re going to stain the concrete floor…\

Slops to Scoble for licking the peanut butter off of Mullenweg’s Balls. But Props to Scoble for jabbing a few peeps during the panel. Overall, way more props than slops for the Scobleizer. Let’s face it, does your name sound that cool with “izer” at the end? Mine doesn’t.

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