Larry Chiang writes about entrepreneurship and pre-entrepreneurship. He edits the Bloomberg
BusinessWeek channel “What They Don’t Teach You at Business School”.
After Chiang’s Harvard Law keynote, Harvard Business wrote: “What They Don’t Teach You at Stanford Business School“ (the same title as his NY Times bestseller). If you read his scandalously awesome “What a Supermodel Can Teach a Stanford MBA” and “How to Get Man-Charm”, you will like his latest post:
How to Launch Your Startup at SXSW for $460
By Larry Chiang
Originally, I wanted to call this article, ‘How to Launch at SXSW on a Shoestring Budget’ but it wasn’t specific enough
“How to Launch @ SXSW for $460″ has tactical, granular sound that resonates with what my mentor (see his book
cover picture HEREhttp://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/0615301487/ref=mp_s_a_1?qid=1284941369&sr=8-1) taught
me about promotion at a real world event. It’s an example of “What They Will NEVER Teach You At Stanford
Business School”. Having the thesis that it costs just $460.00 definitely puts me in the minority.
There’s talk about how there is a lot of noise at SXSW and how it will be too crowded to promote anything. That
reminds me of the Yogi Berra quote: “No one goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.” I find it funny that you expect to
compete on the Internet, where there is much more noise than at an Austin conference.
But do not make the mistake that most people make journeying to Austin for SXSW. Showing up and hoping for the
best is not a good plan. Whether you are launching, re-promoting, or just pre-entrepreneuring… Here are specific ideas
on how to increase awareness at sxsw for $460 or less.
1) The Patented Afterparty Maneuver.
By patented I mean “an awesome thing you can exactly copy.”
You take whatever existing event you like and you do your own event immediately after.
For example, back when Facebook was rising, they’d do a big party at Pangeae. I did an afterparty across the street. I
didn’t do open bar and just had light food. The Facebook party was awesome, but people want a place to linger. The
theme I used was refresh and rejuvenate.
Hosting a stand-alone event is hard, but an unofficial afterparty may be much easier and cheaper.
2) Hack Together a VIP Author Reception.
Getting a celeb to your informal gathering can be as cheap as $200. In this day when 13,000 books sold can get you on
the NY Times Bestseller list, a few extra copies sold moves the needle.
For example, Guy Kawasaki is promoting a new book, Enchantment. If I were a startup founder with a $450 budget, I’d
buy 20 used copies of Guy’s OLD book and hand them out March 13 (2 hours after he judges Accelerator). Plot spoiler:
used books can cost as little as $0.01.
3) Infiltrate and Produce a SXSW Film Reception
Overlapping the SXSW Interactive festival is the film festival. Getting a film celeb to an event is getting a real celebrity
versus a welebrity.
The idea is the same as getting an author, except the cost slide scales up. Instead of pre-promoting a book, the actor is
pre-promoting a movie. The last few years Edward Norton, James Marsden, Danny McBride have promoted movies in
4) Make Your Audience Pay You to Do Lead Gen.
This is the opposite for “pay-for-play.” It means get paid for play.
You do not need to just spend money… you can actually charge people while you build awareness. You can get paid to
generate leads and awareness. Here is how
: charge for admission and do not provide free alcohol.
A. Get a focus and a theme. Lets say you pick #csMajorCEO
B. Get an RSVP page up on Eventbrite and Facebook
C. Tie in a celebrity component
D. Do partnerships with blogs, startups, and personalities to help promote them
E. Get and control a venue and book a back-up venue
In this age of “everything is faster” and Moore’s Law, I think you should get your ROI for the party/conference
BEFORE you even go.
For example, you can drive the registrations through a Facebook groups page. Having people “Facebook fan” you is
presumptuous. Getting people to write on a Facebook group wall (which makes them join) is social.
6) Get Local.
If you’re from California, the best thing you can do is get away from California people.
In producing an event for $450, you can enlist the help of local Austin-ites. If you’re charging, offer comp passes. If its
free, offer comp demo booths so that companies can demonstrate their offerings but with the requirement that they pre-
blog the event.
7) Pre-blog Your Own Event.
When someone asks me to blog about them, the first question I have is,
did you blog about it yourself?
Pre-blogging is critical. If you’re only spending $460, preblogging
once or twice before your launch is critical. For those founders who
have never blogged or rarely blog, the bare minimum for a post is
simply three paragraphs, two pictures and one focus. It relates
specifically to event promotion because before you promote an event,
you have to elevate you and your brand. An inexpensive way to do this
is to pre-blog
For example, freshman Stanford CS majors with zero budget were
encouraged to blog as a way to engineer three internships in a row and
gain access to expensive conferences. Kiki Garcia pre-blogged about
Sammataro pre-blogged a venture capital conference. Both were offered
comp passes to attend pretty expensive conferences.
8) Hack Up an Eventbrite Page,
The urban myth about hosting an event is that you need to have all your ducks in a row before you publish an invite.
This is a misperception.
Heck, you don’t even need a venue to get started. For example, WordPress is hosting a party March 13. They have a
placeholder page up.
As of this time, they have invited some Dallas people, got the commitment of WP Engine and have a decent looking
The basic formula I use is
- promote and
- value-addedly hijack.
This strategy helps to overcome two core problems startups face: no need (for your product/services) and no trust
(people trust people, not websites).
*** BONUS ***
a party invite for you…:
EVENTBRITE EMBED WIDGET HERE
It looks like the widget at my site: http://www.unofficialaustin.com/
|If you liked this…|
Larry’s mentor Mark McCormack wrote this in 1983. His own book came out 09-09-09. It is called ‘What They Don’t Teach You At Stanford Business School‘
This post was drafted in an hour and needs your edits… email
me if you see a spelling or grammatical error(s)… larry@larrychiang
Larry Chiang started his first company UCMS
in college. He mimicked his mentor, Mark McCormack, founder of IMG who
wrote the book, “What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business
School”. Chiang is a keynote speaker and bestselling author and spoke at Congress and World Bank.
Text or call him during office hours 11:11am or 11:11pm PST +/-11
minutes at 650-283-8008. Due to the volume of calls, he may place you on
hold like a Scottsdale Arizona customer service rep. If you email
him, be sure to include your cell number in the subject line. If you
want him to email you his new articles…, ask him in an email
You can read more equally funny, but non-founder-focused-lessons on Larry’s Amazon blog .