As a bootstrapped business, we tend to pass on conferences. They take key players off the field, and between the travel, giveaways, and booth fees it’s not easy to prove ROI. Start Up Voodoo in St. Louis made me rethink everything.
To be honest, we didn’t know what to expect going in. The most I knew about St. Louis was from the great poet and philosopher, Nelly and his St. Lunatics. It was a short drive from Chicago, and we were up for a very cool award.
Overall the conference was great! (+9): Baseline 5 +/- impressions. Rather than a boring hotel conference room, Start-Up Voodoo was held at a high-energy sports bar next to the Cardinal’s stadium (+1). The conference was filled with decision makers of Midwest companies (+2). Interesting speakers (+1) and the mic’s actually worked (+1). The food was mediocre and only one coffee bar that needed filling every couple minutes. (-1).
My personal experience: I’ve been trying to write this part without it coming off as a #humblebrag, but it is impossible, so whatever, just breathe deep and power through it… The big draw for Startup Voodoo was a competition for the Mid-West’s Most Promising technology company. Companies pitched and were grilled by judges in front of the whole conference. Imagine Shark Tank, but live. Someone had to win, and that company happened to be my mine, LearnCore. But the real story isn’t that we won some cash, but how we used it.
At 3PM a few days after the conference, I called a mandatory team meeting and told everyone to reschedule their appoints through EOD. The walked into the room on egg shells. I then handed each team member a $250 Nordstrom gift cards that they had to spend in its entirety before 5PM or else I will take the card back. I yelled, “Go” and the team was off. The team strategized the whole way over; one of the guys offered free car service all week for his teammates gift card. It was great, and Startup Voodoo helped put that spark back into my company. We even got a shout out from Nordstrom’s.
In addition, I would like to thank CafePress for the notebooks, and Elasticity for the much needed guidance on how to build our PR engine. Techli, we appreciate the news coverage we received (LearnCore: Hottest Chicago Startup You’ve Never Heard Of) and have gotten great feedback from it. Don’t worry Polsinelli, we are saving our legal services for a very important upcoming contract. Get ready.
The returns from Startup Voodoo are still coming in:
• Closed one deal directly from the conference
• Gained a new mentor
• Recruited a new employee
Now, growing up an avid Detroit sports fan I could never publicly admit to liking STL. I can say, (off the record but okay, publicly), St. Louis, its people, and their entrepreneurial spirit have something very attractive. Thank you for the great conference Voodoo! We will see you soon!