Big Omaha Roundup: Day 2

Today I’m sharing roundups from 3 speakers with you: Sahil Lavingia, Jim McKelvey and Seth Goldstein. These three guys had very different speaking styles, but were all entertaining in their own right. Let’s dive in!


Sahil Lavingia – Gumroad

Photo courtesy Silicon Prairie News

Sahil was the youngest speaker (only 19!) at Big Omaha and worked for Pinterest and Turntable before starting his own company, Gumroad. I actually read about him shortly before Big Omaha in an article here and was immediately fascinated and excited to hear his story in person.

  • Money is exciting but not as exciting as turning it into something valuable

That’s really saying something coming from someone who has raised $8 million for his startup. My takeaway from this statement is that you can’t be satisfied just because your product is making money – you have to see it is valuable to the people that are using it and continue to evolve it so it holds that value.

  • If you get too comfortable you will develop assumptions and become closed-minded.

Sahil moved all over the world throughout his childhood and he credits his open-mindedness to that. When you don’t have time to develop assumptions about cultures and your surroundings you are bound to be more open minded and create better ideas I have always been a believer in the importance of travel and learning about other cultures. I haven’t had the opportunity to do as much of that as I would like, but I am making it a goal to do it more often. Time to start planning some learncations! (Yes, I’m making that a word – a vacation focused on learning.)

  • Build products that improve my life and hire people that make me smarter.

Sahil admitted that he is selfishly motivated to create things that directly improve his life. In addition, he improves himself by surrounding himself with people that make him better and creates a company that he wants to work for. And shouldn’t we all do that? Everyone has different strengths and if we can bring people that are strong in many different areas together, the end result will be so much better than if you try and do it yourself. I strive to make Embellish that place for myself – the place I want to work every day and continually learn from the people that are there with me.

  • One fascinating thing Sahil expressed was wanting the ability to look at anything and be able to make it by himself. This is what drove his learning at such a young age.

This is incredible. I wish I had that kind of drive or vision. I tend to think on a lot smaller scale so I have immense respect for those that can look at a much larger problem and have the foresight to know how to make it happen.

  • Making things simple is incredibly complicated.

So much of what we see in technology is extremely complicated behind the scenes so it can be easy and user-friendly to people like me. That seems like a pretty elementary statement but when you really think about it, it makes total sense. Apply this to your life: so many people stress the importance of simplifying your life. It is supposed to make you a better person and give you the ability to make things happen. But getting to that point is complicated, right? Decided what things have true value and what things you can part with or remove your involvement from. Find that balance is quite complicated but worth it when you’re at a state when you’re maximizing your productivity.


Jim McKelvey – Square

Photo courtesy Silicon Prairie News

Hearing Jim speak was such a treat. And yet he barely even touched on the idea of Square. He referred more to his hobby of glassblowing and drew conclusions based on that. He was so insightful!

  • What is the secret to success? To not be mediocre but be GOOD at something.

There are plenty of people doing mediocre things in this world. If we could get more people interested in being more than that we could do pretty big things. Find what you’re awesome at and DO IT! You will be so much more satisfied than if you’re doing something you’re aren’t as good at. And chances are you will be passionate about it!

  • The time is now! Permission is unnecessary. Communication is free. Ideas are plentiful.

Do what you love and do it now! There is nothing holding you back but yourself.

  • Don’t look for opportunities, look for problems.

This was another major theme of the conference. Look for a problem and try to solve it. If you can’t, find someone to collaborate with that can help you! As Sahil said, ”I find people that don’t suck at the things I suck at.”


Seth Goldstein – turntable.fm

Photo courtesy Silicon Prairie News

Seth’s talk was structured so smartly – 10 tweets for Startups. Isn’t that clever?

  • Anything worth doing is worth doing badly. Don’t wait for the right moment or when you think you can do it well. Do it now!

I can completely identify with this. I knew I always wanted a store. I did not think it would be at the age of 24. But I saw an opportunity and knew the timing in the market was right, so even if I didn’t think I was totally ready I took the plunge! I truly believe if I had waited even one year the time for Embellish in it’s perfect location and time in the market would have passed.  Sometimes you just have to jump and figure some things out as you go! You will never be as prepared as you think you should be.

  • Leaders believe it before they see it; managers need to see before they believe. The role of a leader is vision.

Is this your personality? It is mine! I didn’t have to see a copy of a business plan to be convinced Embellish was the right thing to do…I just knew. Plenty of other people needed that information before they got involved. And that’s ok. I just don’t want to be one of those people. Part of the reward is knowing you took a risk and seeing your hard work pay off!

  • Dress British, think Yiddish. Look conventional but think unconventionally.

This one got a good laugh from the crowd, but I think he has a valid point. Establishing your credibility is crucial and your appearance is no exception. Presenting yourself in a professional and put-together way can mean everything! Don’t limit this to your appearance, though. Your brand should be polished. He said, “You can’t spend a lot to brand your company but you need to have a good brand.” Strong branding isn’t necessarily about design, but more about strategy and your message.

  • Scale a single social gesture. Features are becoming products. Products are becoming companies.
  • Hire slow, fire fast.

Again we visit the importance of surrounding yourself with A+ employees. Sometimes that means waiting for the right person to hire. It is worth the wait to achieve the right fit!

  • Have difficult conversations. Stay connected through conflict. Don’t wait to have tough conversations – it will never be convenient.

I can’t relate to this as much since I am the only owner of my company and have no one to report to. But I imagine as my business grows this will be an increasing issue and a lesson I will be glad to have been exposed to prior to having to deal with this.

  • What is going up and to the right? Find the metric that is growing and leverage that. What metric is most important for your business?

This was a really interesting point to me. It seems in the retail industry that revenue would be the main thing that you would want to focus on trending in this way. But it made me think of what other parts of my business I should track and try to improve.

  • Raise money when you can, not when you have to.

To me, this is definitely geared more towards the startup community. But I did find it to be an interesting point. He mentioned how “fashionable” it is to be in the startup community right now, so if you have investors knocking at your door to leverage that relationship. Six months down the road, you might need that money and there may not be anyone there to give it to you.

  • It is hard to bring and investor in. It is 10 times harder to get them out. Don’t focus on the firm, focus on the person.

In general terms , this goes back to a main theme of surrounding yourself with people that make you better and that you want to be around. Be patient when choosing people to work with – it can be the difference in the success of your company.

  • It’s not about the money, it’s about the money. Don’t be too proud for a profit. Keep perspective.

If you’re interesting in hearing his entire talk, visit his site and watch here!

Posted by: Ashlie | Category: Fashion | No Comments | tweet this on twitter!

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