On November 7, Election Day, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos was in
Boulder to accept the Entrepreneur of the Year award from the University
of Colorado's Deming Center for Entrepreneurship. (He assured us that he
voted by absentee ballot.) He spent his afternoon talking with a group of
entrepreneurship students (chosen by lottery given that 75% of the MBA
students are in the entrepreneurial program) and then headed over to
Macky Auditorium for a presentation which was open to anyone. My guess is
that at least 1000 came out to hear him.
The highlights. While people were still filtering in, a student jazz band
played and Jeff and new CU president, Elizabeth Hoffman took turns
dancing with the CU mascot, Chip the buffalo (not to be confused with
Ralphie, the real buffalo who makes appearances at football games). Jeff
was introduced with a "this-is-your-life" video produced by award sponsor
Ernst & Young. A bit embarrassed by his deification, he joked that Al
Gore had narrated the video. During his talk (which I estimate to have
been 45 minutes), he covered a number of points including these:
The reason start-ups move out of garages is not because they run out of
room but because they run out of electrical power sources.
A milestone for an e-commerce firm is the first time you get an order
from someone other than your mother.
Email turns off the politeness gene in customers.
Don't believe in customer loyalty. They will be loyal until someone
offers them better service.
The speech was followed by a Q-and-A. The students were startling
reverential (the surly ones either did not come or at least didn't take
the mike). Then it was down to the basement where a press room had been
set up. The location afforded us privacy and the chance to talk to Jeff
in an intimate setting, but we were in the bowels of the building. (It's
where the theater and music majors hang out before a performance. I was
most intrigued by the washing machines and refrigerators stuck in random
nooks and crannies. A person could die down there and no one would know.)
Asked what he thought of Boulder, Jeff said it had been on his short list
of possible homes for Amazon. Seattle won out because of its proximity to
what was then the world's largest book distribution center.
After about fifteen minutes, Jeff was off to the Koenig Alumni Center for
a reception. The most noteworthy guests were Bob and Bev Deming, who have
given more than $3 million to the center. He's a CU business school alum
and founder and former chairman/CEO of Toastmaster Inc. In addition,
there were a number of advisory board members including chairman Tom
Washing, a partner with Sequel Venture, Ernst & Young partners Daniel
Love and Arlyn Dozeman, Pamela Bergeson, CEO of Bid4Vacations, and Sherri
Leopard, founder/CEO of Leopard Communications.
The next night I headed down to the University of Denver's Daniels
College of Business School to attend a small reception given by the
Denver chapter of The Council of Growing Companies. I used to attend DU's
business school, but this was my first visit to its current home, now
three years old. (I was surprised to see that valet parking was
available, but I presume it was being provided by the event rather than
the school.) We enjoyed wine and hors d'oeuvres in the Schnieder Board
Room, which is available to groups such as this.
The Council of Growing Companies has more than 1200 members in more than
20 chapters around the company. It draws upon entrepreneurs from every
type of business, but this particular gathering had a fairly strong
tech/Internet representation. Among those in attendance were Joseph Zell,
president/CEO of Convergent Communications, Tate Kelly, president/COO of
Bigpipe.com, Scott Burt, CEO of Integro, James Bartlett, COO of RMI.net,
Robert Welch, VP/Business Development for Tango Technologies, and Safa
Alai, COO of CANTV. Part of the meeting was a demo of a typical
roundtable discussion where CEOs are able to share problems and get
advice among a group of six to twelve peers.
As I mingled and mentioned that my company, SportsTrust, does sports and
online marketing consulting, EVERYONE asked me my opinion about John
Elway's sports ecommerce site, MVP.com. I'm not sure if it was that
MVP.com has been in the news lately because of financial restructuring or
if, when you talk Internet sports in some Denver business circles, the
name Elway automatically comes to mind. At any rate, for those of you who
don't know Colorado well, John Elway continues to be the closest thing we
have to a deity. Dot-coms come and go but Elway endures.