5 Startup Lessons From IdeaMensch at 1871

Written by Katherine Leonard
Published on Aug. 20, 2012
5 Startup Lessons From IdeaMensch at 1871


Last week we made the journey across the street to 1871 to listen to words from local entrepreneurs at an event called IdeaMensch. It so happens that the IdeaMensch team is in the midst of a four month road trip across the U.S., with plans to organize idea-centric events in all lower 48 states.

The invite promised we’d “walk away with at least five super valuable nuggets of information to put to use for our own ideas.” Success. And in case you didn’t make it out the event, we’ll share some of our favorites below.

1871 Chicago

1. Create something from a personal pain

Mike McGee shared the story of how Code Academy came to be. When Mike and Co-Founder Neal Sales-Griffin set out to teach themselves to code, they found that the tools just weren’t out there. “If we can’t find it, we’ll build it,” they said. And thus, the concept for Code Academy was born.

2. Turning down your dream job is worth it…for the right idea

A few months before Code Academy held its first session, Mike and Neal were offered jobs onObama’s reelection campaign. But rather than give up a struggling (and at the time unfunded) idea, the founders made a seemingly heart-wrenching decision, sending in their decline letters to the president to focus full-time on Code Academy.

3. Ideas should be visceral

Mark Moll, an SVP Creative Director at Leo Burnett, focused on the story of an idea. Mark knew what he was passionate about (preventing dogs from dying in hot cars) and he knew what he was good at (advertising). But how could he combine the two to create something meaningful? In the end, he realized that the key to bringing this, and any idea, to fruition is to create things that we connect with on a real, human level.

4. This chart is awesome

Seyi Fabode talked about his experience as Co-Founder and Chief Electricity Officer of Power2Switch. He came armed with this chart (developed by Paul Graham of Y Combinator), which illustrates the extreme ups and downs of starting a startup.

The Startup Process

5. “If everything goes according to plans, you’re [screwed]“

Ethan Austin, Co-Founder of Give Forward, came equipped with a four step process for success (show up, your idea is poop, etc. etc.). My favorite line from him was the one above, though. You can’t expect things to go according to plan, especially when you’re starting a business. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing – in fact, it’s where the happy accidents happen.

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