On a Heater
As the winner of the 2013 SUCCESS Start Small Win Big challenge, Phoenix native Mary Juetten, the founder of TrakLight.com, has proven she’s willing to do whatever it takes to become a better entrepreneur.
This week, that meant taking a trip to Las Vegas for the first ever SXSW V2V conference, a chance to rub elbows with others in the startup community and get a first-hand look at the Downtown Project, an effort to gentrify a stagnant stretch away from the glitzy strip by interjecting an entrepreneurial spirit.
Just as Juetten reported major leaps forward while working through our nine-step program, she says the four-day conference aimed at startups and bootstrappers like herself was an invaluable experience on the road to success. Not only did she pick up some great ideas for growing her intellectual property protection software and service, but she also got the chance to share what she’s learned with other up-and-coming entrepreneurs as a featured mentor.
In our catch-up chat with her, SUCCESS wanted to know all the ways the V2V experience benefited Juetten’s business.
Congratulations on the opportunity to host a mentor session at V2V. How did that come about?
I originally applied to speak at the conference, and I guess they were just overwhelmed with speaker requests, but I subsequently got an email saying that while I hadn’t been chosen as a speaker, they wanted me to be a mentor. So they offered me a pass—I already really wanted to go, and I just needed some way to justify it!
And how was the experience of working with other entrepreneurs?
I would love to go back even if it was just for the mentoring. Most people wanted to talk to me about getting going with their startup on the IP side of things. It was cool that most people had read my bio and knew which ways I could help.
One guy was living in California and wanting to move to Phoenix, where I live, and I was able to explain to him the different programs we have for startups and lay out for him what the landscape was like. Another woman asked all kinds of questions about the best ways to approach joint ventures and angel funding, and we talked through the different options. Another guy had done a successful Kickstarter campaign and was worried he had divulged too much – I was warning him, not only do you need to seek legal counsel, but do you have a name for this product? You need to do that! It was all over the map, but it was great networking and a lot of fun.
As you say, apart from the knowledge business owners can easily soak up at the conference, it’s also a great networking opportunity. Did you take advantage?
Definitely! I met all kinds of really interesting people from all over. I met Tony Hsieh, who I’ve always admired. There was fabulous networking that happened so naturally, just standing by the pool. And it was great to see, since it was in Vegas, a lot of people from (Hsieh’s) Downtown Project. It was really fun.
What were some of the talks and panels you enjoyed most?
One of the very first ones was great, Courtney Guertin’s discussion “Starting Out Right on the Entrepreneurial Track.” And then there was another later, on some lessons learned about funding—just really, really well done, all about taking your first round of funding. That really resonated with me because that’s where we’re at with TrakLight. I also liked the range of different sessions, because you can easily say, Alright, I’m here with my startup, so I want to go to this one, and skip some of the things that don’t necessarily apply to you. There was a great variety.
There’s so much to learn at V2V, but how did the trip speak to you from an inspirational standpoint?
Way back on the first day, listening to Tony Hsieh talk about the Downtown Project, and then getting to go and actually see the Gold Spike [a revamped former casino that will serve as a hub of the hi-tech neighborhood] and everything they’ve done there—it just shows you how far Vegas has come in the short time they’ve been working on the project. I found that really inspiring because I think Vegas is doing things right. Their focus is on the quality, not the quantity. They’re just searching for a quality in their community, and that shows. I found that inspirational, and I’m bringing that back to Phoenix with me.