This month we had the pleasure of interviewing one of the most influential interviewers in the Colorado tech community, Larry Nelson. On November 7th, CTP and TiE Rockies will be celebrating entrepreneurial technology companies and their achievements at the Ascent Awards and Larry and Pat Nelson will be honored as the 2013 CTP Tech Icon Award recipients!
Larry and Pat co-founded w3w3© Media Network, launched in 1998. They have attended over 1,000 events, taken over 40,000 photos and have interviewed 2,000 plus tech leaders. Join us in thanking Larry and Pat for their tireless contributions promoting our Colorado tech community for the past 15 years!
We were excited to ask Larry a few questions regarding his experiences and observations in the tech community.
WHAT ARE SOME COMMON TRAITS AMONG PEOPLE YOU HAVE INTERVIEWED?
Larry: There definitely are some common traits but one of the other pieces to that is each one of these highly successful people have something that is pretty unique to them.
Some of the very obvious ones… they understand that failing is not bad, it’s just an experience. And failing doesn’t stop them from going after something they want very much. They also are very strong goal setters. Each has their own technique, but they set their goals, they have their time limits and begin to seek out others who can be on the team.
I think something else that is extremely important is that if not all, certainly most of the extremely successful entrepreneurs go after something that is truly new. It’s not something that everyone is doing and it’s not that most entrepreneurs don’t do quite well that way, but if you are looking at the extremely successful ones that would be an important area.
LARRY, YOU HAVE BUILT 12 OF YOUR OWN BUSINESSES. HOW HAS THE WAY BUSINESS IS DONE CHANGED IN THE LAST 15 YEARS?
Larry: Well there are some things that have not changed, but a number of things have changed that are extremely significant. When I was an entrepreneur at the beginning there weren’t as many people who wanted to be an entrepreneur. Just compare that to today’s environment and that has changed absolutely significantly. I recruited people to “work for me” a couple decades ago and at that point they just wanted to make sure that they were getting paid good… but today, wow, it’s amazing how many people want to be in business, if not for themselves, with someone else.
Now the thing that hasn’t changed of course is goals, and I can’t stress goals enough. In addition to the other management things that help build an organization and that is how to build a team or teams as it grows in size. Team building is extremely important, along with the goal setting. And then depending on what you are doing, I don’t care if you are selling a retail product or if you are selling a high level service, customer service and that mentality is extremely important.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR YOUNG ENTREPRENEURS?
Larry: I’d highly recomend that they find a job where there are a number of smart people who they can learn from and gain experience. Anyone who is going to start their own company, should have that experience of getting to see their flaws and some of the strengths they bring to the table.
YOU HAVE INTERVIEWED THE BEST OF THE BEST… TECH LEADERS WHO WILL GO DOWN IN HISTORY. WHAT IS A COMMON TRAIT THAT PEOPLE WHO ARE REPEATEDLY SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS SHARE?
Larry: On CTP website, where you have the executives who win the award each year, I have interviewed at least 2/3rds of those folks, and they are all sharp. The one thing among them and certainly other very successful people… passion is the word. They have passion for what they are going after and what they are doing. And something new that’s entering the scene today, more and more executives, even people in middle management, are trying to figure how can they help the community as a whole. Not just build their company, the community as a whole. They really get involved and even encourage their employees to get involved and support.
YES, BRAD FELD WROTE AN ENTIRE BOOK ABOUT STARTUP COMMUNITIES AND TALKS ABOUT HIS “GIVE BEFORE YOU GET” PHILOSOPHY. HE HAS REALLY STARTED A WHOLE MOVEMENT AMONG STARTUPS AND THE INTERNET COMMUNITY. CAN YOU EXPAND ON SOME OF THE THINGS YOU HAVE SEEN IN THE COMMUNITY?
Larry: One of the things I have been so pleased to see happen and evolve, it’s a number of organizations and people who are becoming thoughtful that way. We see the universities and schools, like Paul Bauer at DU, be extremely supportive of that community. We are seeing all kinds of people with all kinds of backgrounds that are beginning to think that way and I’m real happy.
YOU MENTIONED PASSION AS THE COMMON THREAD AMONG THESE SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEURS. YOU BEING AN ENTREPRENEUR AND HAVING LAUNCHEDW3W3© MEDIA NETWORK, WHAT IS YOUR PASSION? WHY DID YOU START W3W3 AND WHY DO YOU CONTINUE TO DO IT?
Larry: Our passion kind of developed. I use to have a pretty large-sized training and consulting company. I was out there doing a lot of training in many foreign countries and through out the U.S. One day I got a phone call, we were living in Boulder, CO at the time, from Jacor executives, which is now Clear Channel. And they said, “You know, we have had a number of people in your seminars around the country and they had just great things to say about you. We have an opening at this talk show, would you like to host it?” We ended up taking it, so we were on air for quite some time and it was really exciting. Oh, sometimes we would have some boring interviews, but there were neat people, new ideas.
And then one day, were sitting there and getting these calls in and I said on-air, “Boy, I wish these people calling in about the Internet and the Web would stop bothering our listeners because everyone knows that the Web and the Internet is a fad and it’s going to die soon.” Pat turned to me and said, “Do you want to become a dinosaur in your own time?” A month later, we decided we were going to go full time in the talk show internet business. There was very little at the time of course in January 1999.
The passion there is to reach the community, help people get their message out, share ideas and thoughts with others. We get many people who are executives and many who are entrepreneurs or thinking of starting their own business. And they come and listen to the many different things we have on our show. And one of the cool things is we have 1000’s of archive pages of interviews and various stories and people can go look them up. It’s really helpful to the community. Pat and I, we get tired from time to time, but it’s really exciting to share and help people get their message out.
ONE LAST QUESTION, WHAT WAS IT LIKE INTERVIEWING SPOCK (LEONARD NIMOY)?
Larry: It was absolutely fantastic. I interviewed him face-to-face and during that interview we talked about his artwork and the music he writes and I never mentioned Star Trek. In the afternoon, there was this large press conference and 80% of what they talked about was Star Trek. He leaned over to me and said “I liked our interview better.”