I attended EntConnect 2007 last weekend in Denver. Previously, the conference was called Entcon and was affiliated with Midnight Engineering magazine. Midnight Engineering was a magazine dedicated to people who were running their own tech ventures, mostly entrepreneurial engineers, and was published for about 8 years. I really enjoyed the magazine and it was what got me to start attending the conference. I have been going for a few years now and it’s starting to get the feeling of a college reunion, as Dave Shaver of Corepoint Health described it. We typically get approximately the same 20 to 30 people showing up each year, although it changes a little bit from year-to-year as some people drop in and out depending on their schedules. Jack has put together a few blog entries of some of the topics discussed. At the end of each conference we always talk about getting some new members to attend. At one point the conference had grown to over 200 attendees when the magazine was still being published, but that was actually too large and the regular attendees would like to keep it small, perhaps to around 50 people or less. Still, even to get to 50 attendees, we’d have to double the traditional attendance from where it has leveled out over the past few years.
My involvement in the conference has been more as an observer since for all the time I’ve been going, I’ve not been making my living as an entrepreneur, but rather as an employee of HP. I’ve presented on a number of products that I worked on during that time since they have all been related to new product categories for HP and my division has had the feeling of an entrepreneurial startup. I also have an unusual method of supporting these products using my personal web site to host the FAQs and I use community forums at Yahoo Groups that are collectively approaching more than 3500 members. John Gaudio who runs the conference has described me as an ‘Intrepreneur’, which I guess puts me somewhere in between an employee and an entrepreneur.
This year I announced my upcoming early retirement from HP which will occur at the end of May. I am hoping to use the time off to engage in some entrepreneurial pursuits, Adaptive Interfaces being one of them. I’ve not had the time to help push that venture much closer to reality, and my business partner, Mark, has been working at day jobs to pay the bills. There will be a lot of curiosity next year as I talk with the group about the transition from being an employee for the past 24 years into the new world of entrepreneurship. A little twist of irony is that several long-time entrepreneurs who regularly attend the conference have migrated into the workplace as employees over the past year. It’s all OK though because even if you have a day job it doesn’t mean you can’t be an entrepreneur and vice-versa. Everyone is welcome at the conference and the people who attend have a wealth of experience that they are willing to share. I have already paid to attend next year’s conference which is scheduled for March 27th through March 30th, 2008.