I had the pleasure to spend the weekend in Puerto Rico with Andy Plesser from Beet.tv and an amazing crew of folks who took a tiny plane to Vieques to talk about journalism and the future of the video industry. The event name was BeetRetreat (pictures by Phil Frank, or check the summary page).
To name a few of the folks who joined, there was Vivian Schiller, NBC News; Stokes Young, MSNBC.com; Zohar Dayan and Yotam Cohen of Wibbitz; Jason Pontin, MIT Technology Review; Lippe Oosterhof of Livestation; Victoria Monsul from Klout; Paul Kontonis from Digitas; VC Joy Marcus, Sorosh Tavakoli of Videoplaza, Anthony Risicato from VideoHub, Eli Goodman from comScore, and Alex Ljung, SoundCloud.
In general, when you’re thinking “event,” you’re thinking the same hotel as last year in the middle of the city, you’re thinking hundreds of people looking exactly the same, all in suits and a name tag, generic conversation about the industry, 50 business cards from people you can’t remember, and little things you actually can say you’ve learned as there is so much that is going on.
Ok, so this BeetRetreat event was nothing like that.
Hotel? This one was set next to the blue/green water, and the sun.
Nametag to recognize who is next to you? No – this was intimate and engaging so we just got to know each other and remembered each other’s name.
Looking the same? No -- we were rather casual.
Generic conversation? No -- we really drilled down into the details, positively grilled each other, asking questions, like “Should companies commit to developing native apps per platform or export the experience from one platform to another?” “What exactly is the second screen?” “How is MSNBC tracking cable content available on the site versus videos made just for the Web?” and more. Yeah, we asked, and we answered.
50 Business cards? Nah, we just exchanged numbers and invited each other to check out the ocean after the panels.
Learning new stuff? Oh, yeah, I personally learned a lot. I’m happy to say I saw some people in action talking about their business with a passion that won you over. There was Eli from comScore killing it with stats, or Schiller speaking passionately about the understanding NBC has developed about users’ behavior consuming content in different platforms.
So Andy found something interesting. He didn’t invent a revolutionary agenda, and he didn’t get Obama to be a special guest to get us excited, and he didn’t rent the Hilton lobby or force us to wear ties. He realized the power of gathering a unique collection of people that complement each other, “captaining” us all the way through the weekend.
If you’ve ever run a startup, you know one thing: It’s not about your product, and it’s not about your technology (even though you’re reading this post now, and thinking your company is different). It’s actually about the people you work with and see every day. Captain-Plant had 5 rings of power, we had each other.