Recession-proof your business with 60+ speakers at online-savvy conference

Online-First co-founder Moby Hayat. Courtesy photo

When project manager Moby Hayat was laid off this past March, he looked around and saw fellow entrepreneur friends losing revenue, having their product or service become obsolete overnight, and frantically hustling to survive.

"The world was quickly changing," he says. "Massive layoffs, extreme budget cuts, and grim stories of loss. But as in every recession, there are businesses which find a way to adapt and grow. In 2020, those businesses will be the ones that are entrenched in online customer acquisition, selling their products and services in the virtual world, and see this as an opportunity to grow."

So Hayat and his business partner Austin Larson, the CMO of an Inc. 500 company, decided to put their skills and knowledge to use.

They, along with entrepreneur CJ Finley, are hosting Online-First Summit 2020 from May 11-14. It's sponsored by Tixpire, ThriveOn, podcast The Fireshow, and InnovationMap.

The four-day virtual conference is geared toward those who have lost business due to the current economic crisis, been negatively impacted by social distancing, are looking to shift to online sales, and who want to expand or build new digital revenue streams.

More than 60 speakers will be talking live and in recorded sessions about best practices for e-commerce, how to organically build a following, the state of the job market, how to avoid layoffs, ways to deeply connect with your customers in an online-only world, and how to make money online as a creator "without selling your soul," among other topics.

Not only will adapting to the post-COVID business world be discussed, but also how companies can learn from this time and apply lessons to the unknown future.

Hayat and the team's previous work has featured Mayor Adler, SXSW director Hugh Forrest, the designer of Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, the Texas Woman Entrepreneur of the Year, and included collaborations with Funded House, Entrepreneur Media, and MediaTech Ventures.

Head here to see the full four-day lineup, browse the list of speakers, and book your space.

General admission tickets are $35 and include access to live broadcasts and replays until July 31, 2020. VIP tickets come with an execution planner, custom swag pack, content marketing course, one-hour consultation, and access to live broadcasts and replays until December 31, 2020.

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Building Houston

 
 

Kelly Avant, investment associate at Houston-based Mercury Fund, shares how and why she made her way into the venture capital arena. Photo courtesy of Mercury

Kelly Avant didn't exactly pave a linear career path for herself. After majoring in gender studies, volunteering in the Peace Corps, and even attending law school — she identified a way to make a bigger impact: venture capital.

"VC is an awesome way to shape the future in a more positive way because you literally get to wire money to the most innovative thinkers, who are building solutions to the world’s problems," Avant tells InnovationMap.

Avant joined the Mercury Fund team last year as an MBA associate before joining full time as investment associate. Now, after completing her MBA from Rice University this month, Avant tells InnovationMap why she's excited about this new career in investment in a Q&A.

InnovationMap: From law school and the peace corps, what drew you to start a career in the VC world?

Kelly Avant: I graduated from Rice University with an MBA, starting scouting for an investment firm in my first year, and by the summer after my first year I was essentially working full-time interning with Mercury. But, I like to tell people about my undergraduate degree in gender studies and rhetoric from a little ski college in Colorado. If you meet someone else in venture capital with a degree in gender studies, please connect us, but I think I might be the only one. I’ll spare you what I used to think — and say — about business students, but I have really come full circle.

I always thought I would work in a nonprofit space, but after serving in Cambodia with the Peace Corps, working for the National Domestic Violence Hotline, and briefly attending Emory Law School with the intention of becoming a civil rights lawyer.I found that time and time again the root of the problem was a lack of resources. The world’s problems were not going to be solved with my idealism alone.

The problem with operating as a nonprofit in a capitalism is you basically always pandering to the interests of the donors. The NFL was a key sponsor of The National Domestic Violence Hotline. The United States has a complicated, to put it lightly, relationship with Cambodia and Vietnam. It became pretty clear that the donor/nonprofit relationship was oftentimes putting the wrong party in the driver’s seat. I was, and still am, very interested in alternative financing for nonprofits. I became convinced that the most exciting businesses were building solutions to the world’s problems while also turning a profit, which allows them to survive to have a sustainable positive impact.

VC is an awesome way to shape the future in a more positive way because you literally get to wire money to the most innovative thinkers, who are building solutions to the world’s problems.

IM: What are some companies you’re excited about?

KA: There are a couple super interesting founders I’ve met directly engaging with . To name a few: CiviTech, DonateStock, and Polco.

I’m very proud to work on mercury investments like Houston’s own, Topl, which has built an extremely lightweight and energy efficient Blockchain that enables tracking of ethical supply chains from the initial interaction.
I’m also excited about mercury’s investment in Zirtue, which enables relationship based peer to peer lending to solve the massive problem of predatory payday loans.

We have so many awesome founders in our portfolio. The best part about working in VC is meeting passionate innovators every day. I get excited to go to work everyday and help them to build better solutions.

IM: Why are you so passionate about bringing diversity and inclusion into Mercury?

KA: I love working with exciting, highly capable, super smart people. That category includes so many people who have been historically excluded. As an investment team member at Mercury, I do have a voice, and I have an obligation to use that voice to speak highly of the best people in rooms of influence.

IM: With your new role, what are you most focused on?

KA: In my new role, I am identifying and researching high potential investments. We’re building out a Mercury educational series to lift the veil of VC. We want to facilitate a series that gives all founders the basic skills to pass VC due diligence and have the opportunity to build the next innovative companies. My goal is ultimately to produce the best returns possible for our investors, and we can’t accomplish that goal unless we’re building out resources to meet the best founders and help them grow.

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This conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.

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