The Troxy theatre is spectacular. A kitsch deco masterpiece, its history takes in everything from Vera Lynn, through an opera school – and it’s now a very cool conference venue.

The Growth Hacking conference was in its element here, just a short Uber ride from Shoreditch’s marketing heartbeat (black cabs are so last century). The room was packed out with mid-level marketing types, plus the odd founder and director. They were here to learn the latest techniques for growing businesses faster than Popeye’s biceps. Whatever firm you’re in, you need to be on top of your expansion opportunities. This conference was the Glastonbury of Growth.

The clientele were clearly on a corporate ticket – so the steep $1000 admission cost was borne out of someone else’s pocket. But what was the verdict on value? One delegate described it as ‘read out blog posts’. That’s harsh, but it’s true to say that much of the material would be familiar to professionals in the field. Nevertheless, it’s not what you’re reminded of that makes a conference, it’s the new stuff you learn. As someone who’s full-time in the world of rapidly-growing businesses, I’d say I’m a fairly good barometer of useful content.

Did I learn...

If you’re on the same LSE stage that’s hosted Bill Clinton, you’re in the thinking man’s Rock ‘n’ Roll hall of fame. Thiel was the first investor in FaceBook, and remains Don of the “PayPal mafia”, which includes Reid Hoffman, Dave McClure, and the spacefaring Elon Musk. In LSE’s intimate hall, he was within eye contact of the audience, and didn’t falter under the scrutiny. Keynotes are often bereft of real substance, but this talk had even reluctant note-takers scribbling fast. Here’s just a sample of some of the more impactful concepts:

Don’t copy businesses that were successful.
Far too many entrepreneurs encourage people to follow in their footsteps, even though the key opportunities have now passed. Peter’s acid-sharp analysis made it clear that imitation of his past is empty flattery, and not sound business sense.

Capitalism isn’t competition – it’s monopoly, and everyone lies about
whether they have one.
If you’re trying to raise money, you’ll be claiming you’re cornering a market with your unique product. If you really are able to lock competitors out, you’ll be lying through your teeth to the government, to make sure they don’t take your golden goose away.

Cashflow after ten years is what counts
Don’t...

MakeGood

The @makegood festival was an event which brought together various kinds of makers and innovators. Part foodie fest, part craft fair, and part tech event, it was a fairly eclectic hipster mixture. Held in a semi-derelict space above the Selfridges department store, it also featured a small lecture theatre, and personal appearances from dragon (and organiser) @DougRichards, among others.

There was a lot of craft stuff, which didn’t much interest me, but within the jumble there were plenty of nuggets to enjoy. Here’s a pretty random selection from the more memorable stands.

@victorsdrinks was a re-invention of the homebrew concept. I wasted my young years making various kinds of hooch. Some was great, some was awful. Their ‘brew it yourself’ is a product concept that takes the risk and hassle out. You don’t need hundreds of pounds of supplementary equipment, and you don’t need to follow a finicky process. It’s just a simple range of 20-pint kits, which are pre-mixed and prepared for fermentation. All you need to do is add water, and wait. I tasted the ciders and ale that resulted, and liked both the ciders. This is a legitimate tax-free way...