Yea, it’s true. The Nantucket Conference is an annual indulgence for a tremendous diversity of people… from the pale beige to ruddy peach, spanning socioeconomic strata from the merely loaded to the insanely rich, and representing almost every corner of the last 20 years of HBS graduating classes. A little too lily white, a little too Nantucket Red, a little too much green to join the party.
When I was a kid growing up in Johnston, I hated these people. Truly. I hated knowing they were born on second and watching them act like they hit a double. I hated their private schools and their public companies. I hated their fussy houses and their fancy colleges. I hated their beautifully maintained lawns and their beautifully maintained spouses… their square-jawed sons, and their too-pretty daughters. Hated them all.
But then I got older. With some hard work and a LOT of luck, I eventually acquired some of those things myself. And along the way, you know what I learned? There’s good and bad at every strata of life. The ratio of quality to asshole is actually remarkably consistent between The Foxy Lady and The White Elephant. It’s really just the nature of the assholes that varies a lot.
Maybe we’re all better at tolerating the flavor of asshole we grow up with. And because most of us grow up with lower middle class assholes, the rich guy is the bad guy in every Disney movie ever made.
Well it turns out some of these people KNOW they got lucky. They worked hard getting themselves into a position to take advantage of that luck, and maybe even did some good along the way. They’d like nothing more than to help other folks – folks willing to make the same sacrifices they did – get along in the world.
The Nantucket Conference features some great content, but it’s really an annual gathering of these people in the Boston startup community. Don’t get me wrong… it’s no asshole clean room. But each year I’m amazed at the concentration of truly great people I meet and spend real one-on-one time with at this event. Many are people with the juice to make things happen in this town and beyond, and most are willing to apply that juice in service to what other people think is really important. That’s sadly unusual in the real world, and the expected cultural norm of this very special event.
Highlights for me this year included getting to know startup guardian angel and crazy child Abby Fichtner, a quiet breakfast with John Landry and Paul Santinelli, and a drunken late-night chat about the progress of Ice Cream Sandwich with Rich Miner. I loved learning about Clem Cazalot’s silly hat and brilliant business, talking Springsteen late night with Steve Curran, and a tequila-fueled soliloquy about Fred Destin’s 8-year run as the premier star of Belgian children’s television. I partied hard with fellow Scotch O’Clock alums Curt Nickisch and Karl Büttner, and won an artfully designed margarita maker from Altitude Founder & CEO Brian Matt. I’m thankful for Dan Allred’s massively generous dinner invitation, the time I spent with C.A. Webb and Laura Fitton, the meal I enjoyed at The Loud Table, the connection I made to Brent Grinna, and even the quiet ferry ride home with Joe Caruso. All of these things add to my life and my experience in ways that are worth a great deal to me, certainly more than the price of admission to this very special weekend.
Look folks… good business is personal. In the end jobs change, strategies evolve, companies liquidate, capital flows. But relationships are the currency of a career, the highlights of a life well lived, and the footprints we leave on the world when we’re gone.
That’s what the Nantucket Conference is about. If you get the chance to go, just write the check, and do it. I hope to see you at the bar.