I also am recalling, after writing this, that I left out a few great quotes - I especially liked Charlie Cheever from Quora's "Saying you love startups is like saying you love puppies. All puppies grow up. Love dogs."
Not much of what was said is new or ground breaking, but a couple things just click and get everyone inspired. Just being there and meeting a whole bunch of smart people who are into startups is a great boost.
The speaker I enjoyed most was Patrick Collison, especially with his big picture view of how software will become more and more integrated into everyone's lives. It's one of those thoughts which have been in my subconscious (with some peeks into my conscious every once in a while) and hearing it said out loud just got me fired up.
I'm in town till Tuesday afternoon, if anyone wants to chop it up over coffee or food tomorrow (or hit the town tomorrow night!) contact is in my profile.
I disagree with the sentiment of the puppies vs. dogs statement. It's perfectly reasonable to like startups as a class over larger companies for a long list of reasons.
I think there are a few factors at play.
What do you need for your startup to succeed? Can you reach your audience for research and marketing online or on the phone, or do you absolutely need to meet customers in person? Amy Hoy and Steve Blank fight it out in my mind on this one.
Do you need large capital investment? Will a board of experienced investors accelerate you with relevant advice? Consider the scale of your goals.
What do you need personally to succeed? Can you do it all yourself, or contract or work with people you already know, all online? Or will you need to hire? How helpful do you find it to have tech/business meetups locally, for your own edification or for building your network?
My perception is that moving to they Valley can be helpful. Not in a "you have to move west and your company will die a lonely death otherwise" way, but in a "do everything you can to stack the deck in your favor" way. Like Leah Culver stressed in her talk, the serendipity factor goes way up when you're in such a startup-dense area. You'll bump into talented people of all kinds.
Not to say that isn't the case elsewhere - I find Boston and NY to both be enjoyable and productive. We're filling up 100-person events at Boston.rb, and I've heard the NY lean startup circle is super high-signal.
In particular, Kevin Hale's talk about WuFoo's customer support and James Lindenbaum's machete approach to product design. The year since may have burnished their memory and left me with overly high expectations for this one.
(1) Not all startups grow up.
(2) It wouldn't be socially acceptable to repeatedly get a new puppy and give it away when it's a dog. In business this practice is acceptable if not encouraged.
(3) Dogs don't live forever.
...just to name a few