Saturday, January 7, 2012

I'm Going to Startup Weekend Seattle Next Week!

Those who know me, know that I believe strongly in supporting the entrepreneurial community. There are a variety of reasons for this including (1) that entrepreneurs create jobs, even if just for themselves, (2) that I love seeing people work their way to success, (3) that entrepreneurs are usually very innovative, creating awesome new products and technologies, (4) the list goes on and on...

One of the great Seattle-based organizations involved in developing entrepreneurship is called Startup Weekend. Startup Weekend's mission it is to educate entrepreneurs in communities around the world, with their key tactic being events in which teams collaborate over a 54-hour period to try to put together a business. These events tend to sell out fairly quickly and when the last Seattle event came around I missed the opportunity to participate. This time I signed up early and am happy to say I'll be spending 54 hours working on some innovative project next weekend!

Several people relayed negative feedback to me about Startup Weekend including that participants don't share their good ideas in fear of having them stolen and that you can't learn anything worthwhile in a 54-hour sprint. The first remark concerns me since people who carry this possessive mentality infectiously reduce the trust held in the community. And trust is necessary to build the kind of ecosystem innovation and entrepreneurship thrives in. To address this, we need to forget about what ideas other people are bringing and make sure we each bring our own great idea. Besides, a great idea is worth absolutely nothing - it's execution that creates value (yes, I know reality is not quite so black-and-white, but this is generally true)! Regarding the second remark about an inability to learn, I completely disagree. Life can change in an moment and 54 hours surrounded by motivated innovators and seasoned mentors provides a lot of opportunity for moments. This also completely disregards the fact that Startup Weekend is a fun event!

On the other hand, I've heard plenty of positive responses to Startup Weekend too. There have been a few major success stories like that of Zaarly along with many smaller successes like that of a fellow Microsoftee whose team created an app to help choose a cost-effective commute route, which ended up getting showcased on on the local news! The truth is that success isn't measured by a single metric. Money and fame are great, but if I meet a few new people, learn a bit more about business, and get to create something cool, I will feel tremendously successful!

Follow my Startup Weekend Seattle experience through the following progression of posts:
  1. Initial thoughts
  2. Pre-Startup Weekend bootcamp (Jan. 12, 2012)
  3. My pitch idea
  4. Day 1 of Startup Weekend Seattle (Jan. 13, 2012)
  5. Day 2 of Startup Weekend Seattle (Jan. 14, 2012)
  6. Day 3 of Startup Weekend Seattle (Jan. 15, 2012)
  7. Post-Startup Weekend lesson summary