As part of the StartUp process, it is important to know the resources in your community. If you are creating a tech company, or a product or service that will be delivered on line, many of the resources you want to know will be developers, marketers, interface experts and of course, funders. What if you could find them all in one place, test them out, and see how you work with them, all in one weekend?
I saw this in action this 2 weeks ago in San Francisco at StartUpWeekend SF 2, held in the offices of Microsoft on Market Street.
When I arrived Saturday morning, Tyler Willis, the SF organizer of the event, greeted me. Willis works for Involver, but for this weekend his role was everything from master of ceremonies to helping people find teams, helping teams find resources, and handling more mundane things like keeping the WiFi network going so the teams could continue to collaborate.
The room was filled with teams collaborating on different ideas, drinking coffee and writing on white boards or pads of paper. The weekend had kicked off Friday night with a team of Venture Capitalists and Entrepreneurs hearing pitches from some of the more brave participants.
The "idea people" got feedback, and then started groups. Those with good ideas initially attracted crowds of developers, marketers and others who wished to contribute. As Lydia Sugarman, of CEO of Venntive told me, "Eventually, teams realized they may not need 5 marketers, and people with ability to contribute end up more evenly distributed among the teams. Regardless of the team you end up on, if you go with the flow and remember to have fun, and you're going to do great work."
The weekend has about 54 working hours (it is not an overnighter) for people to create a prototype and present it. While Startup Weekend has generated a few actual companies including SKRIBIT.com, the real goal is to get people in the community collaborating, learning about each other and thinking about whether they could work together in a less frantic environment (not that startups don't end up frantic).
Andrew Hyde, community manager of Business Accelerator project TechStars.Org created Startup Weekend two years ago around a conversation with friends related to missing collaboration with others. While Startup Weekend LLC. is a company, the event itself is run very much like an "UnConference" where the participants drive the agenda and the outcome. Hyde told me "It's a unique networking event where you meet people and see what they can actually do, instead of hearing them tell you about it."
I spoke with Kevin Rochowski, a Brit working as a project manager for a major tech company in the valley, about why he came to Startup Weekend, especially since he's not planning on voluntarily leaving his job anytime soon. He told me the startup environment has always fascinated him: "It seems to be filled with talented people who get together, create ideas, work together, and generate camaraderie."
The idea he brought to the weekend is very viable, in his opinion, and it is his long-term aim to produce this service. For the purpose of the weekend, he wants to create a proof of concept and bullet- proof the idea so that he has a way forward. He also came to develop relationships with marketers, programmers, and others with whom he could potentially work in the future.
If having a Startup Weekend in your town seems like an appealing idea, head over to StartUpWeekend.com and learn how you can bring this to your town. June 5-7 is the date many towns and cities are running their own. In a similar vein, New York is running Entrepreneurship Week ** with all kinds of events for those who wish to learn more about starting a business. There are lots of other Entrepreneurship-focused events going on. Tell us about yours in the comments.
(**Disclosure: I run one of the groups that has a meeting in NY that week, but get no compensation for doing so or for publicising it.)
Last updated: Apr 16, 2009
HOWARD GREENSTEIN is a social media strategist and evangelist, and president of the Harbrooke Group, which specializes in helping companies communicate with their customers using the latest Web technologies. @HowardGr