recently launched its first startup event in South Carolina, in historic downtown Georgetown.  In case you are not familiar with startup weekend events, which are conducted every weekend around the world, they typically unfold like this:

  • A group of people with ideas gets together for the weekend.
  • Business ideas are pitched at the beginning, and teams are formed.
  • Ideas are refined, prototyped, turned into businesses, and eventually presented to a panel of judges.
  • Prizes are awarded at the conclusion of the weekend to the teams with the most viable idea and best presentation.

Essentially, over a period of 54 hours, a myriad of real, viable companies, all with an MVP (minimal viable product), are created.  It is a high-intensity, fast-paced weekend.

More impressive is that over 36% of these new companies continue for at least three months after the competition.

As a coach during the event, I assisted teams in refining their concepts, pitches and presentations. The event really reinforced my understanding of how important collaboration can be for innovation and idea generation.

In my line of work with Wild Creations, I meet numerous people who have great ideas for new products.  Often, these individuals simply lack the experience, expertise or network to take the concept from idea to market.  Beyond that, the biggest concern is typically theft of the idea.  Even with non-disclosure agreements, or NDAs, many would-be entrepreneurs simply do not trust others with their idea.

Very few ideas are so proprietary or unique that they will avoid being knocked off or eventually created by someone else.  Instead, entrepreneurs should consider collaborating to make their idea a reality.  Here are some things to consider:

1. Embrace Collaboration

By bringing people into your "circle" and working with them, you will add much- needed expertise and cover areas of your new business where you are weakest.  More important, by simply having a sounding board that will listen to your idea and provide feedback, you may discover early in the process that your business concept simply does not work.  At this point, while it's still feasible, you can pivot in a new direction.

2. Participate in Collaboration

One of the great benefits of events like Startup Weekend is that you do not necessarily need to contribute a great business idea.  You can, in fact, just choose to work with others, offering your expertise and professional strengths to create value for another team.  By simply participating, you may very well find yourself generating new ideas of your own and, more important, forming the network of people who can help you.

3. Promote Collaboration

An interesting thing happened at Startup Weekend.  When the value of the collaborative effort was understood, everyone let their guard down, worked together, and incredible progress was made.  In order to get the full benefit of collaborating with others, all parties need to understand its value.

4. Implement Collaboration

Startup Weekends don't happen everywhere, but that shouldn't dissuade you from implementing your own collaboration efforts.  Co-working spaces, such as the one that now operates in my city, Cowork MYR, are places where people share a common work space and, by mere proximity, end up discussing and sharing projects and collaborating.  Often, the collaborators are in the tech field, such as programmers, developers and designers, but they bring with them a vast network of other valuable resources that could benefit entrepreneurs.  If you can't find a co-working space in your city, then start one yourself.  It's as simple as inviting smart, like-minded individuals together over coffee to discuss ideas.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am not advocating that if you have an idea for a new product or service you broadcast it to everyone within earshot.  You should always weigh the pros and cons of such a decision, and if you are convinced that your idea is important enough to be protected, you should seek proper legal advice to do so, even if only for your peace of mind.

In my personal experience, however, I have seen incredible value and benefit come from the collaboration of individuals from a wide range of expertise. This past weekend solidified it for me.  If you still have your doubts, then I would encourage you to try it yourself.

If nothing else, you will have a wonderful fraternal weekend experience with a great group of people!

Do you have an experience where collaborating helped (or hurt) your business?  Please share with others below.