Startup Weekend was founded in 2007 in Boulder, Colorado, and has since grown into a worldwide movement reaching more than 135 countries and engaging more than 200,000 entrepreneurs. Startup Weekends have been hosted in more than 1,000 cities around the world. I've personally attended five in the last two years, and found that they offer value to all business owners--not just startup founders.

The event is basically a weekend-long hackathon, during which teams of coders, business managers, marketing gurus, graphic artists, and more pitch ideas for new startup companies, form working groups around those opportunities, and come up with a prototype, demo, or presentation by Sunday night.  

So why should you, a small business owner, attend a 54-hour event that is focused on launching a startup? Here are my top reasons:

1. They're inspiring.  

Being a small business owner can be great, but it can also be draining. Spending a few days with like-minded entrepreneurs can reignite the inner flame of entrepreneurship that led you to create your venture in the first place.

2. You can surround yourself with engaged peers. 

Entrepreneurship can be lonely. Often, others in your social network don't grok the ups and downs and stress that come from being in charge of your business. Startup Weekend is a good place to find individuals you will want to stay in touch with after the weekend.

3. There are lots of networking opportunities. 

Entrepreneurs need networks: networks to learn from, networks to leverage, and networks to help compensate for a lack of resources and budget. At Startup Weekend, you will work closely and intensely with dozens of people who can enhance your social network. Startup Weekends are facilitated and supported by local startup entrepreneurs. These superstar founders may be unknown to you, or they may be just the type of person you have always wanted to meet. 

4. You can learn new skills. 

Startup Weekend is all about learning by doing, whether you're learning a new skill or a new way of thinking. Don't just listen to theory; build your own strategy and test it as you go.

5. You can learn the Lean Startup Method. 

The Lean Startup method, which is the dominant form of entrepreneurship today, is just over 10 years old, and many small businesses owners still haven't heard of Lean concepts like pivoting, rapid iteration, design thinking, A/B testing, and customer discovery. Startup Weekend offers a crash course in the Lean Startup method, showing its power through experiential learning. These are all new skills and frameworks that you can then integrate into your small business come Monday.

6. You'll improve your ideas. 

You may not run a trendy tech startup, but that doesn't mean you don't have ideas. Startup Weekend is great place to unleash those ideas in a safe space, where you can test and evolve them in real time.

7. It's cost effective. 

While attendance cost varies, it is rarely more than $100, and for the price of participation you'll get all of the above plus pizza and beer. I challenge you to find something more valuable to do with your weekend for less.

Yes, Startup Weekends are designed for startups, but most entrepreneurs (including small business owners) and all would-be entrepreneurs can benefit from investing in themselves and attending a Startup Weekend.

Tell them Professor Wise sent you.

Published on: Sep 29, 2018
The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of