If you, your colleagues and your organization at-large make excellent, almost-never-bad decisions stop reading here!!! Do NOT click through to the rest of this post. You don’t need it.
If, on the other hand, you, your colleagues and/or your organization could stand to improve decision making you might want to click in…
Call to Action
In traditional editorial form the call to action is at the end. I’m opening with it in the event you don’t make it to the end. Here it is:
If you are in a position of decision-making responsibility and/or influence in an innovation-powered organization you have a responsibility to your employer and colleagues to attend a Startup Weekend. If you are in/near Fredericksburg, VA you should participate in Startup Weekend Fredericksburg being held Jun 7-9,2013 in Fredericksburg, VA at Germanna Community College (map).
What constitutes decision-making responsibility and influence? At Zope Corporation and zebrareach it’s pretty much everyone. We are a small company building innovative SaaS-delivered software solutions to publishers and small businesses. That’s why everyone at Zope (for whom it’s logistically feasible) is attending Startup Weekend (SUW) Fredericksburg.
I know the question you’re thinking. Rob, you run a company. You are a shareholder. Do you want your team to leave Zope and start new companies. The answer is “no.” That is very nearly the last thing in the world I want to happen.
So, what gives? That leads me to Truth in Advertising…
Truth in Advertising
The SUW branding annoys me. There, I said it. Don’t get me wrong. I am a huge fan of the project but their messaging, for the large majority of their participants, is off. I think the program suffers for it. I’m going to try and set it straight.
Most (of the 45,000) people that have attended a Startup Weekend event DID NOT go on to start a company. They attended startup weekend, worked on a pitch team, got some amazing experience and returned to work the following Monday that much smarter and more valuable to their teams.
Will Fulton, our Product Manager, attended a recent Startup Weekend event in Philadelphia. He had a blast. Literally the first day back in the office, the new Startup Weekend alum was preaching lean to the whole team. I don’t know of an experience as fast (three days!) or as inexpensive ($99!!) that will get lean idea processing into people as quickly as SUW.
Unfortunately, the SUW website and fundamental brand communicates something different. From the SUW website:
Startup Weekends are weekend-long, hands-on experiences where entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs can find out if startup ideas are viable. On average, half of Startup Weekend’s attendees have technical or design backgrounds, the other half have business backgrounds.
Beginning with open mic pitches on Friday, attendees bring their best ideas and inspire others to join their team. Over Saturday and Sunday teams focus on customer development, validating their ideas, practicing LEAN Startup Methodologies and building a minimal viable product. On Sunday evening teams demo their prototypes and receive valuable feedback from a panel of experts.
The value in the SUW experience is, first and foremost, professional development… excellent professional development for anyone in an innovation-powered organization.
I asked Will to document his experience at the Philadelphia event on his return. With his permission I’ve included the note he sent to the team.
On Apr 29, 2013, at 10:54 AM, William Fulton <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote: Hey everyone, Rob asked me to write a couple paragraphs about my experience with startup weekend. First off it was a whole lot of fun. I met a lot of open friendly people this weekend, from a whole range of backgrounds, who were just excited to be there. The energy the entire weekend was kept high, and there wasn't time to be bored or tired while you were there. The weekend flies by. Basically the way it works is on Friday everyone who has an idea pitches. You then tak to the pitchers to get a deeper look at their ideas, and vote for your favorite ideas. top voted pitches become the projects for the weekend. At that point you go and join a team that looks like it will be a good fit for you. Thats a combination of you liking the idea, and if they could use your skills. Thats when things really get exciting. At that point you go off with your team and try to break down the idea, iron out as many of the kinks as possible, and try to make a game plan for Sat. (basically a storytime). Saturday is all about getting as much done as you can. So non techies, hit the streets to tak to potential customers, designers start putting together logos and websites, developers worked to build a MVP. Coaches are walking around to provide their take on your ideas and business plan. Then Sunday was spent scrambling to finish up the product and working on the final pitch. It was amazing how ideas that sounded "eh, so-so" during the first pitches turned out at the end of the weekend after some research, and polish. The end results were pretty cool, and it is awesome to see the result of just one weekend of hard work. I would really urge everyone to try pitching an idea. Think of something that interests you that you would have fun spending the weekend working on. You will be surprised what you end up with on Sunday. I would like to go to another start up weekend before too long.