Startup Weekend: “No talk, all action”
Being a night owl and studying computer science, indeed, I’ve pulled many all-nighters. I know the value of 100% undistracted attention and what it can produce. So, alright, all us all-nighters here: We agree that you can complete a big task in one night. You can write 30-page reports, finish month-long assignments or build a great feature for your product. Or you can even build a product – a prototype. But did you ever think you can build a company in 54 hours? That’s slightly more than 2 days, and it is not just work only, you’ll have a lot of fun as well, and meet great people. I probably wouldn’t believe this if it wasn’t for Startup Weekend. This summer, being one of the organizers of Startup Weekend Montreal made me realize the value of efficiency again.
Being a hacker, I have participated in many hackathons, but also being a hustler, I have always believed that people there hacked for fun and they didn’t really think of marketable products. I still believe that is the problem with hackathons: Bigger problems can not be addressed, because the hacker types want to feel the joy of seeing a “Hello World” on screen for some technology they have never tried before. Don’t get me wrong, this is great, a lot of fun and you also learn a lot, but wouldn’t you be happier if you converged your energy on something that can actually be useful? This is where terms like marketability and customer validation jump in. Startup Weekend, is a 54-hour hackathon that does this. It does this by bringing cornerstones of every business together: Hacker, Hipster and the Hustler. Hackers are techies, people who like to create something from scratch (be it programs, circuits, anything) and live their lives in joy of seeing their creations work. Hipsters are designers who like to express themselves on any surface; they live for aesthetics, functionality, meaning, and putting them all together. Finally, hustlers are the people who see all these other people build and say, “Wait a minute? Can it be? Is this really what the world needs? If so, how can we make this work?” Any high-tech business missing one of these 3 pieces of the puzzle is incomplete. When a team of this 3 pieces comes together for 2 days, impossible can be possible.
We had “meetups” before the actual Startup Weekend (July 12-14 2013) to ignite the passion of the entrepreneurial community and help serious participants mingle to start forming their teams. Within this meetups, we presented 2 startups which were actually formed after last year’s Startup Weekend in Montreal. Yes, you’ve heard me right, these people have built a prototype and a skeleton of their business plan in a weekend. Following their victory in Startup Weekend, they have joined FounderFuel, a global accelerator program headquartered in Montreal and they’ve graduated recently. It is important to note that these particular teams’ passion and dedication were also very effective to make this a reality, not just every team can do this. They’ve quit their jobs to work on their dream and they have taken every possible risk to make it a reality. It will be interesting to see how they do in the following days, but no matter how their journey turns out, the important thing is they took their shot and Startup Weekend helped them kick start their entrepreneurial journey.
As for my experience as an organizer, I have to tell you I had a blast, have met amazing people and even seen “friggin” Dave McClure on stage (founder of 500 Startups, former Marketing Director of PayPal) kicking balls onto people’s faces. The real deal though, was, this made me realize the value of “No talk, all action”. The same reason I have worked from midnight to 6AM in some parts of my life. There is no talk during that period, it is all action. It is only you, your thoughts being materialized and the dark calmness of the night that makes the whole thing work.
Startup Weekends are great and they are great speed bumps for creativity and productivity, but we all know it doesn’t stop there: You need to take the risks to make things possible, you have to create your own opportunity. Sometimes though, that little speed bump is what we all need to make things possible and take action towards our dreams. I’ll take this chance to challenge you to call your next weekend a “Startup Weekend”. Forget about the brand, this one will be hosted in the comfort of your home. Forget all your worries about intellectual property, stop making people sign NDA’s, now! Call your trustworthy friends to your place, pop a beer, and tell them about this bubble which has been sitting on top of your head for the past 6 months. Value their responses, and start building it. Whatever is within your skill set, build a prototype, or a business plan. Don’t worry if you don’t know any one of those, just start learning by doing, because starting is half the battle and you’ll learn a lot along the way to become the better person you want to.