Guest post by José Mathias
Last week, I tried to explain Startup Weekend to my grandmother. She’s nearing her 80th birthday and still thinks of business as “that company with 950 employees that your grandfather was a manager at, oh José, why can’t you get a real job like him?!”
When I told her that on one Friday afternoon, 100 strangers had walked into a room in downtown Wellington, and on the following Sunday night, 15 businesses had walked out, she thought I was talking about a game. A simulation. Not real life.
“Startup Weekend is no game,” I said.
At the last Weekend I was at, one of those 15 teams walked out carrying $29,000 worth of annual recurring revenue (ARR) in their pockets. In just 54 hours, they had met each other, formed a team around an idea, validated it in the marketplace, built a product, and begun taking sales from customers. They had cried. Laughed. Worked. Tried to sleep. It was all very real.
I told her how some teams almost broke apart, how it’s so interesting to see that different people have different ideas for the direction of the startup, and the result is usually an amalgamation of everyone’s input. The tension is palpable and mentor feedback is brutally honest. If you’re attending, take out an insurance policy on your ego now because it’s probably going to be injured. It’s a very intense experience, mitigated only by freshly roasted coffee and a common purpose.
“Why do people pay to go to this then?” she retorted.
I had to pause.
“In some ways, Startup Weekend is a game,” I admitted.
If it’s a game, you’re surrounded by the best players. They’re talented and driven individuals who want to solve the problems you see and want to create sustainable sources of income while doing so. They’re usually developers, designers, marketers, lawyers and people of many other professional backgrounds who are there because they’re not satisfied with the 9 to 5. You have continuous access to coaches (mentors) who are well-versed in the lean startup methodology, have built successful businesses themselves, and can offer you advice that people usually pay five figures for in an MBA. You have three delicious meals a day, a constant flow of coffee, and WiFi that can handle 300 devices simultaneously downloading Game of Thrones Seasons 1-6. It’s an ideal environment designed to be a petri dish for profitable business.
The result is beautiful. At the last Weekend, one team had spoken to Rod Drury and lined up a meeting to pitch their product to Xero that week. Another had found a way to integrate refugees into our communities using meals as common ground. Another ended their pitch on Sunday night by announcing that they were fielding acquisition offers. This is all in a Weekend’s work.
There’s a Startup Weekend coming up in Kapiti in late July, and if you’re interested in attending, I need you to do two things. Firstly, start seeing the world differently. In your life there will be problems that businesses can solve. WRITE THESE DOWN! Bring your problems with you to Startup Weekend – it’s what the event is for. Secondly, please buy a ticket as soon as you can. This tells us how many of you are interested in the event and allows us to plan as best as possible for accommodating you! If you can’t attend but know someone who might be able to, let them know about it. You could change their life.
You don’t need experience or skills. You just need to want to make a difference.
As for my grandmother, she still doesn’t quite get it. Unbeknownst to her, startups much like the ones that come out of Startup Weekend have remarkably changed the world for the better during the course of her lifetime. She only sees the result, not the process. Maybe I should have explained it to her like that.