Coming Full Circle with Startup Weekend Portland: Global Startup Battle Edition

On November 13, I will be facilitating for the fifth time this year for Portland Startup Weekend, joining dozens in the greatest startup competition on earth: Global Startup Battle.

Each of my previous facilitations have been special in their own right:

My general style is to embarrass this poor woman.
My general style is to embarrass this poor woman.

This next event may surpass them all – Portland is and always will be my hometown. I was born in Oregon City and went to school in the Beaverton School District, graduating from Southridge High School. (I’d rather not say when because, well, I’m old.)

Leading up to the event, I’ve been thinking a lot about this concept of “home”, especially as I’ve recently claimed a new one after moving to Seattle.

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(Among many of my new responsibilities is crushing lip sync contests during Seattle Startup Week.)

Pittsburgh: Where I Found Myself (and just a few months before 30 – whoo!)

Before moving in August, I lived in Pittsburgh for three amazing years. I had just married my brilliant (and crazy-tolerant) wife, and other than striving to be the best husband possible, I had no idea what to do with my life … until I discovered Startup Weekend.

From that intense, eye-opening 54-hour experience, I launched my own ed-tech community, which was admitted into an incubator, received seed investment, and even found customers. I continued to volunteer and organize for SWPGH six times, launching its first education edition in February of this year.

A blizzard was going down outside. We don’t care in Pittsburgh.

Above all, I made friends who simply “got it” – people who came from the Startup Weekend world as well, and knew how to “give back” in the Brad Feld sense. When we weren’t organizing in the Pittsburgh community, we’d go on an Eat ‘n Park run or watching Silicon Valley on HBO On-Demand. It was grand.

Friends. Also, Startup Weekend volunteers. Coincidence?
Friends. Also, Startup Weekend volunteers. Coincidence?

I truly considered Pittsburgh my home until two opportunities opened up for me and lured me back to the West Coast: briefly serving as east coast regional manager for UP Global before its acquisition by Techstars, and now joining the mission to transform education, technology, and entrepreneurship with Galvanize.

We're really into "the pineapple way" at Galvanize.
We’re really into “the pineapple way” at Galvanize.

Seattle: How I Quickly Thawed the “Seattle Freeze”

The move from Pittsburgh was … precipitous. I didn’t have the best chance to express my love and gratitude to everyone that did so much for me in Pittsburgh over the years (though I tried to cover as many bases again here). When I moved to Seattle, I was warned of the “Seattle Freeze” and heard it would take time for me to make friends.

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That has not been the case … because of Startup Weekend. The first people I contacted were my former co-workers, who then introduced me to the local Seattle community leaders. Instantly, I felt like I found my family here, connected by a shared passion and experience to build community through entrepreneurship.

Never go mountaineering with Marc Nager. Trust me on this one.
Never go mountaineering with Marc Nager. Trust me on this one.

Recently, I was invited out to the Techstars Community Leader Retreat to get to know Portland’s Dina Moy and dozens of other organizers from the US and Canada. I came away with the trip with two impressions:

  1. I am completely down with the Techstars vision and rationale for why it acquired UP Global. Techstars may be the largest for-profit accelerator in the world, but it was originally founded on the mission to lower the barriers of entrepreneurship to the world.
    Supporting initiatives like Startup Weekend, Startup Next, Startup Digest, and Startup Week won’t really be profitable in the short run (why mess with a good thing), but in the grand design, these programs will cultivate both better startups worthy of support and stronger, focused communities that can support them.
    That’s the vision that Techstars and UP Global shared, and that’s why I’m willing to stay on as a community leader and global facilitator. The terms of engagement do not really change from a non-profit status (in fact, they never actually did when you discover the legal difference between donation and sponsorship). Why should our support of the community change because of it?
  2. We may come from different cities, but we’re all Startup Weekend nation. Every community leader had a story to share, and the rest of us listened. Whether it was a startup story or a Startup Weekend anecdote, we “got” each other. (The altitude may have been a factor.)

If You Can’t Find Your Community, Create It (and Startup Weekend can help)

Me (right) with my sister back in our old home in Beaverton, OR.
Me (right) with my sister back in our old home in Beaverton, OR.

I look back on the last three years of being a Startup Weekender and can’t believe how far I’ve come from my previous status as a graduate school drop out. I didn’t make a lot of money, win any major awards, or acquire any common materialistic milestones like a new car or house.

I did, without question, make a lot of friends, and unlike the ones I made before, these friends stay in touch and support me however they can without asking anything in return, and vice versa. I also traveled a lot to places I never thought I’d ever go to until I was “summoned” by people I never met before.

I have a problem with respecting other people's private space.
I have a problem with respecting other people’s private space.

Every time I go facilitate, I ask to crash on a couch or even on the floor just for the opportunity to bond with another community leader. Anytime a community leader asks to visit me, I prepare a spare room for them, no strings attached.

I’ve found my family, and we’re actually not that difficult to find.

Just look for the ones that “get it.”

valencia-whirlwind

Lee Ngo is a Seattle-based community leader and global facilitator for Techstars formerly based in Pittsburgh. He currently works as an evangelist for Galvanize.








Startup Weekend South Florida Sponsorship Levels (Nov 11-13, 2016)

First off, thank you for your interest in Startup Weekend South Florida – November 11-13, 2016.

Many potential sponsors may have questions about the weekend, so we’ve put together a little information below that explains Startup Weekend South Florida, a few of the potential benefits and the currently available sponsorship packages

What is Startup Weekend South Florida ?

Startup Weekend South Florida is a 54-hour weekend event, during which groups of developers, business managers, startup enthusiasts, marketing gurus, graphic artists and more pitch ideas for new startup companies, form teams around those ideas, and work to develop a working prototype, demo, or presentation by Sunday evening.

What’s the benefit for the participants?

The participants come from all walks of technology, so they get to experience what needs to be completed and considered in starting up a company, something they don’t usually get in their normal 9-to-5 jobs. This experience will allow to see their role in the company process in a different light, and many of the participants are entrepreneurial themselves, so they might learn from the weekend and start their own companies.

What’s the benefit for the sponsors?

It depends on the sponsor. Some see this as a way to provide entrepreneurial students and faculty members access to great resources and an opportunity to make their big ideas a reality. Some are using Startup Weekend South Florida sponsorship to educate potential clients and technology developers on the advantages of using their services or products. Other sponsors are doing it for community outreach and to help them achieve their organizational goals. In any case, all money generated goes to the cost of supporting the event and the South Florida startup ecosystem.

SPONSORSHIP LEVELS

Platinum Level Sponsor ($5,000)  (limited to 4 total)

  • Invitation for a guest blog post on Startup Weekend South Florida website
  • Offer a sponsor provided prize to a team or individual via raffle/vote. (eg. Scholarship, iPhone, netbook, software)
  • All benefits of the Gold Sponsorship
  • Ten tickets to the event to give to participants

Gold Level Sponsor ($2500)

  • Identified in media materials for Startup Weekend South Florida
  • Thank you & recognition on social media posts before and during the event
  • Company name/logo listed on Startup Weekend South Florida website
  • Thank you & recognition during Startup Weekend South Florida event
  • Opportunity to place sponsor provided banner stands or banners at the event
  • Hand out materials, swag, other relevant materials
  • Five tickets to the event to give to participants

Silver Level Sponsor ($1500) 

  • Company name/logo listed on Startup Weekend South Florida website
  • Thank you & recognition on social media post
  • Company name/logo displayed on a banner stand/sign at the food table
  • Hand out materials, swag, other relevant materials

Bronze Level Sponsor ($500) 

  • Small company name/logo listed on Startup Weekend South Florida website
  • Thank you & recognition on social media post
  • Hand out materials, swag, other relevant materials

Ecosystem Partner ($250) 

  • Company name/logo listed on Startup Weekend South Florida website

Sponsor An Entrepreneur ($100)

  • Open registration for one entrepreneur of your choice or we will select.
  • We will ensure that one lucky entrepreneur will get fed, meet new people, learn a ton, and hopefully create a successful startup!
  • Recognition on the Startup Weekend South Florida website
  • Recognition at the Opening Event on Friday and Closing Event on Sunday

Contributing Level Sponsor (in-kind or Price Varies By Contribution)

  • Help Support Startup Weekend South Florida with Press Coverage, Marketing, Swag, Venues, Food, Beer, Software, Discounts….. Anything that the community will benefit from!

Ready to become a Sponsor or need something really custom?

For more Information contact Jeff Brown or Alex de Carvalho Thanks for bering AWESOME!

 

 

 








Four Great Reasons to Participate in Startup Weekend Miami

  1. Meet other doers, makers, coders, and thinkers – who dream as big as you do.
  2. Get immediate feedback on your skills and your ideas – and learn where you need to grow
  3. Learn how to build smart and build lean – and tap into the network that will support you.
  4. Launch!

Buy Your Tickets Today – This is sure to sell out fast








Why Diversity Always Matters in Startup Weekend

TSW-big-photo-edit

At first, I found it strange that the organizing team of the Triangle event I facilitated on June 12-14 pursued a “trailblazers” edition. Initially I had thought the team wanted to create a diversity-themed event similar to the one I had facilitated in Miami just two weeks prior.

final-cover-swmia
I’m not going to say which event I liked more… but they were certainly different! #Diversity

I learned quickly that the rationale behind that branding had to do with the perception of the world “diversity” as potentially not ideal. The term “Trailblazers” alluded to the multiple pioneers that have come from all walks of life in North Carolina, but not directly to women, people of color, or other underrepresented peoples.

This move honestly troubled me for two reasons:

  • Do people actually feel excluded when an event calls for diversity?

  • Do people not want to be part of an event that prioritizes diversity?

After 10 Startup Weekends as a participant, volunteer, organizer, and facilitator, I’ve come to not only appreciate the diversity of each event – I crave it. The greatest killer of an event is monotony – if it looks and feels the same as it did before, it will lose its luster.

lee-muslim-ladies

My last two events were among the most memorable because they knew a simple fact:

Diversity improves community. Always. 

Below are some key lessons I learned during my time in Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill that weekend.

1. History matters, especially from diverse narratives

We’re all familiar of the most famous narrative of innovation out of North Carolina – the location of the famous Wright Brothers’ historic heavier-than-air flight. The state also has a rich history of innovation from lesser-known figures such as:

Sequoyah – creator of the Cherokee alphabet, which allowed for increase communication between and across Native American peoples.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lunsford Lane – born into slavery and invented a special tobacco that raise enough money to buy his freedom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner – inventor of 35 products and holder of five patents, granted retroactively as she was denied previously for being a black woman.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I felt it was important to tell these stories as well in Durham at the event. Innovation can truly come from anywhere, but it takes a special drive to push it forward.

2. Diversity strengthens communities on the rise

The American Tobacco Campus

I was truly captivated by the beauty and sprawl of the downtown Durham innovation sector. Everything from American Underground to the Iron Yard is all within walking distance, and the community is very familiar and well-integrated.

The old American Underground building.

I can see why the Triangle has been selected for the location of the next UP America Summit in September. It has everything the country could want and so much more!

3. You can have a diverse team of literal professionals

group-org-tsw
Top row: Frank Pollack, Austin Henley, Talib Graves-Manns Middle row: Glenda Clare, Lee Ngo, Ramon Llamas, Corey Harris, Adam Klein Bottom row: Jesica Averhart

In all of my Startup Weekends, I’ve never seen a more impressive, academic, and professional group of people that I did at Triangle Trailblazers. In this photo, I estimate there are at least twelve or thirteen advanced degrees and over one hundred years of professional experience.

I was the lone liability of the group.
I was the lone liability of the group. Also, @DrinkMati is a fantastic sponsor.

Moreover, they ran their even with aplomb. Excellent communication, precision, and consideration for the needs of the community. Great, great work!

4. Diversity is more than just about race or gender

This event was attended by nearly equal parts female and male and predominately people of color, particularly African and Latino American. Also like in the Miami event, the Triangle event brought out another underrepresented group: the differently-abled.

Team KinderWalk working to provide guidance for the visually-impaired in buildings.

Two teams that hoped to aid the visually-impaired worked from start to finish during this competition, with one app – The Blank App – going on to win the AT&T Special Award for Connectability.

It’s great to see Startup Weekend bring out the best of ourselves, regardless of whether it is convenient or profitable.

5. A new owner, but the same mission for diversity

General Announcement

With the recent Techstars acquisition of UP Global, there are many community leaders such as myself who are left with several questions about the future of the organization. While tax incentives and financial strategies are important, I think the preservation of UP Global’s Burning Man-inspired philosophy of “radical inclusion” should be at the forefront of the discussion.

hands-in

To me, prioritizing diversity should be self-evident, and it should not ever be a point of contention.

However, until our communities evolve to that point, we’ll just have to stay vigilant. From the bottom of my heart, I thank the Triangle Trailblazers team for inviting me out to be a part of their special event, and I’ll see everyone in September.

Lee Ngo is a community leader and facilitator based in Pittsburgh, PA.








How To Conquer the Emotional Rollercoaster of Startup Weekend

After 9 Startup Weekends in three years, I’ve come to the conclusion that it is one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life (in fact, I’ve written previously that I might be addicted to it). However, for some that the journey could be really intense at times, and not everyone makes it to the finish line feeling the same way.

Recently, I facilitated Startup Weekend Miami: Diversity Edition, where I was taught the concept of “la pasión,” which is Spanish for “people in Miami are really, REALLY emotional.” I was tasked to harness la pasión in a community that had a plethora of it, in a way that would make everyone come away from Startup Weekend Miami feeling as wonderful as I had 8 times before.

Below is a list of lessons and tips for a facilitator, organizer, or volunteer to apply that would help maintain a sense of stability to an otherwise potentially chaotic event.

1. If you’re an organizer or volunteer, your mission is to execute the event as orderly as possible

In Startup Weekend, Murphy’s Law generally applies – anything that can go wrong will go wrong. It is vital that every organizer and volunteer is informed of the weekend’s tasks and can easily communicate with one another to correct any situation that arises.

Otherwise… this will happen…

Best practice: Print up a universal task list that specifies each delegation and giving a copy to all your volunteers. That way, even if they don’t have an assignment, they can look at the list to see if someone else needs help with something.

2. If you’re the facilitator, your first priority is to take care of the lead organizer

I got your back, Paula.

Generally, lead organizers shoulder the most burden, and the stress can be overwhelming. They should be acknowledged especially for their months of hard work leading up to the big show.

E Pluribus Unum, people.

Facilitators should check in with them hourly and make sure they’re fed, hydrated, and as relaxed as you can get them. If necessary, give them a hug (more on that later).

That'll do, senorita. That'll do.
That’ll do, senorita. That’ll do.

3. Communicate to people on their level – perhaps even in their language

Startup Weekend is an educational event at its core, and the most effective way to teach is to contextualize it with abstract reasoning that they understand. Learn more about them to understand their thinking processes.

Just being honest here.
Just being honest here.

An added challenge for me: most of the attendees of Startup Weekend Miami speak Spanish as their first language. I do not – except for what I’ve learned on TV –  so when people weren’t looking, I’d review my Dora The Explorer Lessons on YouTube and bust that out randomly. You’re welcome, mi amigo/as.

4. If teams are arguing without end, facilitate a scrum

Inevitably, disagreements occur in a competition, but they become difficult to resolve when people are not talking in a respectful, orderly fashion.

This was not that far off from the truth.
This almost happened at the event. More on that later.

To resolve this, get them to stand up and talk in a circle, one at a time. Here’s a quick video to teach you how to run a proper scrum – a very popular method of coordinating large, diverse teams.

(The key lesson starts at 6:32)

I did this with one team in particular. More on that later.

5. Have a quiet space – one for volunteers, one for participants

"Let me answer that question once I'm done with this Tweet."
“Let me answer that question once I’m done with this Tweet.”

We all need to decompress, so give your people a place to rest, nap, socialize, and blow off some steam. Don’t go so far as create a distracting place such as a game session – you still want people to focus on on the main goal.

6. Throw in a dance session or two (you’ll have to start it)

I'm going to regret this once people stop listening to "Uptown Funk" by Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars.
I’m going to regret this once people stop listening to “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars.

It was a foregone conclusion that I’d be dancing in Miami. It was just a matter of how often. I like to keep the music playing in a common area for attendees to come out, relax, and practice their salsa.

It is possible to have more rhythm than a native Argentinian, apparently.
It is possible to have more rhythm than a native Argentinian, apparently.

Dancing is a great way to stay loose and relaxed, and it’s probably less terrifying than, say, public speaking.

7. Prevent “hanger” by providing snacks and insist that everyone drink water frequently

Startup Weekend is a high-energy competition, and with brains working on overdrive, they’ll need to be replenished. I try to have a bottle of water and a protein-rich snack on my person at all times. Keep your people well-fed, and they’ll be well-tempered, too.

8. Give out hugs and high-fives whenever possible

Paula could not stop hugging me. I do not blame her.
Paula could not stop hugging me. I do not blame her.

I’m a big fan of Simon Sinek‘s recent work Leaders Eat Last, where he describes the importance of establishing physical contact to build relationships and trust among people.

At a hyper-networking event like Startup Weekend, these physical embraces lead to lasting connections that you’ll appreciate long after this experience.

9. Plan to finish your event as soon as possible…

This crowd will turn on you otherwise.
This crowd will turn on you otherwise.

Things might get delayed, so try to move as quickly. Here are a few tips I’ve learned while facilitating for NYC and Orlando:

  • Links only: Instead of letting people present and demo on their own laptops with varying file types, have them send cloud-based links to both and put them in a single document. This moves things along quickly in between Q&A sessions.
  • 4:3 presentation model: Limit presentations to 4 minutes with a loose 3 minutes for judges’ Q&A works well, too. Judges average about 45 seconds per question, so a group of 3-5 judges works well.

Why do we do this?

10. … so that everyone will go to the after-party

Yay! We did it! exha *0981231
Yay! We did it! (exhales…)

I love the idea of an after-party, but often Startup Weekends run too late, and who can really stick around to party on a Sunday night? However, if you aim to end your event around 8pm or earlier, and your event was a rousing success, you’ll have a great time.

Also, try to have ALL of your parties in Miami, regardless of your own location. Here’s why:

We got a pool!
We got a pool!
bouncy-castle
A bouncy castle for adults!
A photo booth!
A photo booth!

However, despite all of these tips, I should say that there needs to be some room for la pasión in a Startup Weekend. For example:

When a team that nearly imploded on Saturday night…

Team BreakinBread was a fun project for me. Constantly bickering in Spanish over every single detail, I was positive that they would implode and disband by Saturday night.

Serial entrepreneur and LiveAnswer CEO Adam Boalt guides a team of future entrepreneurs.
Serial entrepreneur and LiveAnswer CEO Adam Boalt guides a team of future entrepreneurs.

To fix this, I made them do a scrum. By getting them to talk in turn and truly listen to one another, they realized that they were actually a well-rounded team that agreed on one thing: they had communication problems.

What a difference a day makes!
What a difference a day makes!

Afterwards, they delivered a beautiful presentation that impressed the judges. The rest is Startup Weekend Miami history: they won first place.

Or when a team that won 2nd place got a standing ovation…

Team HandyCab
Team HandyCab

Meet Ernie.

Ernie struggles to get where he needs to be due to the lack of convenient transportation options for the disabled. His dedicated friend Juan pitched an idea:

Not too shabby! By Adam Leonard of Happy Fun Corp.
Not too shabby! Artwork by Adam Leonard of Happy Fun Corp.

An “Uber for the differently-abled,” Juan wanted Ernie to have access to the ride-sharing technologies that dominate the startup marketplace today (e.g. Uber and Lyft). They found great validation by tapping into people’s good nature – an uncommon approach for a Startup Weekend team.

Once I announced their second place win, Ernie stood up and made his way to the main stage. With every step, more and more people rose with him and applauded his victory with deafening cheers of support.

Diversity includes everyone. EVERYONE.
Diversity includes everyone. EVERYONE.

When Ernie took the microphone to say how happy he was to have made the difficult trip to attend Startup Weekend, I was indeed full of la pasión as well (i.e. TEARS OF JOY.)

Or when I could not stop smiling when I was presented with this amazing certificate

drama-certificate

The text reads:
“A special recognition for surviving your
MIAMI DRAMA INITIATION
Let all who view this document know you survived Miami. We are diverse, speak at the same time and have a rollercoaster of emotions, but at the end of the day, we’re all family and end the night laughing with J’s (JAJAJAJA). You rock!”

Perhaps I had been a bit of a curmudgeon the whole time…

Yeah, I can be a bit.... yeah.
Yeah, I can be a bit…. yeah.

I was deeply moved by the relentless love I received towards the organizers, who should be named (in no particular order): Paula Celestino, Pia Celestino, Ryan Amsel, Gaby Castelao, and Anas Benadel.

Hey, sponsors! We love you!
Hey, SW Miami sponsors! We love you!

In short, Startup Weekend is indeed a roller coaster (it’s designed that way), but for a small minority, that can be an unpleasant experience. Emotions are meant to run high, but there are ways to keep it balanced yet still exciting.

I hope these suggestions serve as a way to hold someone’s hand to make them feel safe right before they take the deep plunge into entrepreneurship.

Good luck, and thank you, Startup Weekend Miami: Diversity Edition!

Lee Ngo is a community leader based out of Pittsburgh, PA.








10 Awesome Things I'm Going to Do While Facilitating Startup Weekend Miami Diversity

To close out UP Global’s Editions Month campaign, I’ll be hosting a diversity edition of Startup Weekend in Miami. To be held at VentureHive, one of Miami’s top startup accelerators, this event is lead by Paula Celestino, a previous Startup Weekend Tampa winner who co-founded KlosetKarma from her experience, an app that monetizes your wardrobe.

While this is not my first time in the glorious state of Florida, this is my first time in Miami, which means I’ll be full of regret if I do not accomplish the following.

1. Take a photo of myself wearing pastel colors.

miami men's fashion

I prefer to wear darker tones (black, grey, blue, etc.) – and this will not do in sunny south Florida. Fortunately Miami is one of the fashion capitals of the world, so I should be in good hands.

2. Find a proper place to “get jiggy with it.”

getting-jiggy

Yes, like to most of you, Will Smith is pretty much the cultural ambassador of Miami to the rest of the country. My goal is to find out exactly what he was talking about in that video so many years ago. Also, I now feel super old.

3. Eat the best Cuban sandwich I can find.

cuban-sandwich

This is all Jon Favreau’s fault. I had my first Cuban ever… in Seattle. I can only presume that somewhere in Miami will patronize that experience … by welcoming me as their patron… perhaps serving it with some Patron?

tina-fey-sandwich

4. Try to look somewhat sexy through salsa dancing.

ben-stiller-salsa

Of all the items on this list, I am the most confident in accomplishing this one.

5. Jump sideways while pretending to fire two guns in air.

bad-boys-ii-kkk-shootout-o

The ish is gonna get REAL.

6. Find some Heat merchandise for my brother-in-law.

miami-heat

For reasons I do not understand, my Filipino brother really likes the Miami Heat. I’ll have to get him a Wade jersey to help him through the tough times.

7. See if I look good walking around South Beach in a speedo.

speedo-guy

Of all the items on this list, this is the one I am least confident in accomplishing.

8. Learn some Spanish. After all, this is America.

community

During my brief time in UP Global, I worked with an amazing bilingual team and wish I could communicate with them on their level. I only learned how to laugh. Jajaja.

9. “Seriously, Paula. We’re going dancing, right?”

cuban-fury-catch

I will start a dance party AT the event if I have to. Speaking of which…

10. Inspire a new community of Miamians into the startup life.

valencia-whirlwind
Of course, the greatest thrill of all is to pass on the experiences that I had at Startup Weekend to a new community. I am especially proud to be a part of an event that’s emphasizing diversity and openness – one of the fundamental tenets of UP Global is “radical inclusion,” where everyone should have a chance to experience what’s it like to be an entrepreneur.

Just a few weeks away. I can’t wait to get this show started!

Lee Ngo, Facilitator
Startup Weekend Miami Diversity

Lee Ngo is an UP Global community leader based in Pittsburgh, PA.