The following is a guest post by Jon Rossi, a Startup Weekend Facilitator from Colorado and a generally awesome guy.
The email read: “Would you like to facilitate a Startup Weekend event in Athens, Ohio”?
What I saw was: “How would you like to go to Athens, Greece to facilitate a Startup Weekend event?”
I immediately responded to Danielle’s email telling her to put me down as I would love to facilitate my first event in Athens. How could I turn that down!? A few minutes later I realized that I was actually going to Ohio. Wow, I thought, I must have zoned out like a high school student day dreaming in class about asking the popular girl out to prom and her telling him in a soft whisper, “Yes”.
First thing I did after that was to Google “Athens, Ohio” and click on the first link. I spent a few minutes on the City of Athens website and started thinking my mistake was going to turn into something awesome. I was super nervous about facilitating my first event and fears of judgment clouded my thoughts. I started being really critical and thought back to my first event and all the subsequent events I’d been a part of since 2010.
I wanted to make an impact and represent Startup Weekend as best as possible. Friday night I was met by local organizer Jennifer Simon and her husband at a local place called Jackie O’s. Over pizza and a cold drink I got to know my hostess, more about the event location, and all the great work she had done over the last 90 days to prepare for the event.
All the organizers had done amazing due diligence to prepare the city for the first event in hopes that it would drive interest in the local startup community.
So how do you start preparing a small college town for an innovative Startup Weekend event? You enlist people who know the community and its leaders and you start talking to everyone you can. You talk to the local newspaper, the Office of Economic Development, the local college, the professors, anyone. You get creative and and post large color flyers on campus with QR Codes. You also make yourself available so that when you are approached by someone who wants more information, you can talk to them and help them understand the event and what they can expect.
From Zelda and Mr. Bones (Jennifer’s 2 dogs), to Miller’s fried chicken, to the amazing students and faculty, to Bagel Street Deli, Athens, OH is a great place and I would go back in a New York second. When I got home I started getting emails from people that attended telling me what a great event it was and that if I ever need a place to crash the next time I am in Ohio, to look them up. Startup Weekend continues to amaze me and the people and experiences I have are some of my favorite memories and stories.