I want to touch on the future direction of Startup Weekend but first here is a little background on it’s evolution. Andrew Hyde launched Startup Weekend in June of 2007 and held the first event in Boulder, CO. At that point in time Startup Weekend was structured as a Colorado LLC where attendees would gather to pitch ideas for a new startup. Of the ideas pitched, one was chosen and all of the attendees in the room would roll up their sleeves and get to work building it. My first experience with this model was at the first event that came to Seattle which was held at Adobe’s office in Fremont. At that particular event an idea for skillbit was pitched, the premise was to help companies mine talent within their company. Think of it as an internal LinkedIn for larger companies to search the human capital they already had on staff. At that event around 140 people all went to work writing code, preparing business plans, designing logos, creating financial projections, filing for patents, and built a really impressive site in 54 hours. The rules of the game at that time was Startup Weekend owned 5% of the company and attendees divided the remaining 95% among themselves. People were graded on attendance with higher allocations made to those that stayed all weekend long.
This model had a few flaws, first off since there was mention of attendees receiving stock in exchange for coming to the event this constituted a public stock offering and ran into legal issues. Second, with 140 people on the team dividing up responsibilities for moving forward with skillbit was a nightmare. A second model emerged from the lessons learned at that event. At subsequent events people were still at liberty to pitch ideas, and smaller teams formed around solid ideas. Rather than having one idea with 140 people working on it there were often 10 teams with 4-10 people on each one working towards a prototype of their idea by Sunday night. At that time Startup Weekend was no longer taking a piece of equity in teams that were formed during the event.
I really loved the experience I had at the first Seattle Startup Weekend event as well as all of the people I met and was hooked. Fast forward a year and Marc and I were driving to Denver on a road trip and called Andrew while on the way to meet for dinner. After a few conversations upon returning to Seattle, Andrew agreed to let us take over Startup Weekend. Here’s where I’d like to touch on our vision for Startup Weekend. Marc and I really want to see it become the place where founders meet co-founder and to be a place where good ideas turn into cool new startups. Thats not to say that always has to be the case, the event is far more than just the projects that people are undertaking. A recent poll of past attendees pointed out 92% of people that attended stay in contact with people they met there for the first time. We’ve had teams come out and attract angel investment as well as VC dollars and that is terrific, but as those of you that have been know, the event is much bigger than the success or failure of individual projects. There truly is a magic in the room at Startup Weekend events and that is the essence that we are trying to preserve and bring to other communities in a sustainable manner. Our goals going forward are to be an early stage breeding ground for great ideas worthy of being startups as well as a connector for entrepreneurs to meet other entrepreneurs. In the past year we have yet to take a pay check, we work all the time but never work. It’s been an exciting journey so far and has a ways to go still. I’d like to see this community evolve into a place where people that are excited about startups can pitch an idea and quickly gather the necessary elements of support they need to turn that idea into a prototype. Once a group at a given event has decided on their team members and idea I want to be able to connect them with a lawyer to draft up a formal agreement among themselves. Once they know what technology they are going to be using in their startup I want to be able to connect them to others in the community that can help them with the specific technology they have chosen. That could mean introducing a team that is working on the PayPal API to the guys at PayPal that can field any question they can dream up. It could mean making an introduction to a talented developer in the community that knows rails, or someone who knows their way around developing mobile apps. Startup Weekend has come a long way in a short amount of time thanks to the community that we have. With your continued support I believe we can create a vibrant global organization that fosters community, entrepreneurs, and innovation in local communities around the world.
We’ll be launching a new site in the near future to help facilitate many of these relationships online as well as offline at SW events. I really appreciate all of the support we’ve received from the community over the last year. We’ve learned a lot and believe that 2010 will be a great year for Startup Weekend! Thank you for supporting us and please reach out with any thoughts or advice on what we can do better. We are structured as a non-profit and really rely on sponsor support to make this possible, thank you to all of you that have supported us in that manner in the past. Looking forward to seeing you at the next event, and look out for the new online community coming VERY soon.