The following is a guest post by Startup Weekend Facilitator and Organizer Eric Brotto, and was originally published on his personal blog.
Startup Weekend Luxembourg has a model to strive for.
This past weekend I had the honour of being invited to facilitate Startup Weekend Luxembourg. From previous experiences facilitating Startup Weekend I have learned that you can never know what to expect when attending one. True to form, I was once again surprised by the ambition, talent and uniqueness of the people involved.
What immediately struck me was the positive attitude and professionalism of the organisers. Diego De Biasio, one of the lead coordinators, was very relaxed and accommodating to all those involved: organisers, facilitator and attendees alike. Diego is also the CEO of Technoport, a private incubator and workspace based in the south of Luxembourg. It is housed in a sleek new building which also hosts Fab Lab Luxembourg. The SW event was held at Technoport and its attendees had access to Fab Labs array of tools, such as 3D printers, and laser cutters. This demonstrated once again that innovation is hardly under the domain of software developers alone.
I also had the wonderful opportunity to get to the know the other organisers: Benoit Fortemps, Yann Gensollen, Sylvain Chery and Olivier Zéphir. Yann and Sylvain come from the established consulting firm Agile Partners, Oliver is at Technoport, while Benoit is Technology Advisor at Microsoft. Having such knowledgable and experienced experts running iterations of SW was yet another testament to the validity of the Startup Weekend process.
But what impressed me the most at the event was the diversity and quality of attendees. This was probably a reflection of the cosmopolitan nature of Luxembourg itself, but nevertheless it was quite encouraging to see such a broad and even mix of nationalities, backgrounds and ages. We had attendees from as far away as Miami and Iceland and half of those present were over 30 with maybe a third in their forties and fifties. This kind of mosaic demographic needs to be copied everywhere. Allow me to explain.
Historically we have seen companies tackle innovation behind closed doors with groups composed of a few people who often had quite similar perspectives. They also had similar jobs, lived in similar neighbourhoods and were of a similar culture. They went to work daily to sit in meeting rooms to devise solutions to people’s problems. But they rarely actual got out into the street and talked with these ‘people.’ They created products while, for all intents and purposes, living in a bubble.
We now understand how gravely problematic this approach can be. And we have come up with a solution that even has a motto: ‘Get out of the building!’. In other words, you need to leave the confines of the office and seek feedback on your product as quickly as possible. To be clear, you do this before you even have a product. You do it at the idea stage when you want to know if the idea has validity. Steve Blank, the author of this concept, wrote a brillant article about this recently in the Harvard Business Review.
This new approach has proven quite strong and should be used by any self-respecting startup. But the diversity of backgrounds at Startup Weekend Luxembourg already lent itself to a larger spectrum of perspectives. By grouping together people from different heritages, ages and cultures they were already at an advantage to getting a more global view.
Because of this not only did I hear truly refreshing and new ideas being pitched, but I also heard new takes on how the concept of Startup Weekend can be transferred to other sectors. For example, I had a great conversation with one attendee who told me ‘You don’t have to start a new company to let the principles of Startup Weekend change your life. In fact the concepts learned here can be applied to any aspect of our daily life. Because ultimately it is just about changing the way we do things to make our lives better’.[Feature image by Pablo Bellissimo]