I am sitting in the large shared team room, with lots of people around me sharing ideas, working on business plans or designs, making plans and throwing them away. We are right in the middle of our Startup Weekend in Bremerhaven, where we challenged the participants to come up with their own ideas about problems, solutions and products. The first day was a ramp-up to the teamwork today. After a warm welcome by Simona and an energizing introduction by Ümit, almost everybody in the room came up with an exiting, crazy, emotional, nice or unusual pitch.
We had so many popular ideas that it was hard to limit the number of teams – but we did not want to have teams of one, either. Thanks to our sponsors we had a nice dinner in-between, so that everybody was fell fed and ready to pitch. Now we have just completed the coaching sessions – with an awesome bunch of coaches from very different branches and professions. I had coached three teams that had practically nothing in common. I even talked about marketing, which is rather Kai’s specialty. It’s time for the teams to digest all the new ideas, criticism, tipps and tricks of the trade and continue their journey. And time for the other organizers and me to have a beer, reconnect and feel happy about a day well spent.
Andreas, October 21, 2017
This is part three of a three-part series. The second part can be found here.
The return from the journey appears not very appealing right before the event. But you, our dear hero, should be aware that this is actually what the Startup Weekend is about: spark something in your life, give you something valuable to take home, prepare you better for your onward journey. Campbell’s hero journey deals quite extensively with the Return. Let’s have a look how the Heroe’s Journey stages relate to your experience.
Refusal of the Return
Leaving the Startup Weekend can be hard. You have had a great experience, found new friends or allies, you would love to keep on doing that. But somehow you need to return to your “real life”.
The Magic Flight
So how can you take your reward with you? Nobody keeps you there, it is not like you are prevented from going home. Maybe a proper goodbye, a celebration of your teamwork is in place.
Rescue from Without
Your coaches and facilitators will be there for you until and even after the end of the experience. Especially, when you found something to pursue further, a real new startup with your fantastic idea. The most valuable prices your team could take with them after the Startup Weekend are the extended coaching and consulting opportunities. Learning more on conferences can also help you to transfer your new experiences to your old life.
The Crossing of the Return Threshold
You will come home full of new experiences. You will encounter new obstacles. Some people might not believe in your idea. Some might not believe in you being the right person. Every hero faces this obstacle.
Master of Two Worlds
The traditional description of the Heroe’s Journey attributes this step to the metaphysical or spiritual heroes like Jesus or Buddha. Yet we can make this experience too, that we are starting to be able to combine the two worlds, to bring learnings from the Startup Weekend to our daily learning or work life – and maybe the other way round, if you decide to join another challenge.
Freedom to Live
Campbell says about this stage: “The hero is the champion of things becoming, not of things become, because he is.” Now that you have experienced the power of starting something, of working with a diverse team of people who share the same dream, you understand that you can actually create, chose or attract so much more in your life than you dared before.
Your own journey might look different. What are your steps? What are the opponents that stand in your way? Start with your Heroe’s Journey and tell us your own story!
This is part two of a three-part series. The first part can be found here.
In my previous post, I described how the hero – you – comes to the adventure and masters the first challenges. Now it is time to look at the event itself – the core of the challenge – the Startup Weekend. I will use the steps from Campbell’s Heroe’s Journey again to illustrate what you are up to.
The Road of Trials
The initial pitch is just the first trial. You will experience the work with your team as a series of tests. Will you be able to form a team in such a short time? Will you be able to find the right words to describe your vision? Can you master the initial technical challenges? Only those who do not refrain from failing sometimes will be able to win in the long run.
The Meeting with the Goddess
While the hero has already found some helpers, there is a special force at work that wants the hero to succeed. In case of the Startup Weekend probably not a divine intervention, but the help of all volunteer coaches and mentors. Your coach will help you get through the trials, confront you with your own blind spots and guide you towards your perfect final pitch.
Woman as Temptress
Well, this is the classical expression. But there are temptations, too. Will you work on your product or service, or spend all the time partying? Both is fine, and sometimes a little distraction is really helpful to recollect your energy and wits. It happens to some teams, that they party so hard that they find it difficult to carry on the next day. The jury will not place judgement over your fun level or blood alcohol, only over the result.
Atonement with the Father
This is also meant metaphorically. You are up to confront not only one, but several persons of authority: the jury. Whatever happened before, now is the time to show what you are up to. You won’t have much time. Some teams have great products but poor presentations. Some present a less than great product convincingly. This is the highlight of the Startup Weekend.
Now you will recognise, what your idea is really about. How strong you and your team were able to demonstrate your idea. You will be able to reflect on your learning and recollect your experiences. The jury retreats to discuss the presentations, products and ideas. You should retreat with your team to reflect on your collaboration.
The Ultimate Boon
This is the ultimate battle, the final moment of the challenge. Will you win a price? Will you reach one of the top places? This is the most interesting moment of the Startup Weekend. Even if you come up empty-handed, you should have gained so many important and new experiences.
We will talk about your return in the third and last part.
John Campbell described the typical narrational or mythical hero’s journey as a path through and beyond several stages. You are the hero of your own life, and the Startup Weekend is a part of your journey to a better version of yourself. This is the first part of a small blog post trilogy about your hero’s journey to the Startup Weekend – and back!
The call to adventure
Have you seen the advertising? Did somebody give you a flyer? Congratulations – you have met the herold. Each hero’s journey starts with the initial call. Gandalf visits Bilbo. R2D2 replays the video message. Harry Potter is asked to come to Hogwarts. We want you at the Startup Weekend.
Refusal of the call
There are so many reasons not to follow the call. We have so many things to do. It might be embarrassing, or too loud, maybe not worth it. There might be dragons. Hesitation is normal. The hero overcomes his own comfort, cowardice, reservations and dares to take the challenge. Do you dare, too?
The hero needs help on his or her journey. Mulan is accompanied by a small dragon, Daenerys Targaryen by larger dragons, Harry Potter receives his magic wand. Startup Weekend participants receive guidance and mentorship, useful tools and the almost magical support by a global community of heroes and guides. Learn how to use the Business Canvas to your unfair advantage.
Crossing the threshold
Now that the hero has left the safety of his home, they discover that there is no turning back. You are there at the Startup Weekend. The first challenge is the pitch of ideas. What will people think? Will there be followers? Or, are you looking for a great idea to follow? A team to join? Once you have entered the stage, your idea is out there – you can not un-present it.
Belly of the whale
And now it is done. The hero is in the midst of danger and peril. Will you find a team? Will you be the right match for an idea? This is the first real trial of the hero. In order to master the challenge, they need to transform themselves. Can you?
… to be continued.
I have never seen myself as an entrepeneur. I do run my own company, with two partners. We are doing well, and we are able to keep our cash and wits together. But I did not start with an idea, with a product. I merely continued my previous work on a self-employed basis.
So why am I interested in supporting a startup weekend, as sponsor and coach? Besides that I think it’s a good idea? A successful format, delivered in many places, to encourage starters to make their products and service real. What is in there for me?
First of all, range and brand awareness. I am able to promote my own company, brand and logo, our services and products within the startup community. Maybe this could generate some business in the future.
And there could be that one rare, precious gem. An idea for a product and service that can disrupt the market, can blow minds, and redefine the term customer delight. This might happen. Or not.
The real benefit, and the most important one, is learning. The participation, the support for potential startups, the evaluation of business cases and methodical support for product teams provide so many learning opportunities for me:
* How to apply agile principles and values to startup scenarios
* How to design and conduct quick and instructive experiments
* How to deal with different personalities and target groups
* How to foster creativity and commitment
* And many more…
I have already learned a lot in the preparation. I encourage every leader, entrepeneur, manager, small or medium business owner to consider supporting or participating.