Organizing a Startup Weekend can mean different things to an organizer: a chance to build a network and make connections, a way to be a part of a fun and transformational experience, or even a way to promote entrepreneurship in a community.
One of the reasons I organize Startup Weekend is because it represents a way to build and shape the community around me. In my most recent event, I was part of a team taking a small step toward making Seattle a place to celebrate Latino cultures in the local entrepreneurial community.
Seattle is a wonderful, intelligent, and passionate city. I’ve been involved in the Startup Weekend community here in some form or another for the last few years, and I noticed some things:
- The people I was seeing at the events were generally from the same demographic.
- There was an opportunity to spread entrepreneurship to neighborhoods and cultures beyond the downtown urban core.
If you aren’t from Seattle, you should know that our city is reasonably sized, but much of the entrepreneurial energy and support is concentrated near the downtown core. There are various cultures in other parts of Seattle that don’t enjoy the same energy and whose stories we don’t hear regularly.
That isn’t to say that there aren’t efforts to engage other communities and social groups in our city. In September 2014, we saw an incredible Hack the CD event to engage the African American community in the Central District, but we should be doing more.
A few other organizers and attendees I had met through various events realized we had something in common: we all loved our city, we loved entrepreneurship, and we loved our shared Latino heritage.
This gave rise to the idea that became Seattle’s first Startup Weekend Latino and Hispanic Markets event. In this post I’ll share our goals, lessons we learned along the way, and what plans we have for engaging diversity in entrepreneurship in Seattle.
Vision and Goals for Startup Weekend Latino
Creating an event to highlight a culture is an interesting prospect. Entrepreneurship cuts across cultures, beliefs, and opinions in a way that is incredibly powerful. We wanted to celebrate a culture that means so much to us, as well as invite others to experience it.
We decided our event would be special and distinct from any other Startup Weekend in 3 ways:
- Latino Entrepreneurs would feel welcomed in a way they may not have felt before
- We would share our culture with those who had no connection to Latino cultures, giving them a chance to experience and consider another culture as they build their ideas
- We would create a space for the Latino community to share and celebrate its culture in the context of entrepreneurship
We designed our event to celebrate and share fun parts of our Latino cultures. This included things like:
- Salsa contest for pitch order
- Inviting smaller Seattle Latino restaurants to the event to feed our attendees
- Having parts of the event in Spanish, or providing translation help where needed
- Latino music throughout the weekend
We also sought to include representatives from the Seattle startup community across cultures and industries. In addition to our standard partners from the Seattle Startup Weekend community, we reached out to Latino cultures to find sponsors, mentors, and judges. Ultimately, we wanted people to come away knowing there is a thriving Latino community in Seattle interested in the success of its entrepreneurs.
Organizing a unique Startup Weekend event means encountering new situations. Here is what we learned.
Diversity is Exciting and Fun!
My favorite part of the event was just how many cultures and nationalities were represented there. Beyond North, Central, and South American Spanish-speaking countries, we had attendees representing Asian, European, and African cultures. This was a delightful opportunity to experience entrepreneurship with new friends and faces. More importantly, we saw that an event dedicated to celebrating other cultures was interesting to so many people.
Marketing and Messaging
We knew at the start of the event that we’d have to be careful with our messaging and marketing to be clear that the entire community was invited to participate. Success would look like balancing a specific culture focus with an open invitation to all of Seattle. The clarity in messaging also makes an impact on how judges and coaches formed their expectations. We used language like “All Are Welcome” in event promotions, and emphasized our goals to all people involved in the event. However, this is an area we want to improve upon for next year.
Meals and Catering
We committed to partnering with local Latino restaurants for all our meals. This resulted in amazing meals throughout the entire weekend, but it was actually quite difficult to find smaller businesses that had the capacity and experience to cater for a Startup Weekend event. Moreover, we should have realized that having an event so close to Cinco de Mayo would limit our selection of available restaurants.
Engaging Existing Latino Groups
There are plenty of Latino organizations around Seattle, but we didn’t know who they were when we were planning and marketing our event. Frankly, this is just a symptom of this being a nascent effort. We expect we’ll build on this momentum to build a more cohesive network of communities within our city.
Plans for the Future
As most Startup Weekend events do, this was a great starting point upon which we can continue to build. We intend to build more connections to other groups and create more opportunities to engage as a community. With the small cohort of attendees from our event, we can create more connections and strengthen our ties.
The best part is that we’re not alone in this. Portland will host its own Startup Weekend Latino event in June, and we have been interacting and supporting each other as organizing teams.
Hopefully, by this time next year, we will have a groundswell of momentum that we can showcase in another Startup Weekend Latino event. In the meantime, you can follow along and get involved in the following places:
- Seattle Tech Latinos and Friends Meetup group
- Startup Weekend Latino in Seattle on Twitter
- Startup Weekend Latino in Portland on Twitter
Data collected through UP Global’s programs show thriving entrepreneurial communities share and promote a healthy mix of people, stories, programming, and events.
We are proud to announce a new project that takes these ingredients and puts them together to weave a story about your community. We call it the Community Sites Project.
The Community Sites Project will help build stronger entrepreneurial communities in two ways:
- help community leaders reflect the community back to itself
- make interacting with UP Global and planning events easier
Tell Your Community’s Story
A Community Site takes content from various sources and programs and puts them together in one place.
Scroll down to view your new community blog! This section is your space to highlight thought leadership, event-promo and inspiring stories from around your community.
Upcoming events are featured next. Add any event (even ones that aren’t UP programs) your community might be interested in. Also, a quick-signup makes subscribing to the local Startup Digest simple.
The opportunity to highlight local resources and community leaders has never been easier.
Make Working with UP Easier
You’re serving your community in many ways already, so organizing UP programs should be simple. The UP Global team has rolled out Community Leader Tools to come alongside and reduce the friction of planning events. You can manage finances, stories, volunteers, and other details from the same toolkit.
What’s best is we use this information to build clean and easy-to-use event pages. No WordPress required!
Get Started Today
We need your help to breathe life into the content. Whether you are focused on providing great events or building strong communities, we have resources ready for you.
- Check out how London, Bergen, and Seattle are showcasing their communities with a local Community Site.
- Activate your community today! Contact your regional manager or email@example.com to plan your next event on this new platform.
- We are just getting started and have more to build, so stay tuned for news and updates here on the blog.
Community, Feedback, and Software
When I wake up and go to work, I bring people and ideas together, write software, and do what I can to make people’s lives easier. When I think about what I get to do for a living, I have to stop and realize I stand on the shoulders of giants.
I can attribute some of the greatest impact to my career and skills to the open source software movement and the people committed to the ideals it represents over the decades.
In particular, the idea that communication should be open, shared, and reinvested in the community has helped my learning and inspired a commitment to give back to the community.
Last month, we decided to ship an early version of our new Communities Map.
Borrowing a page from the hacker “ship early, and ship often” mentality, we put the software out in the world, opened up a means for public contribution, and waited for the feedback to come in.
I’m happy to announce the release of “v2” of this map.
The new map address two major threads of feedback:
- “I want a list of upcoming events so I can find which one I can attend”
- “I want a way to filter the map to events happening this upcoming weekend”
Given this feedback, we were able to add two major features.
Upcoming Events Filter
The first is a custom control area to activate special features on the map. While many facilitators use the map for specific activities, this is useful because the general public might not be as interested in specialized filtering.
So instead, we have a control area that opens and closes to reveal a checkbox for active city filtering. Here’s how it works:
When the active city filter is checked, the map determines the current day and hides any cities that don’t have an active event in the most immediate weekend. Unfortunately, at time of writing, there aren’t Startup Weekend events happening this weekend so there isn’t much to show.
However, this should prove useful to facilitators who want to save time creating “Also Happening This Weekend” slides in their intro deck.
Upcoming Events List
Other users told us the old map helped them find events through time to attend or to make their plans as facilitators. For these use cases, we built a dynamically generated scrolling list of events for quick searching through time.
It starts by loading all Good or Working events in the next 30 days. Here is how that looks:
As you can see from the screenshot, events are grouped by their start date. We can see in this example that the “15 February” group has only one event, but the weekend of February 17th has quite a few.
Keeping the initial list to events within the next 30 days keeps the experience fast and snappy for the majority of our users. However, if you want to look further out in time, you can click the “Load More…” link to pull the next 30 days’ worth of events into the list.
Collaboration and Open Source
The UP Global Tech team decided early on to open source this map plugin so that others can use, learn from, and contribute back to it.
The coolest thing about this release is that our most active contributors weren’t developers.
That’s right: you don’t need to be a developer to make an impact on an open source project. Sharing ideas, reporting bugs, helping with documentation, and guiding direction are all as important as actually writing the code itself.
UP Global and Open Source
We’ve leveraged the power of open source software to build our internal tools and give back to the community. We’ve also contributed patches and feature ideas to projects like Mongoose and LocomotiveCMS.
However, we’re also exploring ways we can honor our innovative, driven, and creative community.
We want to commit this year to opening up the efforts of our development team and release more software for public consumption and collaboration. Be on the lookout for more open projects as we dive in to 2014!
How to Get Involved
If you’re a developer, then you can keep an eye out for projects as we open them up on our organization page.
If you have a new idea or see something you don’t like, file an issue or fork and submit a pull request.
But what if you’re not a developer? That doesn’t have to stop you! You can create a free account on GitHub and file issues to report bugs, request features, and carry on discussions. For an example to see what I mean, you can see how we interacted with an active member of the UP Global community to iterate and refine on one of the new map features here.
Finally, if you’re still not excited about collaborating on GitHub, you can always leave feedback to our customer support team and they will make their way to the Tech team.
Thanks for reading, and happy hacking!
This post was written by UP Global’s Technical Director, David Pierce.
One of the most exciting things about working at UP Global is knowing we serve a global community. We move fast, work hard, and think creatively to support the efforts of our community and showcase the entrepreneurial movement.
If you’ve known about Startup Weekend for a long time, you’ve undoubtedly encountered our global events map. Though it has served us well, I am happy to share that we’ve retired the old map and I’m excited to introduce you to its newer, smarter sibling: The UP Global Cities Map.
First, we should talk about why we would improve on what we had before. The major goals of the map were to:
- Show Startup Weekend’s global reach
- Help entrepreneurs find events in the communities they care about
While it was able to show the reach, it had some challenges with the second goal. Let’s discuss some of those challenges.
We only showed pins for a given community if there was an event in the currently selected month. We didn’t have a good way to help users look for their city or for a city that hadn’t had an event for a while.
Having to scroll through months and then search for a city was clunky and unfriendly. Understanding the state of the map was difficult without understanding what the different pin colors meant. Without going into detail, the original code design for the month selector was also quite brittle and was not future-proofed.
One of the biggest pain points is that we weren’t able to help anybody if a city didn’t have an event coming up soon or hadn’t had one in a while. The usefulness of the map was highly tied to the current activity of the organizing team.
The map worked by querying for events within a given date range from our in-house event management system called SWOOP. Asking for many events across a wide time-range was already slow, but the code that managed the pin rendering was also quite slow. This made the map unpleasant to use.
Ultimately, what we want to provide a map that is useful and that represented our mission and community in a meaningful way.
This project was actually born out of an unrelated effort to make better use of our ecosystem in terms of cities and communities rather than events. This makes sense since we are in the work of community building, and events are more transient than communities. This new effort is a step in the right direction.
While there may not be an event happening every day, your community is always there. Since this map focuses on communities rather than events, we are able to map any community that has ever hosted an event.
You probably know where your community is on the global map. With this new design, you don’t need to know when the event is, or even click around to find it.
First, we start by clustering pins at high zoom levels to reduce clutter and show regional grouping. Next, we offer a city search box that guides the user directly to the city when the desired search result is clicked.
We also greatly simplified the colors and meaning of the elements on the map to make communities the focal point of the experience.
Probably the most exciting change is what we are able to do when a community does not have an upcoming event. For example, let’s imagine I’m interested in the activity in the town near where I went to high school:
In this example, there isn’t an upcoming event in Omaha. However, I can either apply to organize a future event or drop my email into a mailing list to be notified when an event does get organized. This becomes useful for future organizing teams who need help marketing their events.
If a city does have an event, I can either learn more about the event or click straight through to the Eventbrite page to sign up:
This gets especially exciting when multiple events and different verticals are happening close to each other on the calendar since this display will render them all one after the other.
We actually had a few more things we wanted to add to this map, but in the spirit of shipping early and often, we just launched it with the hope of getting community feedback to advise the future direction.
Some ideas to improve the map plugin are:
- Add keyboard navigation to the search results
- Local browser caching to improve performance
- Automatic location detection and map refocusing
Our tech team is hard at work supporting your efforts and making technology work for the community. We hope you like our work so far and we look forward to bringing you more cool things in the future!
A few weeks ago, Stephen Anderson wrote a piece entitled “29 Things I, as a designer, wish more tech startups knew.” It is a bold contribution to a greater discussion of building better startups.
I’m David Pierce, one of the developers at Startup Weekend, and I love studying developer teams in young companies and seeing what we can learn about building better companies. Like Stephen, I’ve taken my own experiences and conversations with other developers and listed a few thoughts on what entrepreneurs should know about developers as they look to create successful companies together.
- Know how developers work: There are some common elements of a work environment that make developers feel productive. Unfortunately, ignorance here can leave sour relationships between entrepreneurs and their developer teams. Get to know your developer and how they like to work just as you would with another employee on a small team. If you work to make sure you are speaking the same language, the developer-entrepreneur relationship can be a glorious thing! The next few points are some clarifications about how a lot of developers think and work that should be helpful.
- We like specifics: I get that startups are agile and flexible. In fact, developers have been talking about being agile as a development methodology for a long time. And yet, a developer will often push for specifics at the beginning of a project. Confusion here might paint developers as inflexible creatures. The reality is, developers know what they’re up against; computers are actually not that intelligent and it is up to the programmer to tell it *exactly* what to do. This means your requests should be well-defined so the developer can translate it into something the computer understands.
- Good code takes time: Even experienced developers encounter problems that they have never seen before and often have to research or invent new ways to solve. Try doing an Internet search for “code estimation techniques” and you’ll see that this is a pretty complicated field. Think back to the last time you heard someone say “Hey, I need you to build me a such-and-such widget. It should only take a couple hours.” The developer might be very impressed with how quickly they’ve surpassed the estimation skills of all professional programmers, but it’s more likely that that person will become slightly less popular among the development team.
- “Just code it right the first time” rarely exists: Design and architecture is hard when you don’t know everything about a problem at the beginning of a project. Programming, like startups, is a process of building, testing, learning, and refining, and every version of a piece of software has room for improvement. A good developer will know the right questions to ask about a problem, so be sure to provide as much information as you can.
- Lines of code per hour is not a real metric of success: Historically, non-developers have had a hard time figuring out how to measure developer success. I haven’t heard of this happening in a long time, but developers are sometimes evaluated by the amount of code they write. More code isn’t necessarily better code. You will need to spend more time learning how to evaluate your developers.
- Productivity doesn’t always happen between 9 and 5: Developers can have a reputation for always coming in late and for staying up in the late hours of the night to code. This time frame is special because it tends to be free of distractions and meetings. Developers have an easier time hitting a stride and producing quality software. Moreover, there are lots of great stories about developers that come up with great solutions while cutting the grass or taking a shower. Given the opportunity, your developers will know how find the right environment to produce their best work
- Have some basic technical literacy: My college finance professor wisely told me I should know how to read a balance sheet even if I never planned on becoming a CFO or an accountant. It is important for developers to understand the basic terminology about the business domain in which their company operates. The same holds true for entrepreneurs. Make the effort to learn something about your technology stack. Not only does this show your developers you care about what they’re doing, it also means you can spend less time in meetings going over definitions and more time keeping the meeting short, tight, and effective.
- Understand technical debt: The simplest way to approach technical debt is to understand that poor technical decisions always have a cost. Spending a little more time today to make the right technical decision will save your developers a significant amount of time paying back that technical debt later. One of the biggest contributors to technical debt that I see is sacrificing quality for velocity. Your developers want to ship code as fast as you do; trust me, it is a good feeling seeing your code go out into the wild. Still, if your developers are sensing the quality of the product slipping and are asking to slow down, it is likely because they see technical debt and bugs creeping into the system. Technical debt can be hard to see when your company is brand new since the scale is small enough for the debt to be painless. Just know you could be accumulating debts and you will have to pay it off later.
- Understand the business value of refactoring and documentation: Next to testing, refactoring code is one of the most important things your developers will do that you will likely never see. Developers need time to go back and re-organize the code they wrote. They’ve often learned more about the problem by the time the first iteration of a product goes out, and may have also left TODOs and “clean this code up later” notes throughout the codebase. If you are asking your developers for a high velocity, you should reward them with at least a week to go back and tighten up the system.
- Trust Your Developers: If you do have developers in your new startup, learn to trust them as a resource for counsel and advice. You likely hired them because they are smart and have more technical expertise. It is still surprisingly common that entrepreneurs will approach a developer with a pre-planned solution to solve the problem. It is entirely likely your developer has ideas for an alternate solution and might even know a better way to solve a problem.
Be careful to avoid making your development team feel like “code monkeys.” After all, they’re as invested in the success of your startup as you are. More often than not, your developers spent a lot of time and education honing their craft and learning how to solve problems with logic and passion. Try empowering your developers to be a part of your business and leverage the skills they bring.
I’m sure I could spend so much more time writing about building a good developer team. The craft of modern programming has only existed within the span of one human lifetime. Whether in a large corporation or a tiny startup, there is still so much to learn.
I’d recommend reading through Coders at Work if you’re interested in learning more about the history of the profession of programming and the history behind the professionals learning how to define their field.