Introducing Startup Weekend's Updated Judging Criteria!

At Startup Weekend, we’re proud of the success that we’ve seen from our existing event model, but we also strive to find areas of improvement — and we always seek the direction and feedback of our community when we implement any changes. In order to keep the lines of communication open and address the needs of everyone involved in making our events a success, we’d like to invite you to take a look at our new judging criteria and send your thoughts our way.

One of our primary goals is to ensure that we not only draw a dynamic range of participants  (Developers, Designers, and Business), but also to make sure that they are supported and encouraged throughout the weekend, regardless of their skill set or background.  We believe that a more balanced judging criteria will also highlight the technical, non-tech, and design aspects that are critical to a successful, dynamic team.  After testing the new criteria out at several events this year, we’re confident it will boost the overall impact of events and help to better guide teams as they consider the different areas they should be focusing on in the hectic 54-hour time frame.

The new criteria is split into four parts:

  1. Business Model
    Can this idea make money? Is there positive customer growth or revenue? Is there a customer acquisition / rollout strategy? Has a revenue model been defined and is it realistic? Is the idea/team ready for capital and execution? Would you invest in this company at this point?
  2. Customer Validation
    Did the team identify customers (demographic, location etc)? Did the team get out and talk to customers? What is the value proposition to customers? What channels of communication are used? Product/Market fit?
  3. Technical – Execution
    Is there a functional product (e.g.in the case of an app, did they build one)? Were architecture diagrams and API signatures included? Which services did they integrate with? How much of the product is running on a real server with non-sample data?
  4. Design – Execution
    Does it have a professional look and feel? Does it deliver a compelling and captivating user experience? Is it memorable? What key insights were gathered over the weekend to go in this creative direction?

As always, we welcome your feedback. Please feel free to leave us a comment or email us at support@startupweekend.org with any feedback, questions, or concerns.

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Keys For Founders: Tweetable Knowledge Nuggets About Customer Development

Customer development, launch, and early stages

Anderson: “Hone in on passionate niches of early adopters.” Tweet2

Conley: “Start small to catch mistakes fast and save money.” Tweet2

Free: “The only way to test the market is to actually test the market.” Tweet2

Gansky: “Set aside time to fully understand your business before launch.” Tweet2

Gittins: “Look for three assumptions to validate.” Tweet2

Green: “For cause-based organizations, motivate people by creating relationships with them and leading
by example.” Tweet2

Hoffman: “To get a head start, launch an idea before it sounds like an obvious solution.” Tweet2

Massoumi: “Start by understanding your end user.” Tweet2

Ressi: “Put as little money into an early company as possible, until you’re sure it can survive on its own.” Tweet2

Stewart: “Look for data to make predictions, then listen to feedback from the customer.” Tweet2

Jay Walker, founder of Walker Digital and Priceline: “Don’t only talk to people who are your target
customers, but other people, too – they may have unique insights.” Tweet2

 

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Biking Billboards: A Mother-Son Business

The following is a guest post from Startup Weekend Organizer and Associate Jace Lieberman. Jace and his mother, Andrea Lieberman, co-founded Biking Billboards together. 

In August of 2010, I started my first company as a junior in high school, called Biking Billboards. As a 16-year old kid, I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I knew I saw an opportunity, and I wanted to make something of it. Three years later, Biking Billboards is a major player in the advertising market in Seattle, and our reach extends to Portland, Park City and Austin. This experiment that interested me in 2010 was made a reality because of 2 things: myself, and my mother Andrea.

Biking Billboards started because my mom, Andrea Lieberman, needed to advertise for The Verdeaux, a condominium unit in the area, and was having trouble accessing her target market. One day, while driving by a local concert series, my mom rolled down her window and almost yelled, “Check out the Verdeaux Condos!” Of course my mother yelling from her car about these condos didn’t seem to be the most effective way to get the attention of these people. Our efforts to hire pedi-cab drivers to advertise hadn’t worked, so I proposed my own services. I built an A-frame sign out of plywood, cut apart our old Burley trailer, and mounted my homemade creation, complete with Verdeaux posters on either side.

What happened next was what inspired the start of our company. As I towed my makeshift design down the street, people commented and exclaimed how cool of a technique this bicycle advertising was. I must have gotten 15 people asking me how they could advertise on the back of my bike. We formed an LLC, and Biking Billboards was born.

Working on a company with my mother has been an interesting experience. Initially, I was afraid that the mother-son dynamic would take away from the legitimacy of our mission, but that proved to be the opposite: people were intrigued by what we were doing, and the family business turned out to be a talking point with new clients.

As we continued growing, Andrea and I shared the selling process and I recruited my friends to ride with me, even through Seattle’s cold winter months (which consists of 65% of the year). During this time, we developed our secret sauce: the Brand Ambassador. Our riders were a human extension of our clients; we could be their brand and directly interact with their customers. Through this process of discovery, we were able to solidify our own brand, and grow more effectively as a company. As I moved into my senior year and college applications, my mom took a firmer grasp of the reins and kept the momentum and energy behind the company, allowing me to focus.

This past year I’ve had the opportunity to take a gap year before attending university. I spent the fall working at Techstars Seattle, a local tech accelerator program, then moved onto Startup Weekend when the Techstars session wrapped up. I’ve gotten to live, learn, watch, and even help instruct some of the startups I’ve been around. I’ve seen over a hundred of companies start, dozens of companies fail, and several succeed big time (relatively). This experience has given me some perspective that I’m able to bring back to Biking Billboards, and implement some of what I’ve seen into our growth strategy.

Startup Weekend’s mission is to democratize entrepreneurship, by making the process, the tools and resources, and the network abundantly available in every community. I’ve been so inspired by this movement that I brought my mom to an event last fall, where she got to go through the motions of starting a company again, but with a new context, a new team, and a new idea. While working in one place, you can get caught up in details that can limit your view of the larger goal. At a Startup Weekend, even serial entrepreneurs with a lot of experience can learn and benefit from a new start.

Starting a company is an exciting venture that really ANYONE can do. It takes a team: people who work well together, an idea: something that has market validation, and a common motivation to make it happen. I’m proud to have started a company with my mom, who continues to push it forward and include me in the process. Happy Mothers’ Day!

 

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May 6-10 Encouraging Female Entrepreneurs, Contests, And More

This week at Startup Weekend, we have thought leadership about our first 100% women Startup Weekend event and some contest opportunities to share.

Encouraging Female Entrepreneurs: One Event’s Unique Approach— Huffington Post

On April 18-20, Startup Weekend held its first 100% women Startup Weekend event with all women participants, coaches, organizers, and facilitators. In the Huffington Post, facilitator  Marion Desmazières  discusses some of the issues the team explored while preparing the event: was segregation the right move and would women be drawn to it? She also writes of the results and impact the event had on the women. To read more, click on this link for the article. 

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Competitions for Startup Entrepreneurs:

This week, we tweeted about a number of upcoming competitions and events that are excellent opportunities for entrepreneurs:

We Own It Summit, London, UK: A summit of leaders to explore women’s participation in high-growth businesses and identify solutions to move us forward. Event takes place from June 27th to 28th.

White House Champions of Change, Washington D.C.: Now taking applications for outstanding immigrant inventors and entrepreneurs to be honored at the White House. Nomination deadline: May 12th,

SXSW 2013 V2Venture, Las Vegas, NV: Two-day pitch event helping participants polish their elevator pitches, build brand awareness, and receive media exposire. Application deadline: May 31st. Event takes place from April 13th to 14th.

We’re Hiring:

Startup Weekend is currently hiring for a world-class Lead Designer and Web Developer. Want to apply or let someone else know about the opportunity? Please visit us on our jobs page.








SXSW 2013 V2Venture Now Accepting Applications

SXSW is excited to announce its 2013 V2Venture pitch event showcasing emerging technology products and services.

The two-day SXSW V2Venture pitch event takes place August 13 and 14 at The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas, NV. As a part of the event, participants work on improving their product launch, attracting venture capitalists, and polishing their elevator pitch. At the event, participants will receive media exposure, build brand awareness, network, socialize, and experience all that SXSW V2V has to offer.

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All SXSW V2Venture 2013 applications must fall within one of the following categories:

Education Technologies

The Education Technology category highlights applications and technologies designed to make all forms of education more accessible to a wider range of people, and bring students and teachers closer together.

Health Technologies

The Health Technologies category focuses on patient-centric health applications and technologies that connect patients, families, physicians, pharmacists, care providers (hospitals, clinics), and benefit providers to share timely, relevant health data, and drive better outcomes at affordable and sustainable cost levels.

Mobile and Tablet Technologies

The Mobile and Tablet Technologies category encompasses mobile applications and technologies which allow users to connect by portable devices such as tablets, phones, and other connected devices.

Culture and Entertainment Technologies

The Culture and Entertainment category includes applications and technologies for music, gaming, film, television, and digital storytelling, as well as new and hybrid forms of entertainment that are reinventing the ways in which we relax, unwind, and have fun. This category could also contain technologies that focus on other cultural sectors, such as sports, fashion and food, as they pertain to entertainment.

Innovative World Technologies

The Innovative World Technologies category includes applications and technologies that have the ambition to change the world as we know it. Right now we’re seeing lots of innovation in green tech, real-time search, augmented reality, the World Wide Web, artificial intelligence and the Semantic Web, recommendations technologies, personalization technologies, and “big data”.

The deadline to register is Friday, May 31st. Visit the V2Venture website to find out more and apply today!








Journey To The First Startup Weekend Assiut

The following is a guest post from Fatma Muhammad Ali, the lead organizer of the first Startup Weekend Assiut in March 2013.

The story started at a time I was so far from entrepreneurship community (July 2012). All I knew about it was its definition.

Many obstacles were facing this event starting from finding the right organizer team, to finding sponsors who hold the development of Upper Egypt on their interest list. Also, the culture of Upper Egypt itself was an obstacle, which I ‘m glad to contribute in affecting positively. I’ve done this by spreading the concept of entrepreneurship, tech startups, and attending such events cultures. It was also a challenge to encourage hesitant firms to invest in Upper Egypt and encourage reluctant participants who couldn’t yet see the investment nor could see themselves as entrepreneur.

I had to think out of the box! I was learning any thing I could get my hands on could help with organizing the event whilst I was searching for other passionate volunteers to form my main organizers team. As for event sponsorship, the budget was reduced to be as lean as possible and most of sponsorships were made as contributions rather than cash.

But still the participants outreach was the main problem. Because of the unique culture of UE, social media did not have that effect we could depend on. Old fashioned, direct marketing was still preferable. That doesn’t mean that people in UE don’t react with social media but for some reason, their reaction with social media doesn’t express their real reaction and doesn’t have the same impact on marketing as in cosmopolitan cities.

Startup Weekend Assiut was the first event of its kind in the whole region.That’s why I was keen on bringing this chance to people who really deserve it.

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Again, I had to think out of the box. This event’s target was and will remain entrepreneurs in UE with all their religious, ethnic, political, and age preferences. So the direct marketing campaign went to them in their territories targeting universities, schools, churches, mosques, and even local associations.

I’ve gained much experience, learned so many lessons: believe in yourself to allow others to believe in you, nothing is impossible and it’s never too late.

This is an ode to the unexpected great success of the event and I hope the next event will be as successful!

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April 29-May 3: Your Thoughts On Startups And Corporations And Other News

This week at Startup Weekend, we had an ask for our community: to give us your feedback on the relationship between U.S. corporations and startups. We also have an update on Startup Weekend alumni Freak’n Genius and thought leadership on education reform.

Are U.S. Corporations Supportive Of Startups? Weigh In On The Discussion.

Startup Weekend needs your input! We are compiling case studies and survey results about startups and their relationships with corporations.  Has your startup received support from a corporation (financial, mentorship, other)? Was your startup acquired by a corporation? Do you think corporations should be doing more for startups?

This is your chance to offer your unique perspective on these questions and more. Your feedback will become a critical part of a national study that highlights the corporations that are actively supporting entrepreneurship.  We need your input to balance the discussion and better incorporate the voice of the entrepreneur.

Your perspective will shed light on these relationships — on what is working and what needs to be done to better support startups.  Please take the quick survey here.

Freak’n Genius Launches New Mobile App YAKiT

This Wednesday, Startup Weekend alumna Freakn’ Genius launched their newest mobile app YAKiT. The video texting app opened to excellent reviews in the Apple app store.

YAKiT allows users to bring photos to life in seconds by putting words into the mouth of anyone or anything. They create hilarious animated video-messages that deliver more satisfying and engaging conversations than texting or emojis. Congratulations to the Freakn’ Genius team!

Download YAKIT in the iTunes store herelearn more about Freakn’ Genius on their website or read our blog post here.

Creating a Legacy of Passion-Driven Education — Huffington Post

This week, Startup Weekend’s Culture Manager and Facilitator Demi Wetzel wrote about education reform and going beyond the classroom. Wetzel highlights the different areas beyond the classroom to support a passion-driven education: leveling the playing field with open-source tools, learning by doing in your own community, and building the curriculum of the future. To learn more, read this article here. 

Google For Entrepreneurs Teams Up with Startup Weekend’s NEXT

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On April 17, we announced Google for Entrepreneur’s newest partnership with NEXT, Startup Weekend’s 5-week long program based on Steve Blank’s Customer Discovery. Thanks to this new partnership, we are excited to use Google+ hangouts to train instructors, expand course offerings, and instruct entrepreneurs on how to launch their business. Find out when the NEXT program is near you is and register today. 

 We’re Hiring!

Startup Weekend is looking for talented, passionate community leaders! We’re hiring for a Lead Designer, Web Developer, Regional Manager, and Regional Manager- Middle East/North Africa. Find out more by visiting our careers page. 








From 54 Hours to 60 Employees

The following is a guest post from Startup Weekend Organizer and Facilitator Çelik Nimani about Math 4 Kids, a Startup Weekend team from Prishtina, Kosovo.  Co Founders Blerta Thaçi, Agon Avdimetaj, Esat Pllana and Dorjan Berishaj were recently accepted into the ICK pre-accelerator in Kosovo after applying in the second round of the public call for business ideas. 

They used to be shy, dressed with shirts and jeans and very stressed when pitching for the first time on May 25, 2012 in Prishtina, Kosovo to a crowd of total strangers. They were tackling the educational problem of learning mathematics, with a new mobile application aimed at kids aging from 6-9 years old- obviously the name was Math 4 Kids.

When voting finished and their idea went through, they immediately started working in developing the app, as hardworking geeks/engineers they were. Blerta, Doruntina, Driton, Agon and Esat were co-founding the basis of a startup that the next year would bring to life two other companies, hiring more than 60 employees. With the support of mentors and with their hard commitment, they received the third place at the second edition of Startup Weekend Prishtina, while they agreed that they don’t want to stop but continue their journey onto the business incubator of Innovation Centre Kosovo, the main supporter of Startup Weekend Prishtina. There they developed prototype after prototype, tested and validated, while being so sunk deep into the waters of entrepreneurship registering their first business, Eduapps and brining to life to other companies: Appsix and Netsix. While working on brining educational applications to the market, those youngsters, still students of computer sciences, were making an impact onto the economy of their country, whilst setting the first example in the country how a total strangers made it from 54 hours to entrepreneurs.

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A week ago they expanded to the point where the business incubator had no place for them, since they were becoming so big and impossible to keep in a small office. They had launched more than 5 applications with their new business, a game based on a national hero Skenderbeu (Skenderman), which won the AppCamp Kosovo competition, a bank app enlisting information and services from local banks or an app giving the kids a joy beyond the classical way of learning math. And they were hiring more than 60 engineers and developers.

Now, months later, they are wearing ties, have kick-ass sales skills, are fearless when facing the audience and they run three companies, which they love calling startups and through which they are setting-up an example to their friends. They are on all TV channels, all local print and online media, they are the starts of their generation.

“Math 4 Kids” is a true Startup Weekend success story from a small country like Kosovo that is now hungered to tackle the international market with their services/products. I would call them heroes of their young generation, facing an economy of more than 40 percent unemployment. One thing I still love hearing form them “Startup Weekend changed our lives and we have responsibility to inspire others”

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SW Alumnus Freak'n Genius Launches YAKiT Today!

Congratulations to Startup Weekend and NEXT alumni Freak’n Genius on the official launch of YAKiT — Available today in the iTunes store

Startup Weekend is excited to announce that SW alumni Freak’n Genius is launching YAKiT, their first mobile app, today. YAKiT is a quick, simple, and fun tool for creating short video messages that bring hilarity, laughter, and creativity to any conversation.

Freak’n Genius was formed in 2011 at Startup Weekend Seattle after the team worked together on a cartoon about a man and his talking tapeworm. After the team was announced the winner, their brains started spinning with possibilities.

From there, the Freak’n Genius team was accepted into NEXT, a three-week curriculum powered by Startup Weekend and based on Steve Blank’s Customer Discovery process.

At NEXT, the team met mentors who introduced them to Techstars’ Microsoft Kinect Accelerator program. After graduating the Microsoft program, the team pitched to a room full of investors and received an acquisition offer. They turned it down in order to maintain their own vision and a few weeks later, closed a $500k round of seed funding from a series of angel investors.

 

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The team headed back to the streets where they spent almost a hundred hours conducting customer discovery and validation, which then turned into the concept of YAKiT.

“Between Startup Weekend and SW NEXT, we have been provided an abundance of resources, new opportunities, rapid learnings and failures, but most importantly, the right people to take the big risks with, ” Freak’n Genius Founder and CEO Kyle Kesterson said. “I knew by the end of the first weekend that I found a couple of co-founders that proved they could buckle down to execute, learn and navigate while being met with uncertainty, stress, and confusion.”

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YAKiT allows users to bring photos to life in seconds by putting words into the mouth of anyone or anything. They create hilarious animated video-messages that deliver more satisfying and engaging conversations than texting or emojis.

Users can choose photos from their camera library, or search online or via Facebook directly within the app to find the perfect picture. They can also take a picture with the built-in camera. Once they have selected a picture, the user will be guided to highlight the mouth, then record a short message. Before sending it off to a friend, they can adjust the pitch of the audio to really give their video that LOL factor – making Justin Bieber actually sound like a man or your BFF sound like a chipmunk.

Freak’n Genius is currently the leading company of the Washington Interactive Network’s new REACTOR Accelerator. Their idea has evolved from interactive tapeworm cartoons to performance-based animation with the Kinect to a robust web platform and mobile app for animated video messaging, all while executing on the core vision of helping connect people and remove barriers to creativity, communication, and fun.

Download YAKIT in the iTunes store here and learn more about Freakn’ Genius on their website.








It's Never Been a Better Time To Be An Entrepreneur

The following is a guest post from Startup Weekend alumnus Hakon Verespej. This was originally published on his blog.

I get many opportunities to talk with pre-entrepreneurs who are at various stages of exploration, from “I saw the Facebook movie” to “my side project is generating revenue”. Something that comes up frequently in these conversations is “why entrepreneurship?” This is a very broad topic with myriad reasons behind it, and each answer is unique to the individual. However, I recently noticed that regardless of who I’m speaking with, one consistency across conversations has been commentary on why it has never been a better time to be an entrepreneur. I’m not the first person to say this and it would be a terribly depressing indication of the state of entrepreneurship if I were the last. Whatever the case, the key areas I tend to elucidate on include entrepreneurial education, startup accelerators, modern technology, channels to consumers, availability of funding, startup hubs and supportive communities, and social acceptance. Below is a brief outline of how these play into this being the best time in history to be an entrepreneur.

Education
Over the past 10-15 years, our understanding of what goes into starting a successful business has rapidly expanded. Although our collective knowledge about this topic has emerged through several decades of academic research and practical experience, it was largely Steve Blank’s 2005 book, Four Steps to the Epiphany, that opened the concepts up to the masses. His teaching led to the Lean Startup movement, which was propelled by anecdotal publications like The Lean StartupRunning Lean, and many others that followed. With the momentous spread of his teaching, Steve Blank later cleaned up the presentation of his material in The Startup Owner’s Manual, which is essentially the text book on how to build a startup. All of this activity resulted in a strong base of easily-accessible knowledge on how to start and build a successful company. This is not to say that the Lean approach, which has largely been the focus of the past 8 years, is the only way to create a startup, or even the right way, but that we have made tremendous progress in the codification and sharing of information on this topic.

In conjunction with the development of knowledge around entrepreneurship, educational institutions have created curricula that is better suited for training entrepreneurs. Stanford, in particular, has been a leader in redefining how entrepreneurship is taught at universities. We have also seen the emergence of fantastic new programs like SWNext, which was enabled by Startup Weekend’s unique position in the market and collaboration with amazing local facilitators around the world.

It probably goes without saying, but we have also accumulated a wealth of online resources, many of which are freely available to anyone with Internet access. There are numerous websites and blogs dedicated to educating entrepreneurs in areas as diverse as lawfinancetechnologycustomer acquisition, and nearly any other topic one could ask for. Stanford has even started offering courses in entrepreneurship and related topics online and other academic institutions have followed suit. The vehicles for these online offerings are usually online education platforms such as Udemy and Coursera, which also host a multitude of other courses in entrepreneurship and technology.

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Accelerators
With many thanks to Paul Graham, a fairly stable format for offering entrepreneurial training and startup acceleration has taken shape over the last 8 years. A more hands-on and rigorous complement to other educational resources, the 3-month bootcamp model he pioneered has become the de facto standard. Today, Paul’s own YCombinator remains a top program along with TechstarsAngelPad, and 500 Startups. Many believe that for entrepreneurs, these programs are far superior to traditional MBA programs, particularly in light of the time required, the financial burden, and the lack of practical work involved in traditional programs. There is even a diversity of technology-, vertical-, and market-specific accelerators in most regions of the United States as well as internationally, but since many of these are newer, it remains to be seen how successful they are. In the meantime, I haven’t met anyone who has regretted the experience of going through the fore-mentioned programs, so I feel like they’re a pretty solid bet.

Modern Technology
Anyone up to speed on modern software practices is likely to be familiar with the availability of modern tools and will agree that it’s unbelievably easy to quickly get a live web service up and running. Services like those offered byHerokuAppFog, and AppHarbor extricate us from the nuisance of purchasing and deploying hardware, configuring infrastructure, complex deployment processes, etc. Now, we can simply code up our control logic on a framework like Ruby on Rails or Code Igniter, add a rich presentation layer using Bootstrap, and deploy via Git, all while collaborating and preserving the codebase using Github.

Don’t know how to code? It doesn’t matter anymore. There are a million services out there that don’t require any experience writing software. You can create a sign-up page using Launch Rock, a store front using Shopify, and pretty much anything else you can think of. One limitation that stands out is the creation of mobile apps due to app store policies, but mobile web is unrestricted, so it’s easy enough to create a mobile-optimized website instead of a native app.

For those more technically inclined, the world of open source has grown at an explosive rate, thanks to public code hosting services like Github and CodePlex. It’s easy to nab code for nearly any flavor of indexing, caching, load balancing, data processing, and so much more. There is some unbelievable stuff freely available because developers want to share their work and allow others to benefit from it. There’s an API for almost everything from payment processing to mobile backend as a service. Most of these services have a free offering for minimal levels of consumption.

Don’t get me wrong – the solid engineering required to build a robust product takes great skill. But there are so many tools available that most of us can get much farther, much faster, and with much less domain-specific knowledge than ever before.

And let’s not forget about physical products, which have largely been back-of-mind since the tech boom in the 90’s. Just like web services, physical products are getting easier to create as well. For $25, you can buy a pocket-sized Linux server (Raspberry Pi) or easy-to-program microcontroller (Arduino). You can create physical objects in hours or even minutes using 3D printers like those sold by MakerBot. Too expensive? Head over to one of the many local shared spaces opening up like Seattle’s MakerHaus. What these machines are capable of vastly reshapes the limits of our creativity.

Channels to Consumers
What difference do all these technological innovations make if we can’t reach consumers? The whole world is familiar with social media tools like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and others that make it easier to build a following and distribute content. We also have channels like eBay and Amazon.com to get our products in front of existing, active consumers. For our web services and apps, we have app stores on every mobile platform and at least one store for browser extensions, Google’s Chrome Web Store. To access new customers, we can get substantial reach using Google’s Ad Words or Facebook Advertising. The best part about modern online advertising is that every platform I’m aware of allows us to target specific user profiles so we get our message in front of the particular audience we’re targeting.

Aside from marketing and sales, these tools can be used to validate our ideas against our target customer segments. When we put out an ad and no one clicks through, or no one converts into a paying customer, there’s a good chance something was broken about our business model, whether the customer segment we were targeting, the value prop we were offering, or something else.

The ability to reach people for the purpose of market validation is worth elaborating on. There are a plethora of tools like Mechanical Turkaytm, and Google Consumer Surveys that help you get copious amounts of feedback more quickly and at a lower price point than traditional means. Of course, it’s also good to jump on services like LinkedIn and WhitePages to drum up direct leads. We don’t want to get lost in the technological wonderland that surrounds us and forget the importance of sending email, making phone calls, and hitting the streets for in-person conversations with customers.

Availability of Funding
Immense change has occurred in the past few years around financing for startups. Naturally, angels, angel groups, and VC firms are still around, but we’ve also seen the rise of super angels. Likewise, alternative sources of funding are available such as the revenue-based loans offered by Lighter Capital and crowd-funding platforms like Kickstarter. Just like there are new ways to reach consumers, there are new ways to reach investors. Angel List facilitates entrepreneurs’ abilities to connect with angel investors to raise financing.

A new development worth keeping an eye on is the passing of the JOBS act last year. While we’re still waiting for the act to be implemented by government, numerous companies like Fundable aren’t waiting. You can put your startup’s profile on their platform today. We can expect many anticipated and unanticipated challenges in this area, but I am eager to see how it shakes up the world of entrepreneurship over the next two years and beyond.

Startup Hubs and Supportive Communities
Startup hubs are growing organically in nearly every major city in the world. Most of these hubs have champions who are deliberately driving the growth of the tech and startup communities within them. Outside of Silicon Valley, cities like Seattle, New York, Boston, Austin, Colorado, and Chicago have thriving communities of entrepreneurs and the resources needed to support them. Each of these cities has accelerator programs, great universities producing tech and talent, and extensive availability startup-oriented services.

I can’t speak in depth about other startup communities, but Seattle’s is extremely supportive. Community members want you to win and most are willing to lend a hand in one way or another to see that you get there. While there is competition among the companies here, the general consensus is that success in our community is a benefit to all of us.

Social Acceptance
Entrepreneurship may not have been widely accepted as a productive career path prior to the 90’s and it may have had some bad stigma after the eruption of the Internet bubble in the early 2000’s, but from day-to-day conversations I’m having today, I’m finding that people living completely outside the startup orb have some familiarity with and appreciation of entrepreneurship and those pursuing it. Of course, most people don’t understand the mindset of an entrepreneur or what an entrepreneur goes through to build their business, but fortunately, our supportive startup communities help us to cope with the emotional challenges of entrepreneurship.

So, What Are You Waiting For?
Hopefully this has provided some valuable food for thought. For those who are on the edge of exploring entrepreneurship, I strongly encourage further exploration. Talk with friends working at startups, try going to Startup Weekend, or get involved in the startup community in some other way. If you’re ready to take it a step further, go work for a startup. And if you’ve done your homework, have the right risk profile, and are ready for an amazing roller coaster ride, go for it! It’s never been a better time to be an entrepreneur.