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The following is a guest post by Victoria Schramm, who runs Special Events for Startup Weekend. 

Picture this: you’re a regular vacationer, sitting on a private beach in Rio de Janeiro soaking up the sun, sipping on a coconut and enjoying your lovely vacation. The waves are calm, the sun is beginning to set, and the loudest noise you can hear is a bird chirping in the distance. You’re just about to drift into a midday doze when, all of a sudden, 200 people come storming down the stairs, wearing identical blue t-shirts, sporting sweatbands, banadanas, and matching flip- flops … Welcome to SOSummit 2013!


The Startup Weekend community has an immense amount of luck and I might have used it all up during SOSummit. We gambled a lot with SOSummit – we’d never seen the hotel before we arrived four days before kickoff, we hadn’t seen any of the venues, we were ordering a bunch of swag from Brazil and had no clue when it would arrive, and we had a lot of stuff coming through customs. Not to mention, we’d never met a single staff member we’d be working with, or any of the attendees, for that matter! We used up all of the luck: The hotel was gorgeous, the staff was incredible, everything arrived on-time, nothing was lost, everyone had a bed to sleep in, the weather was good (for the most part) and no one lost anything or got hurt.

As the theme of this year’s SOSummit was “The Journey,” I will share mine. My journey revolves around the people I interacted with in Rio. There are so many moving pieces to an event that it’s tough to not get stressed or feel isolated when you’re behind the scenes, especially in a foreign country. Although I only met these people a few weeks ago, they moved me and contributed to my experience in Rio.

Gustavo Martins, group director at the Sheraton, used to live in San Francisco and worked as a cab driver. He appreciated the Ghiradelli chocolates I brought him as they reminded him of a previous chapter of life. He met his wife in Boston and moved back to Rio with her and their two daughters. Gustavo’s ability to move quickly and work with me when we had last-minute cancelations or last-minute roommate changes was game-changing. Anyone who has ever worked with hotels knows how complicated the logistics can be, and Gustavo made it incredibly easy.

Matto Fontaine, our Sketch Artist, was brought to us through Joana Picq at Papaya Ventures. While his sketches haven’t been released, I can tell you that you’re going to be impressed with that he’s put together for our SOSummit recap booklet. Matto is a big guy that gives great hugs; he and I swapped chocolates and a Rio statuette while I learned more about why a Frenchman ended up in Rio (he fell in love, of course!) and about his new baby.

Tereza Bandeira, the lovely lady behind all of the event coordination at the Sheraton, was my right hand. She helped me with every logistical aspect of the event, along with equally amazing Thais. We laughed a lot about the ridiculous parts of the event, like the rain/windstorm that struck the night of our outdoor dinner. All of the problems we encountered, we put up our fists and got through them together. I might also note that Tereza did this all while pregnant! 

Brittany Cane Yamamoto, an organizer in Rio, born in the Bay Area, helped us with all of the SOSummit t-shirts and other logistics of moving about Rio. It was such a pleasure getting to know Brittany – I loved returning the favor by bringing her husband’s running shoes on the plane with me from San Francisco and bringing her Ghiradelli chocolates.

Ana Luisa Santos brought us all of the local coconut water and the local cachaca. She was able to directly speak to the companies and coordinate all payments and shipping details. I consider Ana a new dear friend J She even brought me her favorite brigaderos chocolates to say goodbye before I left the hotel. They were the perfect airplane treat!

Lastly, a special shout out to everyone who helped make this event possible. Shane Reiser – our emcee. In my opinion, we’ll see Shane on stage emceeing the Oscars in a few years. The SW Core Team, especially Mitchell and John who came down to help me set up early. Liza Doppelt for partnering with us to provide TOMS sunglasses and teach us about the “one-for-one” model. Lastly all of our partners who made it possible: Amazon Web Services, Coca-Cola, Microsoft, .CO, Google, Domain.com, The Kauffman Foundation, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.


I could name every person who was there as part of my journey. You may think you were just a name on my master spreadsheet, but I enjoyed every email, Skype call, and hug from you all! I feel honored to have met you and learn about how you lead your communities. The common passion that we all share for Startup Weekend is something that I believe we brought to GEC and we will continue to inject into our world.

Startup Weekend is the best community I have ever worked with. Which is why I’m sticking around! If you have any suggestions or advice for special events in the future, feel free to reach out!

Let’s head back to the beach, but this time you’re an Organizer from a far away land – you’re tired from the ropes course activity and your clothes are wet from being tossed in the water by your new friends. It’s time to head up and change, re-energize, grab your swag from your last Startup Weekend event and head to carioca. Don’t be late…a night of samba with Carnival dancers and musicians awaits!

See you in 2014!


Have a story for the Startup Weekend blog? Send us an email at social@startupweekend.org!

Claire Topalian Claire Topalian
(@clairetopalian) Blog, Professional Writing, Communications and PR Specialist. I craft compelling, mission-driven content for companies and individuals that amplifies brand awareness, fosters community, and drives engagement. My experience includes work with tech startups, major corporations, and international non-profits. @clairetopalian