Empowering Entrepreneurs and Building Communities in Asia Pacific

As the Asia Pacific region is growing into a global center for innovation, there’s an increasing challenge of how to offer the best resources for new startup communities. Oko Davaasuren, Techstars Regional Director in APAC, and Anurag Maloo, Techstars Regional Manager in APAC, answer questions on how Techstars is working to help inspire entrepreneurs in the region.

Watch the whole AMA here.

What is your vision for Techstars and building communities in Asia Pacific?

For some of you who don’t have a larger view of Techstars, this question comes up a lot as I’m traveling to different countries.

Techstars has three distinct parts to it. The first part is our startup programs, which includes Startup Weekend, Startup Week, and Startup Digest. These give access, education, and exposure to the communities or ecosystems.

The second part is what Techstars is mainly known for, which is our mentorship-driven accelerator programs. We’re running about 29 of these accelerators all around the world.

The third part of the business is the venture arm, which invests in startups that mainly go through our accelerator program and maybe some outside. Those are the three main pillars of Techstars as an organization.

We are running startup programs in about 28 countries out of 50 plus in Asia Pacific. We are running about 500 programs, including the bootcamps and other editions of our startup programs. We’re seeing about 10-20 percent growth year-by-year.

With that said, although we run thousands of Startup Weekends around the world, there are a lot of people we haven’t reached. You hear people who have been touched by these programs and know the impact of these programs in their communities. These people know how awesome it is.

The mission here is, “how can we share this awesome experience with as many people as possible?” We literally get to change people’s lives.

In the simplest terms, we want to enable and empower individuals in communities all around the world.

We want to continue doing that, because there’s so much still to go, especially in Asia. Economic growth is here and it’s the frontier of everything. This is where people need access, power, and exposure more than anywhere else.

Besides that, we’re not just talking about the individual impact programs, but as a collective of accelerators and the investing arm, we’re trying to help ecosystems in Asia Pacific to grow so that the true values of Techstars are materialized.

Entrepreneurs should be everywhere. You should be able to build your startup wherever you are from or where ever you are. But in order for that to happen, your ecosystem needs to grow and have all the right elements to be able to provide the environment for people to do that.

With the collective, our goal is to basically make Asia Pacific better than Silicon Valley or become an iteration of Silicon Valley by finding the strength of ecosystems to help it grow.

We have a lot of work to do.

Are you ready to help your community learn, network, and startup? Organize a Startup Weekend event in your area today!








10 Countries. 10 Startup Weekend Communities. 10 Stories Across Borders.

We’re celebrating Techstars Startup Weekend’s 10th Birthday! On July 7th, 2007, the first Startup Weekend was held in Boulder, Colorado with 80 entrepreneurs. In 10 years, we’ve grown to:

  • 13,837 community leaders in 153+ countries
  • 4,531 Startup Weekend events
  • 363,000+ Startup Weekend attendees
  • 45,375 Teams
  • $410M+ in funding secured

Techstars Startup Weekend is now 10 years old, and we’re just getting started in the South & Central Asian region with 130+ India events since 2011, 50+ in South Asia (excluding India) & 20+ in Central Asia.

We’re also excited to announce that we will be bringing the first Startup Weekend events to Maldives and Uzbekistan in late 2017.

To celebrate the impact of our entrepreneurship programs with our worldwide community and teams around the world and I’m honoured to share with you my favorite stories and memories of building startup communities.

Thank you to everyone who has played a part in building this startup community and shaping this global entrepreneurship movement. Check out our Thank You video!

As an Indo-Asian startup innovation Community Architect, I am responsible for the cultivation and sustained growth of vibrant startup ecosystems in India, SAARC nations and Central Asian countries. I’m always excited to welcome thousands of new entrepreneurs every year through Techstars Startup Weekend, and honoured to have facilitated over 30 Startup Weekends across Asia.

  1. Startup Weekend India

The Startup Weekend India community includes over 20 States — SW Rajasthan, SW West Bengal, SW Kerala, SW Gujarat, SW Goa, SW Odisha, SW Delhi, SW Tamil Nadu, SW Manipur, SW Uttar Pradesh, SW Telangana, SW Karnataka, SW Punjab, SW Haryana, SW Uttarakhand, SW Andhra Pradesh, SW Telangana, SW Maharashtra, SW Jammu & Kashmir, SW Himachal Pradesh, etc.

1st Startup Weekend Noida (Uttar Pradesh)

  1. Startup Weekend Pakistan

Startup Weekend Lahore, Pakistan (March 2015) #SWLahore

  1. Startup Weekend Bangladesh

Startup Weekend Dhaka, Bangladesh (May 2017) #SWDhaka

Startup Weekend Dhaka (Nov 2015) #SWDhaka

  1. Startup Weekend Bhutan

#SWBhutan community from 1st, 2nd and 3rd Startup Weekend Bhutan in Thimphu (2016–17) #SWThimphu

  1. Startup Weekend Afghanistan

Building Afghan Entrepreneurship at first Startup Weekend Kabul, Afghanistan (March 2016) #SWKabul

  1. Startup Weekend Sri Lanka

4th Startup Weekend Sri Lanka in Negombo #SiliconBeach (May 2017) #SW Negombo

2nd Startup Weekend Sri Lanka in Colombo (Oct 2016) #SWColombo

First Startup Weekend Sri Lanka in Jaffna (June 2016) #SWJaffna

  1. Startup Weekend Nepal

9th Startup Weekend Kathmandu (Greenovation) in Nepal (Nov 2016) #SWKathmandu

  1. Startup Weekend Kazakhstan

Startup Weekend Astana in Kazakhstan (Oct 2016) #SWAstana

  1. Startup Weekend Tajikistan

First Startup Weekend Tajikistan in Dushanbe (Nov 2016) #SWDushanbe #SWTJ

  1. Startup Weekend ASEAN (10 Countries in One ASEAN)

Startup Weekend ASEAN 2015 was organised in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (video), where entrepreneurs from all over South-East Asia collaborated in Generation Startup Weekend, an effort by Techstars Startup Programs and its partners at MaGIC (Malaysian Govt.), YSEALI, and the U.S. State Department.

First of it’s kind — Techstars Startup Weekend ASEAN in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (Aug 2015) #SWASEAN

Startup Weekend is a global network of passionate leaders and entrepreneurs on a mission to inspire, educate, and empower individuals, teams and communities. Reach out to me if you’re interested to bring Techstars Startup Programs to your community!

One of my favourite Startup Weekend picture, kicking off the first SW SriLanka #HappyBirthdaySW

We want to say thank you again, from everyone at Techstars, for all the hard work and time that you give to support your entrepreneurial community!

This post was first originally published here at Anurag Maloo’s medium blog here. 








Techstars Code of Conduct Revisited

Last week was a watershed week, of sorts, for the VC industry in general. Several prominent VCs were revealed for inappropriate behavior relative to gender discrimination and general sexual harassment. It was not a proud moment in the VC and overall tech industry. Techstars cares, deeply, about people. Not just the people at Techstars and in our worldwide network, but about all people. We feel a responsibility as leaders to make sure that we do our best – and help others do their best – to provide safe, comfortable environments for people to grow and work within.

Techstars has been and remains firmly committed to the Code of Conduct that we first introduced in March of 2015. We drive Techstars forward based on our mission to be the worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed. This means helping each and every entrepreneur succeed no matter their race, gender, age, country of origin or any other attribute.

Every employee at Techstars is employed based on the promise to follow our Code of Conduct and we expect everyone in our network to follow it as well. Recent events have motivated us to renew our commitment to this code and improve our implementation and enforcement of it.

Some examples of new initiatives include:

  • If you are in our network, we are asking that you voluntarily sign our Code of Conduct, today. Going forward, we will require signing our Code of Conduct when you join our network.
  • For all VCs and Investors, we are inviting you, free of charge, to join us in committing to Emtrain’s Decency Pledge by taking a few hours of your time to get educated and informed on best practices on: Preventing Workplace Harassment, Managing Unconscious Bias, and Code of Conduct and Ethics.
  • To make sure that we are as informed as possible, we have added a submission form saysomething.techstars.com and an e-mail address saysomething@techstars.com  for people to use to report any violations they may have experienced or witnessed relating to our Code of Conduct. The form has the option for people to remain anonymous.
  • We are clarifying and improving our existing process of investigations of any issues reported to us.

Please help us continue to ensure that Techstars and the world is a safe, secure place for entrepreneurs to grow, learn and accelerate. We strive to give everyone the best advantage to succeed by #givefirst, acting with integrity and treating everyone with respect.

No one person or company can change the problems that have been revealed – but if we all work together for the good of the whole, we can make big change happen.








How Microsoft, Uber, Twitter and Google Came to Boulder

This post originally appeared on David Cohen's own blog at davidgcohen.com/

A thriving startup community provides a boost to the greater community in lots of ways. It encourages innovation and investment, attracts creative, entrepreneurial people, and generates a certain energy– making the entire city a more desirable place to live.

Additionally, when local startups are acquired by big companies, and those companies hire more people in the area, the result is more jobs, which boosts the local economy in a lot of new ways.

A great example of how big companies get here is Sketchup, a startup that my partner Mark Solon invested in back when it was a tiny company. Google acquired Sketchup in 2006 (yep, I was blogging about Colorado startups way back then), and we’ve had the footprint of Google’s presence in Boulder ever since then. Bolstered by the addition of around 1,500 jobs in Boulder, over the years that acquisition has significantly contributed to Boulder’s growth and housing boom.

Similarly, in 2011 Federated Media purchased Lijit (now Sovrn), leading to an increase in hiring at the Boulder office. And in 2014, Boulder startup Gnip was acquired by Twitter, leading to their large office here. By the way, even as I write this Twitter has 10 job openings in Boulder right now.

Microsoft brought an office to Boulder when it bought the startup Vexcel. Later, Uber opened up a Boulder office when it acquired some of the Bing assets and Microsoft continued to operate here.

There are plenty of other examples in Boulder alone. By my count, about 2,000 high paying, high tech, “big company” jobs in Boulder can be traced back to startups from the last decade. Not to mention the many thousands more jobs that are enabled by the current generation of startups today.

This is how an active startup community impacts the broader community, well beyond just the startup community itself. It impacts all aspects of the area, including real estate, retail and housing in major ways. Next time you find yourself wondering if startups really matter to a community, take a look at Boulder and ask yourself why Google and Twitter employ so many people here. Startups are responsible for most net new jobs in America. As big companies continue to cut back, we can continue to look to startups to create our future.

The purpose of Techstars’ Worldwide Entrepreneur Network is to help entrepreneurs succeed. Check out the impact of the Techstars’ network over the past 10 years.








A Message to the Techstars Worldwide Network

Techstars helps entrepreneurs succeed.

We are a worldwide organization with people in our ecosystem in nearly every country around the world. We are dedicated to inclusion and diversity. There is no bias in who we work with and where we work.

We are simply about helping entrepreneurs succeed and creating the best worldwide entrepreneurial network.

Techstars fully supports diverse peoples of all backgrounds, religions, and nationalities.

Yesterday, the United States made changes in immigration policies that could make many people feel insecure, unsure and concerned about their future in and around engaging with the United States. While we have no control over these policies, we want you to know that Techstars remains an open and inclusive global family. The best that we can do is make sure that we are of service to those in our network who need guidance and support.

If you are a founder, mentor, investor, community leader or partner within the Techstars ecosystem and have concerns that we can help address, please reach out to us at foreveryone@techstars.com and we will work directly with you on your concerns.








Community leader Spotlight: Mike Michalec, Bangkok (Thailand)

1.When did you get involved with Startup Weekend?

My very first exposure to the Startup Weekend community was way back in 2012 in Bangkok when I was working for a startup. Two of our team members were asked to mentor at Startup Weekend so I tagged along to see what all the hype was about and I’ve been hooked ever since contributing most recently the past few years as an organizer, facilitator, mentor, and judge.  

  1. What do you do when you are not wearing your Community Leader cape?

I’m a consultant in the international development sector so I’ve been fortunate enough to contribute to a lot of impactful social and economic development projects throughout the world that influence things like climate finance, education budgeting, literacy, disaster preparation, innovation, etc. Most of my work is for organizations like UNESCO, UNICEF, or USAID contractors but I also occasionally work for corporate clients. I don’t really have a lot of free time but when there is I like to get away from congested places and hike for as long as my legs will let me! There’s some great treks within our region like Chiang Dao in northern Thailand, Rinjani in Lombok, and pretty much anything in Nepal is awesome. I’m also a big fan of black and white photography and have a website with my work over the years, bwphotography.org

  1. What are your bold plans for the future of your community?

That’s the million dollar question! I think about this everyday and to be honest the plans are constantly being refined as the regional edtech ecosystem and community evolves. As we engage the community we’re always finding new ways to bring value to stakeholders and catalyze growth in the edtech sector either through events, capacity building, research, product, programs, data, etc. Startup Weekend definitely plays a big role in this as we’re keen to keep introducing new groups of people throughout the region to entrepreneurship with the intent to solve problems and improve education outcomes. There are so many unique opportunities to have positive impact by empowering others, creating employment, and transforming education, it’s an exciting time in Asia and we’re quite happy to be here helping to make some of these changes happen.  

Connect with Mike on LinkedIn or follow his endeavours on Facebook.

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Заврши уште еден Стартап Викенд Скопје

Со големо финале кое се одржа во петокот заврши петтиот Стартап Викенд Скопје. Овој пат, бизнис комплексот CoSeed беше домаќин на повеќе од 60 учесници, кои со помош на 20 локални и интернационални ментори ги развиваа своите стартап идеи. По петти пат Стартап Викенд Скопје беше место каде што се спојуваат млади креативни ентузијасти, дизајнери, програмери, економисти, маркетери, со една заедничка цел, да креираат своја стартап компанија за 54 часа.

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Во петокот беа презентирани 21 идеја, од кои по гласањето се формираа 12 тима. Саботата беше резервинрана за менторските сесии и подетално развивање на идеите. Тимовите добија совети околу маркетинг стратегија, креирање бизнис план, дизајнирање на апликации, но имаше време и за запознавање, одмор и заедничко дружење. Во неделата се работеше на последните подготовки за презентациите, дефинирање на идеите и најважниот дел, финалето. Тимовите ги презентираа своите идеи пред 5-членото жири, а ова се најуспешните од нив:

 

Третото место го освоија mono.mk, онлајн сервис кој ќе ви помогне да го решите парадоксот на изборот и ќе ви понудат еден продукт дневно по многу достапна цена. Совршена опција за неодлучни луѓе.

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Второто место им припадна на Slapp, апликација која на интересен начин ќе ви помогне да ја победите прокрастинацијата. Тие беа еден од тимовите кои ни презентираа и демо верзија.

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На #swskopje во Мај го освоија второто место со апликацијата NowPark.me, а овој пат првото место отиде во рацете на NCS, тим кои сакаат преку апликацијата VoiTEx да им помогнат на глувите и лицата со оштетен слух да воспостават телефонски повик.

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За најдобра презентација беше прогласен тимот Legend Squad, односно најмладиот тим чија идеја беше да направат Mindcraft сервер. Мораме да напоменеме дека овој тим беше едноставно awesome!

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StudieBuddies преку онлајн социјална платформа го решаваат проблемот со кој се соочуваат студентите кои не студираат во својот роден град и има за цел да ги поврзе оние кои имаат заеднички интерес, да учат заедно или пак да споделуваат материјали. WeLearn со апликацијата Буфко сакаат на младите деца од пред школска возраст да им овозможат забава и учење преку игри со кои можат да ја подобрат својата меморија. BusHelp имаат за цел да го решат проблемот со јавниот транспорт во Скопје. Идејата на FreshFridge е секогаш да имаме достапна здрава храна, а тоа ќе го решат преку достава до секој дом. ConDoma го решаваат проблемот што го имаат луѓето на каса кога купуваат производи кои им предизвикуваат срам и преку онлајн сервис овозможуваа дискретна достава до посакувана локација во брендиран пакет по избор. Идејата на StudentNinja е едукативна платформа која ги поврзува учениците, професорите и родителите и овозможува интерактивно учење. Тимот 1000 работеа на веб страна која ќе овозможува групно принтање. И за крај EBLApp, платформа каде што ќе може да го најдеш кредитот кој ти е потребен со пополнување на онлајн формулар што ќе проверува какви услуги нудат банките, со цел да можеме полесно да ја избереме онаа која најмногу ни одговара.

 

Со успешното завршување на Стартап Викенд Скопје уште еднаш се покажа дека во Македонија има многу креативни и вредни, млади луѓе, со квалитетни идеи кои можат да прераснат во успешни бизниси. Искуството со кое се збогатија учесниците на овој настан ќе им помогне при идните предизвици, а контактите кои ги стекнаа ќе им бидат од огромно значење при реализацијата на нивните идеи.

 Уште еднаш би сакале да се заблагодариме на сите кои ја поддржаа македонската стартап заедница преку нашиот настан:

Галеријата со слики од настанот можете да ја видите на фан страната на фејсбук, а твитовите што одеа за време на настанот ќе ги најдете на твитер под хаштагот #swskopje.

Следете нè и очекувајте го наредниот настан во 2016.

 








Getting comfortable being uncomfortable at Startup Weekend Iowa City 2015

Photo via Startup Weekend Iowa City on Facebook
Photo via Startup Weekend Iowa City on Facebook

Startup Weekend Iowa City 2015 is in the books!

We had 65 attendees, 6 half-baked ideas, 7 tasty local meals, 1 team fall apart and then fall back together, and 8 solid final pitches.

There were moments – like seeing a 12-year-old mock up an app or hearing the winning team share what Startup Weekend meant to them – that reminded us why we do this crazy event in the first place.

Plus, we were one of four Startup Weekends happening across Iowa in one weekend – with almost 300 people involved (including mentors, organizers and judges), 213 of those fully engaged in a hands-on learning experience, and 26 new business prototypes pitched on Sunday night. (Stats here)

Startup Weekend isn’t new in Iowa – it’s been in the Iowa City/Cedar Rapids Corridor since 2011, and in Des Moines before that – but connecting the state in this way, through a somewhat-separate but also shared experience, feels like it might be a game changer. (Having all of Startup Iowa on slack, so we can all chat in one place, helps too). Major shoutout to our fellow organizers in Ames, Cedar Valley and Sioux City.

We were especially glad to have participants, organizers and mentors from the Quad Cities join us in Downtown Iowa City. We now have stronger ties to one of our closest neighbor communities and a bunch of new friends. It was interesting to compare where our two startup communities are in their lifecycles, and to see how we could both learn from each other.

So what did we learn?

Getting comfortable being uncomfortable

Chris O, who planned to spend his weekend coding but ended up leading the winning team through customer discovery and business model exploration.
Chris O, who planned to spend his weekend coding but ended up leading the winning team through customer discovery and business model exploration.

Our friend and mentor Andy Stoll told us, this is a central part of the experience of being an entrepreneur. Uncertainty is guaranteed, change is a constant, and you have to be ready to deal with it all – fast.

Our 8 teams definitely learned that this weekend. Almost everyone pivoted, like the team that went from a satirical think tank seeking “general smart asses” to a children’s book, or the one that went from a “mom app” for college kids to a CRM for your personal life.

And there were plenty of interpersonal struggles along the way. Working on a team of strangers is hard enough, but then Startup Weekend also layers on long days and intense deadline pressure. We also had some unexpected challenges, like the first snow of the season turning into a severe winter storm.

Several people bounced around between teams on Saturday, looking for the right fit. A few left in the middle of the day (note: not recommended).

But through it all, people seemed to be happy and having a good time. It might have helped that we had a few light-hearted concepts being developed – from a humorous political concept to a subscription service for adult products.

Throughout the weekend, every challenge was received as a learning opportunity. Even when things were tough, people stayed respectful and open-minded. They seemed to trust the process.

They found solutions – which is what entrepreneurship is really all about.

Welcoming diversity

Getting to know each other Friday night
Getting to know each other Friday night

Part of getting uncomfortable – and also part of finding the best solutions to real problems in the world – is opening yourself up to different ways of thinking.

We had lots of people from diverse backgrounds at Startup Weekend Iowa City (several of them traveled in from the Quad Cities or Cornell College). We had participants as young as 12 and as old as 71. We had several women-led teams (although our total participation was still far below 50 percent women – this is an area where Iowa has a lot of work to do, and we’re still working on it at Startup Weekend too). 

The teams with diverse backgrounds and leadership also seemed to be the teams that were having a lot of fun and finding some early success. The teams without diversity were more likely to fall into old patterns of thought – when really, Startup Weekend is all about breaking out of those self-imposed boxes.

Meet the teams:

First place:
Sexy Life: A monthly, date-night subscription box to help couples re-discover their relationships.

Second place:
TICLER: An app to help you maintain strong relationships with those you care about by providing reminders (call your mom!)

Third place:
Leksify: A mobile foreign language-learning platform, focused on vocabulary, that uses fun games to teach

Most Promising Opportunity – wins a free pass to Venture School!
Rock the Gift: A service to help online shoppers find unique, high-quality gifts

Alphabetically:
Corn Caucus: Engaging and empowering young people in civic life with humor and storytelling

Fashion Fit: Solving the problem of ordering the wrong size of clothes online

Passion U: A service to connect high school students with life coaches so they can discover their strengths and passions earlier in life

We Suck: An online forum for entrepreneurs to anonymously vent about their struggles 

So what’s next?

Startup Weekend is the spark that has started so many people in our community on their entrepreneurial journey (myself included) – and really it is just that, the start of a journey.

We’re hoping to see our teams again at…

Global Startup Battle. At least one has already applied! This is a fun online competition where teams can potentially win prizes. GSB, and the surrounding event of Global Entrepreneurship Week, was also the impetus to organize multiple Startup Weekends across Iowa in one go.

1 Million Cups. Happening weekly in three (ICR, DSM, CV) communities across Iowa, this is a chance for new entrepreneurs to present their ideas and get constructive feedback.

Venture School. This six-week program from the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center (JPEC) at the University of Iowa is a great next step for these ideas. They’ll dive deep into customer discovery and business models. venture-school.com.

In one of Iowa’s lovely coworking facilities. Our Iowa City organizers are particularly attached to  IC CoLab and Vault Coworking but there are many more great coworking facilities across Iowa too. This is where the community goes to work.








Coming Full Circle with Startup Weekend Portland: Global Startup Battle Edition

On November 13, I will be facilitating for the fifth time this year for Portland Startup Weekend, joining dozens in the greatest startup competition on earth: Global Startup Battle.

Each of my previous facilitations have been special in their own right:

My general style is to embarrass this poor woman.
My general style is to embarrass this poor woman.

This next event may surpass them all – Portland is and always will be my hometown. I was born in Oregon City and went to school in the Beaverton School District, graduating from Southridge High School. (I’d rather not say when because, well, I’m old.)

Leading up to the event, I’ve been thinking a lot about this concept of “home”, especially as I’ve recently claimed a new one after moving to Seattle.

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(Among many of my new responsibilities is crushing lip sync contests during Seattle Startup Week.)

Pittsburgh: Where I Found Myself (and just a few months before 30 – whoo!)

Before moving in August, I lived in Pittsburgh for three amazing years. I had just married my brilliant (and crazy-tolerant) wife, and other than striving to be the best husband possible, I had no idea what to do with my life … until I discovered Startup Weekend.

From that intense, eye-opening 54-hour experience, I launched my own ed-tech community, which was admitted into an incubator, received seed investment, and even found customers. I continued to volunteer and organize for SWPGH six times, launching its first education edition in February of this year.

A blizzard was going down outside. We don’t care in Pittsburgh.

Above all, I made friends who simply “got it” – people who came from the Startup Weekend world as well, and knew how to “give back” in the Brad Feld sense. When we weren’t organizing in the Pittsburgh community, we’d go on an Eat ‘n Park run or watching Silicon Valley on HBO On-Demand. It was grand.

Friends. Also, Startup Weekend volunteers. Coincidence?
Friends. Also, Startup Weekend volunteers. Coincidence?

I truly considered Pittsburgh my home until two opportunities opened up for me and lured me back to the West Coast: briefly serving as east coast regional manager for UP Global before its acquisition by Techstars, and now joining the mission to transform education, technology, and entrepreneurship with Galvanize.

We're really into "the pineapple way" at Galvanize.
We’re really into “the pineapple way” at Galvanize.

Seattle: How I Quickly Thawed the “Seattle Freeze”

The move from Pittsburgh was … precipitous. I didn’t have the best chance to express my love and gratitude to everyone that did so much for me in Pittsburgh over the years (though I tried to cover as many bases again here). When I moved to Seattle, I was warned of the “Seattle Freeze” and heard it would take time for me to make friends.

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That has not been the case … because of Startup Weekend. The first people I contacted were my former co-workers, who then introduced me to the local Seattle community leaders. Instantly, I felt like I found my family here, connected by a shared passion and experience to build community through entrepreneurship.

Never go mountaineering with Marc Nager. Trust me on this one.
Never go mountaineering with Marc Nager. Trust me on this one.

Recently, I was invited out to the Techstars Community Leader Retreat to get to know Portland’s Dina Moy and dozens of other organizers from the US and Canada. I came away with the trip with two impressions:

  1. I am completely down with the Techstars vision and rationale for why it acquired UP Global. Techstars may be the largest for-profit accelerator in the world, but it was originally founded on the mission to lower the barriers of entrepreneurship to the world.
    Supporting initiatives like Startup Weekend, Startup Next, Startup Digest, and Startup Week won’t really be profitable in the short run (why mess with a good thing), but in the grand design, these programs will cultivate both better startups worthy of support and stronger, focused communities that can support them.
    That’s the vision that Techstars and UP Global shared, and that’s why I’m willing to stay on as a community leader and global facilitator. The terms of engagement do not really change from a non-profit status (in fact, they never actually did when you discover the legal difference between donation and sponsorship). Why should our support of the community change because of it?
  2. We may come from different cities, but we’re all Startup Weekend nation. Every community leader had a story to share, and the rest of us listened. Whether it was a startup story or a Startup Weekend anecdote, we “got” each other. (The altitude may have been a factor.)

If You Can’t Find Your Community, Create It (and Startup Weekend can help)

Me (right) with my sister back in our old home in Beaverton, OR.
Me (right) with my sister back in our old home in Beaverton, OR.

I look back on the last three years of being a Startup Weekender and can’t believe how far I’ve come from my previous status as a graduate school drop out. I didn’t make a lot of money, win any major awards, or acquire any common materialistic milestones like a new car or house.

I did, without question, make a lot of friends, and unlike the ones I made before, these friends stay in touch and support me however they can without asking anything in return, and vice versa. I also traveled a lot to places I never thought I’d ever go to until I was “summoned” by people I never met before.

I have a problem with respecting other people's private space.
I have a problem with respecting other people’s private space.

Every time I go facilitate, I ask to crash on a couch or even on the floor just for the opportunity to bond with another community leader. Anytime a community leader asks to visit me, I prepare a spare room for them, no strings attached.

I’ve found my family, and we’re actually not that difficult to find.

Just look for the ones that “get it.”

valencia-whirlwind

Lee Ngo is a Seattle-based community leader and global facilitator for Techstars formerly based in Pittsburgh. He currently works as an evangelist for Galvanize.








Why designers should attend Startup Weekend?

Q: How does a designer feel in a hackathon dominated by people from business and tech fields?

It’s going to be challenging but you have a lot to contribute because you’re definitely needed. That also makes it easier to find a team that you’re interested in.

Q: In Startup Weekend what’s particularly interesting for a designer?

For me Startup Weekend is about trying ideas, some of them might breakthrough and become something that you may continue working on.

Most designers that I know are into creating something new and thinking about the user and customer side to make the best service, experience or product. I think all of the teams need to think about the triangle of feasibility, desirability and durability and they need people like designers to think about the desirability.

Q: What do you love about Startup Weekend apart from the great food?

I think the best part; the most rewarding part is that your network is expanding. You start working with people and you get to know them much better in a very short time. It’s not just sitting somewhere and talking, you’re actually working together intensely for two days.

Q: What sets Startup Weekend apart from other hackathons?

Startup Weekend is very open, people can come there and you can choose from a pool of various ideas. It’s very different and there are many different fields represented. I’ve been involved with medical startups, apps, games, social impact projects and services for companies. If you have time during the weekend there’s a lot that you can try, see and get inspired from.

Q: Would you and why would you encourage other designers to participate in Startup Weekend?

Because I know they can do a lot. Designers can help a team put their project into a tangible form that people can make sense out of after two days when you’re presenting it.

Q: What can a designer expect from an event like Startup Weekend?

Inspiration, networking, learning, getting to know more people and getting opportunities. You can get to know valuable people that you might need later on or they might contact you afterwards. You might find an interesting partner that you continue with afterwards which has happened many times for me.

Q: Has Startup Weekend ever helped your professional career?

Yeah, I found people that I’m now working with, some of them turned into good friends. I also have been working on some of the projects afterwards. It has always been inspiring for me and at the end of every Startup Weekend I’ve always come out happily no matter what happened. I’ve never regretted spending my weekend at Startup Weekend.

 

Pouria is now leading a startup called Grib that works in 3D solutions, check them out!

https://www.facebook.com/3dgrib

 

Startup Weekend Helsinki is organising another event in November find out more here: bit.ly/SWhki