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 email@example.com and we will work directly with you on your concerns.
Michael is a Ngarrindjeri Monaro man from Southern NSW, who is a judge and Keynote speaker at Australia’s First Indigenous Startup Weekend.
Michael’s business is called Message Stick, which is a unique business in that it is owned by Aboriginal Australians. The company was started in 2003 to show that Aboriginal Australians can own and manage a services business that engages with large corporations and Government agencies. The business does not seek any sponsorship, donations or social grants whatsoever. They seek only the opportunity to prove themselves and to be treated as worthy business partners.
Michael’s future is aimed at advocating the need for Australian society (particularly the private sector and our Governments) to embrace, and support, the challenge Indigenous people face when his people begin the journey towards economic independence.
His Message Stick business model is aimed at proving that Indigenous and non-indigenous people can work together to achieve generic economic results – yet still fully support, and participate in, community growth.
Today’s post comes from Nishika de Rosairo, CEO, Creative Director, and founder of dE ROSAIRO. Before becoming an entrepreneur, Nishika built a corporate career with Deloitte, Cisco, and Salesforce. In addition to leading her business, Nishika serves on several boards including Startup Women, Upward, and the Center for International Business Education and Research.
“Aren’t you scared?”
“What will you do if you fail?”
“You have no experience in the industry, how will you succeed?”
“Don’t worry, you can always go back to Corporate America”
… and so the questions and comments flooded in…
What surprised me the most was that these questions and comments were being dished out from a combination of people who knew me very well, and also from those who didn’t know me at all.
I soon started to realize that non-entrepreneurs were projecting their own anxieties of starting a business onto me.
So the real question became:
How do you listen to the parts that matter, and turn off the parts that don’t?
An Entrepreneur is Born
For me, entrepreneurship has always felt very real. I was still a teenager when I came to the realization that life would be boring if everyone succumbed to practices and principles denoting linear patterns of thinking and execution, simply because they made life easy to explain and easy to understand.
My version of happiness started to emerge around the same time when I turned to mentors such as Sir Richard Branson and Anthony Robbins. They taught me that happiness was a state of mind, achieved through a non-linear journey of strategy, discovery, and perspective: the perfect mindset for an entrepreneur.
I grew up with an adventurous spirit, and by the time I reached my 30s, I was living on my fourth continent, had traveled to over 40 countries, and my career in the corporate world was ripe and flourishing. Over my 10 years in Corporate America, I had the incredible opportunity of learning a repertoire of deep knowledge and expertise from the best of the best: Deloitte Consulting, Salesforce, Apple, Levi, Cisco, Chevron, and many others.
Even still, I wanted more.
I decided it was time to turn in the stability of a steady paycheck for something that was much more adventurous and impactful.
I wanted to change the world, one design at a time.
Building a Business
Finally, my business – dE ROSAIRO (pronounced ‘day ro-zai-ro’) — was born: it was a childhood dream coupled with a deep desire to influence the world through the inherent psychology behind the clothes we wear.
I spent 10 months writing my business plan and building the business on nights and weekends, all while still employed full time at Salesforce. At the end of that time, I had my first collection of sketches sitting on hangers in a sales showroom in Los Angeles. I built dE ROSAIRO on the founding principle of ‘Look Feel Lead’, which translates into — how you Look, is how you Feel, is how you Lead. The idea being that how we dress influences how we feel, and on the flipside, how we feel influences how we dress.
No matter how many people have shared their years of wisdom with me, not one person, or any one experience, could have truly prepared me for the broad depth and range of mental and physical strength it takes to be an entrepreneur.
Doubt is Part of the Journey
There are days I have wanted to pull my hair out, and then there are days that I know I am doing exactly what I should be. I would be lying if I didn’t admit the rough days.
But the truth is: doubt is a part of the journey, as it continues to provide me with an opportunity to question even my most basic set of assumptions. Healthy businesses cannot be built on complacency and self-assurance.
Mistakes will be made, money will be lost, and through it all, the question that we will need to keep answering is – am I still aligned with my vision?
Why does alignment matter? It matters for two key reasons:
- When we launch a business, we should aim to build a foundation that aligns with our personal set of values. We need to ask ourselves: what matters to me? How do I want to affect the lives of others? What do I want my legacy to be?
- Doing ‘good business’ is no longer the icing on the cake; in today’s world it is a basic expectation. This means we each have a role to play.
Through this journey, what I’ve come to discover is: there is no greater measure of self-fulfillment than when profit, individual values, and ‘good business’ intersect.
So when you’re on the brink of YOUR entrepreneurial journey, and when people ask you:
“Aren’t you scared?”
“What will you do if you fail?”
“You have no experience in the industry, how will you succeed?”
Tell them that you would rather give it your best shot than regret not trying.
Tell them that you desire transformative growth in your life that a steady paycheck cannot provide.
Tell them that changing the world is worth the calculated gamble.
We spend a lot of time talking to Techstars founders about focus. We talk a lot about saying ‘no’ to things that don’t matter. We talk a lot about not chasing too many things at once. We try to give founders tools for deciding what’s important. We try to give them a framework for how to get things done.
For me personally, it boils down to three things – my next daily task, my next milestone and my big goal. Let’s call them GMT. Here is what they look like right now:
1. My next task is to send semi-weekly update emails to Techstars mentors. This is something that I do every other weekend during the Techstars program to keep the mentors posted on what’s going on in the program at large.
2. My next milestone is to have a great Demo Day. Not only are Demo Days the culmination of the Techstars program, but they are also significant milestones for me as a Managing Director at Techstars. Demo Days are the stepping stones to my bigger goal.
3. My next big goal is to become great at my job, to become a great investor in New York City. My vision is to help founders create great, transformational, lasting businesses in NYC, have fun along the way, and make a lot of money.
Being really clear about your next big goal, next milestone, and next daily task helps you keep your head straight.
If someone asks you what they are for you, and you don’t know, that’s not great. It likely means you don’t have clarity, and may not be working on things that are important.
Pick your goal first, and then work backwards from the goal while measuring progress along the way.
Work Backwards from the Goal
In my case, the goal is to become a great investor. To do that, I need to keep finding and investing in great startups. The way I do it is to fund them in batches and run them through Techstars program. To have Demo Days as milestones is natural, because the Demo Days are the culmination of the program and the start of the fundraising for most companies.
What makes for a great Demo Day? A bunch of things, but first and foremost, great companies (check out Techstars NYC Winter 2015 class).
Techstars is a mentorship-driven accelerator. We connect each company with a group of great mentors who work with them during the program to help accelerate the business.
The semi-weekly mentor email is just one small task on my list to make sure mentors and the companies are connected. It is a small but important task that is a step towards a great Demo Day.
The daily tasks add up to a milestone, and the milestones add up to the goal.
GMT: One Goal, One Milestone, One Task
If you can stick with the system, it works.
First, you set your goal, and figure out the milestones. Then you are down to the tasks, and it actually gets harder, because there are a bunch of tasks you need to do over time to get to a milestone.
On any given day, I try to be very clear about the single most important task I need to get done. If it’s not in my head, I don’t think I am focused enough. I then go to my to-do list and look through it to get back into the groove.
If you always have your top task in your head, you know exactly where you are going and why.
It’s okay for some days to be muddy and disorganized, but most days need to be pretty clear.
What works for me is a weekly routine. I know what I need to do on Monday, on Tuesday, and all other days of the week. For example, I know that every other Sunday, I send mentor updates. Having a routine really helps me stay organized and keep executing.
The routines can change from month to month, but I use the calendar to chunk my times during the week and that helps me set a rhythm. And that, in turn, helps me focus, prioritize, and know what my next task is.
Don’t Do Stuff that Doesn’t Matter
When you have clarity about your goal and milestones, you also have clarity about what doesn’t matter.
Prioritizing and deciding becomes a lot easier. That’s why for me, if something doesn’t contribute directly to having a great Demo Day, I won’t prioritize it. For example, a lot people want to meet with me, but I can’t take a ton of these meetings before the Demo Day. I am busy helping the companies. So, I explain it to people and ask them to follow up with me after Demo Day.
Also, I have a bunch of tasks and projects related to broader Techstars ecosystem that I will get to after the Demo Day. I simply don’t have the time to do them, and they are not included in my next milestone. This system of Action and Idea lists is helpful for staying organized.
Use KPIs to Measure Progress to the Milestone
I use KPIs and data to measure progress towards the milestone. Using numbers to measure progress is important, because otherwise you can’t tell if you are getting closer to the milestone.
One of the ways that investors, myself included, measure progress is by looking at the value of their portfolio. It is difficult to do for early-stage companies, and by no means is this an exact science.
Still, as long as you have some sort of consistent measurement, it works. For example, I know that the 2014 batch of Techstars NYC companies have raised over 20MM in funding, and I know that this stacks up pretty well historically against other NYC and Techstars classes. While this does not mean that I am becoming great at being an investor, a lack of financing of the companies would imply that I am not doing well.
I also use other KPIs to help me check that I am heading in the right direction. For example, we ask the founders during the program and afterwards to rate my performance. High ratings mean that founders are happy with our help. When they graduate, this would lead to a positive word of mouth, and they will recommend the program to other founders, and that would help me invest in more great companies.
Apply This to You and Your Startup
How can you apply this to you and your startup? Actually, this system works equally well for individuals and startups.
For a startup, you need to start with your Vision. What does the world look like according to you? What does the world look like when you are a successful business?
The Vision leads to the Milestones. What do you need to achieve the Vision? How do you get there? For most startups, the first few milestones are about traction and funding. Typically, the first milestone is to prove that your product is needed, to prove that there is a demand, and to get early customers.
The second milestone is typically funding. Once you’ve proven that your idea has potential, it is easier to raise funding.
You set KPIs and drive to the milestone. Build the product customers want. Do things fast, have hypotheses, test stuff, iterate, be organized and chaotic all at the same time. But at any moment, be clear about your next task – what are you working on and why? What milestone are you trying to hit? What is your big goal?
So let’s try this out.
Do you know what your goal, milestone and next task are? Please share it with us.
This was originally posted on Alex’s blog.
Latin America has always been a fascinating region to me. Its cultural and geographic diversity make it one of the most interesting in the world, and those things that most capture my attention are their ability to adapt to changes and the infinite imagination they have to overcome adversity.
It is no surprise, then, that it is one of the most enterprising regions and its ecosystem of startups is one of the most dynamic and with the highest potential on the planet. Several technology companies have emerged in the region in recent years, and many of them have been consolidated in markets which, in principle are on the outside, like the American one.
Latin America is facing an historic opportunity to generate wealth and employment through entrepreneurship, relying on its entrepreneur DNA to generate new businesses, attracting foreign startups who seek to base their operations in the region in search of new users. Harnessing this potential requires governments to be able to articulate smart public policies focused on the needs and concerns of Latino entrepreneurs, fostering an innovative approach to solving local problems.
With these problems in mind, Techstars, with the support of Google, have carried out a process of discussion with entrepreneurs and industry benchmark agents about the five pillars that we believe are required to build thriving communities of entrepreneurship in the region, including the creation of public policies. During 2015, we organized discussion workshops in nine cities in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru and the Dominican Republic to share concerns, identify success stories, and think of solutions that strengthen the ecosystem of startups based on culture, density, capital, talent and regulatory environment.
Among the most interesting results we have detected are the need to generate more women entrepreneurs by promoting the study of technological careers from an early age in this demographic, as well as working to change the sometimes inaccurate perception within the region on venturing and failing as part of the learning process. From a regulatory point of view, the most discussed topics were on how to create modern and harmonized legislation between different countries in the region that could simplify the processes of generation and closure of companies, limit the liability of intermediaries for content generated by its users, and promote the availability of capital. Most surprising, however, we found dozens of examples of successful initiatives and models in the region and that can be replicated and used as a reference by other countries.
These, among other conclusions and recommendations are documented in the report “Fostering the Startup Ecosystem in Latin America”, which we proudly present this week at the Global Entrepreneurship Congress in Medellin, Colombia, to world leaders. This paper is available for free at the link below. We trust this process is just the first step towards greater involvement of entrepreneurs in building tools and policies that affect them directly, and we will continue to have more instances of discussion and community participation.
We believe the development of the startup ecosystem should be based on greater public-private collaboration, so that all the actors that comprise it, directly or indirectly, reap the benefits of entrepreneurship.
Our Mentor Monday post today comes from Kwindla Kramer, a mentor with the Cedars-Sinai Accelerator, Powered by Techstars.
Every startup company (and every startup founder) is unique and each startup journey follows its own path. It turns out, though, that many of the basic challenges we face, as founders, are pretty similar.
Over the past couple of years I have started to notice that every first-time founder I’m close to learns the same small handful of lessons early on. Thinking back, I realized that I climbed up that exact same learning curve, too. (And sometimes I learned way too slowly!)
Here are five “counterintuitive founder lessons” that seem to come up for everyone, regardless of company focus, type of product, or business model.
1. Nobody makes real progress on a startup until the startup is a full-time job.
It’s pretty common for me to get a phone call from a friend-of-a-friend, a founder with a “new” startup, and to hear that the founder has a full-time job at a big company, and that the startup isn’t really making any progress. Often, the startup actually isn’t all that new; the founder has been working on it, nights and weekends, for a year or more.
I always give the same advice: if you really want to do a startup, you’re going to need to quit your “day job” sooner rather than later.
This is scary, and hard advice to follow. It’s not necessarily easy to say why it’s true that you can’t make progress part-time. Empirically, though, the evidence is clear: I’ve never seen anyone I know make significant progress on their startup while they also still have a “real” job.
2. Don’t worry (early on) about competition.
Founding a company is pretty much the same thing as being obsessed with a product and a market. It’s natural to know a lot, and to obsess about, what other people are doing that’s similar. First-time founders usually worry a lot about competition. They don’t want to talk to other people about what their startup is doing, because they think competitive companies might learn something useful. They spend a lot of time thinking about complicated partnerships or specific product development plans that are motivated by a desire to outmaneuver competitors.
It turns out that it’s almost always a huge mistake to spend precious time and brain cycles thinking about how to “beat the competition.”
Startups fail for lots of small reasons, but mostly for two big reasons: they don’t make something that people are willing to pay for, or they don’t have a cost-effective way to tell people they exist.
So spend all your time thinking about those two things: product, and customer acquisition.
3. Tech startup success depends surprising little on technology.
I’m a founder with an engineering background, and I was slow to learn this lesson. For a long time I thought of a “technology startup” as a company that was particularly good at and focused on engineering. But it turns out that engineering is the fourth or fifth most important competency of a tech startup.
Startups first have to make something people are willing to pay money or attention for. Then they have to let people know about the thing they make. Then they have to get very good at “scaling” — growing and accelerating everything the company does. Technology helps with all of these activities. But, by the same token, all of them are fundamentally about something other than engineering itself.
If you love writing code or designing circuit boards, it’s worth knowing that starting a company is a very bad way to keep doing those things. Founders usually have to step out of engineering roles as soon as a company gets a little bit of traction so they can focus on helping the company sell stuff, and then scale.
4. Fire faster.
This is the hardest of these lessons to learn, for almost everyone. But it’s really important. Not everyone you hire will work out. And if you take too long to fire people who aren’t doing their jobs (and everyone takes too long to fire people, when climbing up the founder learning curve), you do real damage to your team and your company.
Firing people goes against almost all the (very good) instincts and values that founders have. Founders are optimists. Founders think problems are solvable. Founders believe that working hard and caring about what you do means that anyone can do pretty much anything. Founders tend to take responsibility for fixing things.
But it turns out that unproductive employees are amazingly, unbelievably toxic to the culture and happiness of a small team. As a founder, the most important resource you have is cash to make payroll. But the second most important resource is the happiness and alignment of the people who come to work with you every day.
You owe your team the best possible work environment you can figure out how to provide. That means you either have to fire people, when they aren’t working out, or you have to fire yourself so that someone else can make those decisions for your company.
5. At the beginning, almost all that matters is shipping quickly, then iterating.
Most founders, early on, take way, way too long to ship their product — to put what they are building in front of actual (and ideally, paying) users. When you’re obsessed with your product and have poured hours and hours into it, it’s hard to let go. You want it to be perfect. You know how much better it will be with just a little more work.
But this is exactly backwards. Products get better when people use them and tell you what you got right and got wrong. Nobody builds successful products in a vacuum.
This is such an important lesson that there are a lot of great founder quotes about it. Reid Hoffman: “If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.” Steve Jobs, even more succinctly: “Real artists ship.”
I’ve been part of the founding team at three companies and two non-profits. It’s addictive, and fun, and fulfilling. It’s also draining, and difficult, and frustrating. Having investors and board members who are experienced, accessible, and kind helps enormously. So does spending time with other founders and building relationships that allow you to talk honestly about what’s hard, and what you’ve learned. Being part of a startup is accelerator is great, because it gives you a network of both mentors and peers.
My third company just launched. We make video conferencing hardware designed for startups, and other small companies that do creative, fast-paced work. Check out what we’re doing and tell us what you think. Pluot — big-screen video conferencing for small teams — https://pluot.co
And let me know what you think about this post in the comments below. Or, I’m @kwindla on twitter, and firstname.lastname@example.org, the old-fashioned way.
After months of preparation, SW Food has come and gone! Before our memories fail us, let’s try to capture the most unforgettable moments of #SWyum.
In our first blogpost, we mentioned the international mix of our organizing team, representing the UK, US, China, Bulgaria, Poland, Italy… and how our love of food brought us to organise the event. The attendees beat us at our own game by travelling to London for our event, from countries including Belgium, France, Ireland, Sweden, and Switzerland, to name a few. Wow!
And it didn’t stop there. We had a brilliant designer join us remotely from Dubai, who helped several of our teams with amazing designs throughout the weekend. So special shout out to Zahed Mirza!
One of the striking things the organisers noticed was how easily the participants interacted and collaborated throughout the event (we even noticed a few people consulting and giving feedback across teams!). With so much to fit in to 54 hrs, it’s easy to get caught up with the work – but the people you meet and the network you build are ultimately the most valuable takeaway you’ll get from Startup Weekend.
Mentors, Speakers, and Judges:
We had 20 brilliant speakers, mentors, and judges, who provided top-notch support to our teams. Participants noted the high quality mentorship as being a highlight of the event, so thank you all!
Friday: Patrick Drake of HelloFresh, kicked things off by inspiring us all with his story of how leading a double life of playing lawyer by day and chef by night, lead him to venture out to pursue his love of food full time.
Saturday: Danny Bluesone of CyberDuck gave us a wonderful talk on lean UX and personas to get the teams on the right track with their product design. Our mentoring sessions for Sat included: Corrado Accardi of Pizza Rossa, Fahim Hussain of Market Munch, Ali Meruani of Menuspring, Tania Pasia of Red Badger, Ivan Shyr of Sussex Place Ventures, Chris Steinau of Uncover, and David Voxlin of Craved.
Sunday: On Sunday, we continued mentoring with seasoned Startup Weekend mentor and organiser Amalia Agathou, Kastytis Kemezys of Cinnamon Bridge and Dave McDougall of Hult Business School. Our judges who helped us make the tough call on deciding the winners of the event were JinA Bae of CHOPCHOP (a former SW winner herself!), Madeleine Blyth of Techstars, Kastytis Kemezys of Cinnamon Bridge, Ryan Perera of Henchman, Ivan Shyr of Sussex Place Ventures, and Raj Sharma of Only By Nature.
Startup Weekend is ALL about community, and we loved seeing so many SW community leaders come out for the event. Special shout out to our new friends from SW Ireland, who we were thrilled to meet and get some top tips from. And another special shout out to Ryan Kuder from Techstars, who stopped by throughout the weekend to help mentor some of our teams.
Now what you’ve all been waiting for – the menu for the weekend, followed by a few of our favourite #foodporn moments 😉 We guarantee that SW Food was certainly the best fed hackathon in town!
Friday: We started the event off in true hackathon style with pizza and beer – but took it up a notch with mentor Corrado Accardi’s Pizza Rossa.
Saturday: Best to start the day happy and healthy with breakfast from MangoMango and your not so average salads from Pollen & Grace. Harry Thuillier of Oppo hand delivered some of his delicious Oppo ice cream, and even found some time to talk to us and help out some of the teams. After an exhausting day of hard work, our lovely sponsors from Hungry House were there to save the day with some delicious Thai and Indian food.
Sunday: Keeping it simple again for breakfast, with a spread of bagels and fruit. For lunch, Hungry House spoiled us AGAIN, with sushi from Youme sushi, and we also had some sandwiches from Pret. And finally, we had some delicious Hummos Bros. Gipsy Hill helped us to top off the event by sponsoring beer – it was a huge hit, and the packaging put a smile on everyone’s faces.
Snacks and drinks: We were spoiled with choices from our snack sponsors, who helped fuel us throughout the weekend. A HUGE thank you goes out to: Nari Palm Juice, Nudie Snacks, Propercorn, Rude Health, Urban Fruit, and Vita Coco.
The winning teams won awesome prizes, including office space at WeWork, places in Cinnamon Bridge’s food startup bootcamp, advisory with Crowdfooding, and a workshop with Startup Manufactory. Shaken Cocktails also sponsored a box for each winning team to celebrate. The MVP winners each got a HelloFresh box to continue the #yum at home. We hope that these prizes will help encourage and support them in continuing with their entrepreneurial pursuits.
Last but not least, the organising team wants to thank our wonderful facilitator Maria-Christina Tsitsopoulos, for her support, and putting up with our crazy antics over the weekend 🙂
This was our first time organising a Startup Weekend, so thanks all for making it one to remember! Keep an eye out for us in the future, because in the words of M. Schwarzenegger – We’ll be back.
Dignity Health St. John’s Regional Medical Center and St. John’s Pleasant Valley Hospital have partnered with the Camarillo Chamber of Commerce to launch the inaugural Startup Weekend Ventura County on March 11-13, 2016 at Rancho Campana High School in Camarillo, CA.
The event will focus on innovative Internet of Things solutions for Healthcare and Agriculture. Startup Weekend is a 54-hour weekend event, during which entrepreneurs pitch ideas for new startup companies, form teams around those ideas, and develop a working prototype, demo, or presentation by Sunday evening. As a result, participants will learn how to create a real company and meet the best mentors, investors, cofounders, and sponsors who have the knowledge, resources and tools to help entrepreneurs get started.
“Partnering with others in the community to improve the quality of life is one of our three stated missions,” said Darren Lee, President and CEO of St. John’s Hospitals. “Helping to create high-paying jobs by supporting entrepreneurs’ launch of technology-driven businesses is an effective way to achieve it.” “Scalable business is fundamental to driving robust and sustainable economic growth,” added Gary Cushing, Chief Executive Officer of Camarillo Chamber of Commerce. “The high cost of housing makes it hard to attract out-of-state technology companies to set up shop in California. We need to grow our own. To accomplish this, we have to create an environment conducive to entrepreneurs launching their new businesses in our backyard.”
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
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.
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:
Sexy Life: A monthly, date-night subscription box to help couples re-discover their relationships.
TICLER: An app to help you maintain strong relationships with those you care about by providing reminders (call your mom!)
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
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.
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.
Startup Weekend Bahrain
November 19th – 21st, 2015
Firstly, I’d like to thank our Strategic partner ‘Tamkeen’ and our sponsors Batelco, ALBA (Aluminum Bahrain), Microsoft and Coca Cola Bottling Company for its support with Startup Weekend Bahrain. With their support, our participants were able to follow through with their startup journey.
Our top 3 winners were Beauty Q, Pick-A-Dive and The Hive, with 4th place honorary winner ‘Turnover’.
Our honorary winners, ‘Turnover’, won 3 months co-working space at Tenmou offices. The team created an application where consumers are able to receive discounts for off-peak hours in restaurants. This creates deals for diners and traffic for restaurateurs.
Around 80 participants joined Startup Weekend Bahrain, with a tally of 13 initial pitches which later on were voted to the final 11 teams. The organizing team made sure to inform the teams to focus on the MVP’s (Minimal Viable Products) in order to validate their startups. We were impressed by the outstanding outcomes that mostly all 11 teams had their pitched startups were validated by globally recognized establishments in the field of their e-business.
The best part about this year’s Startup Weekend Bahrain was the quality of our pitching startups. We tried our best as hosts to create a creative environment for our startups and potential entrepreneurs. As the host of Startup Weekend, we at Tenmou are working on building the startup ecosystem in Bahrain, as well as working on building the angel investment ecosystem in the MENA region. Our aim is to uplift the entrepreneurship community with our country’s vision of 2030 and raise awareness for startups with potential.
Finally, we’d like to thank our Startup Weekend Bahrain facilitator, Mr. Zoheb Iqbal for creating such a positive vibe for our participants and encouraging them with their pitching. Our message to all our participants and future participants is to encourage and embrace entrepreneurship.