How did your journey with Techstars Startup Weekend begin?
Back in 2014 I was ready for a new adventure. The new generation, fresh from school, was active, creative and tech savvy. They inspired me with their thinking, their business ideas and knowledge. A week before the event, I saw a post on Facebook about a Startup Weekend in Utrecht (The Netherlands) and decided to buy a ticket. I was convinced that I would meet those tech savvy people there and was excited to work with them.
Half an hour before the event my best friend called me. We had a nice chat and I told her that I was tired from the week and not really motivated to go to the event. And then she said: why don’t you just go and check it out? Since it’s only 10 minutes away from your home, you can always go home in case you do not like it… And so I did. It turned out to be the BEST weekend of my life. Life changing. True story.
Why did you decide that you wanted to take the step from being an Organiser to becoming a Facilitator?
I became addicted. To the people, the atmosphere and the energies it gave me. At each event you meet amazing like-minded people. As a facilitator you enlarge your network and the opportunity to meet local people. For me being a facilitator is something natural. I love doing it, it doesn’t cost me too much energy, although after a weekend I feel satisfied, and also a bit tired. Straight back to work is sometimes a bit challenging.
What do you enjoy most about being a Facilitator?
I get attached to the people. I understand how exciting it is to pitch on Friday and how nervous people are for the Sunday evening Pitch Night. I feel for them. They worked so hard the whole weekend, and then the moment comes to bring everything to the table. I am nervous too, for them. I am always proud of what I see on Sunday evening. They all went through some learning curves and teams show true team spirit. It is beautiful to see. Startup Weekend is the place to be if you are looking for a transformational experience. And those are the BEST! I cannot get enough :-). I always want MORE.
What is your best memory of facilitating at a Techstars Startup Weekend?
I got a request from a participant to practice his Friday evening pitch with the organising team, a couple of days before the event would kick off. I was impressed by the level of ambition and humbleness of this person. Of course I accepted it and invited him to one of our team meetings. We gave him advice and his idea was chosen on Friday evening. They won the first prize on Sunday evening too. I love the level of ambition of the people coming to Startup Weekends. We have a lot fun and at the same time we are damn serious about setting up a business and creating impact. I love this combination!
Do you have any advice for those thinking of taking the plunge and applying to become Facilitators?
Just do it. It is a great experience. I learned a lot from other facilitators, like Stavros (Greece) and Dwight (Amsterdam). When I felt a bit more confident I found my own way of doing it. I am just me, myself and I. In all the surveys the feedback that I get is that participants see how natural I am by just being myself and how much I am enjoying it too. Participants are not looking for a show, they value authenticity more. In the end, all SW-peeps are part of the same family. So, you can just be yourself and enjoy the ride! So find your own uniqueness in the way you like to facilitate, and it will be great!
At November 10th, Startup Weekend is coming to Zwolle. This is quite special, for a number of reasons. First of all, it’s the very first edition in our city. Second, this year is the 10th anniversary of Startup Weekend. And third, our facilitator Jen Riedel is from the USA!
Startup Weekend facilitators have an important role. Basicly they manage and lead local events, so attendees have a great learning experience. However, facilitators do a lot more behind the scenes!
What about our facilitator Jen Riedel?
We decided to ask her some questions to get to know her a little better:
#1 What should we know about you?
I absolutely love working with brand new teams at the early ideation stages. In the last 5 years, I’ve worked with numerous early-stage companies to help them with conceptualizing and actualizing their business. More generally, I have experience working with Fortune 500 companies, co-working spaces, building communities from the ground up, taking a four person startup team through an acquisition, and working in design consulting. You should also know that I love using design thinking frameworks, I’m trained in leading rapid prototyping workshops, and I drink more coffee than anyone I know.
#2 What brings you to Startup Weekend Zwolle?
Truthfully, one of my incredible colleagues at Techstars spoke so highly of the Zwolle organizing team, I couldn’t resist the invitation! Secondly, I’ve never had the opportunity to facilitate in Europe and I’m thrilled to learn how you approach innovation. I am also keen to share the knowledge I’ve picked up in my 17+ Startup Weekend experiences in the US and Canada.
#3 A lot of people think about attending Startup Weekend Zwolle. Why should they join this event?
This event will no doubt transform your life. There are various and wondrous ways this can happen. A few I can think of off the top of my head are anything from finally getting over your fear of pitching your idea to a room full of people to possibly altering your career path in order to start a company with people you meet during this program. You might meet a new friend, a lifelong mentor, validate your idea, find a new job, and I guarantee you will walk away with an experience like no other.
#4 What do you like to say to the people in Zwolle Area?
If this has sparked your curiosity even slightly, come on out! This event is for you no matter what background, age, or experience level you may have. That is the beauty of Startup Weekend after all.
Interested to attend Startup Weekend Zwolle? Click here to claim your ticket.
After 9 Startup Weekends in three years, I’ve come to the conclusion that it is one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life (in fact, I’ve written previously that I might be addicted to it). However, for some that the journey could be really intense at times, and not everyone makes it to the finish line feeling the same way.
Recently, I facilitated Startup Weekend Miami: Diversity Edition, where I was taught the concept of “la pasión,” which is Spanish for “people in Miami are really, REALLY emotional.” I was tasked to harness la pasión in a community that had a plethora of it, in a way that would make everyone come away from Startup Weekend Miami feeling as wonderful as I had 8 times before.
Below is a list of lessons and tips for a facilitator, organizer, or volunteer to apply that would help maintain a sense of stability to an otherwise potentially chaotic event.
1. If you’re an organizer or volunteer, your mission is to execute the event as orderly as possible
In Startup Weekend, Murphy’s Law generally applies – anything that can go wrong will go wrong. It is vital that every organizer and volunteer is informed of the weekend’s tasks and can easily communicate with one another to correct any situation that arises.
Best practice: Print up a universal task list that specifies each delegation and giving a copy to all your volunteers. That way, even if they don’t have an assignment, they can look at the list to see if someone else needs help with something.
2. If you’re the facilitator, your first priority is to take care of the lead organizer
Generally, lead organizers shoulder the most burden, and the stress can be overwhelming. They should be acknowledged especially for their months of hard work leading up to the big show.
Facilitators should check in with them hourly and make sure they’re fed, hydrated, and as relaxed as you can get them. If necessary, give them a hug (more on that later).
3. Communicate to people on their level – perhaps even in their language
Startup Weekend is an educational event at its core, and the most effective way to teach is to contextualize it with abstract reasoning that they understand. Learn more about them to understand their thinking processes.
An added challenge for me: most of the attendees of Startup Weekend Miami speak Spanish as their first language. I do not – except for what I’ve learned on TV – so when people weren’t looking, I’d review my Dora The Explorer Lessons on YouTube and bust that out randomly. You’re welcome, mi amigo/as.
4. If teams are arguing without end, facilitate a scrum
Inevitably, disagreements occur in a competition, but they become difficult to resolve when people are not talking in a respectful, orderly fashion.
To resolve this, get them to stand up and talk in a circle, one at a time. Here’s a quick video to teach you how to run a proper scrum – a very popular method of coordinating large, diverse teams.
(The key lesson starts at 6:32)
I did this with one team in particular. More on that later.
5. Have a quiet space – one for volunteers, one for participants
We all need to decompress, so give your people a place to rest, nap, socialize, and blow off some steam. Don’t go so far as create a distracting place such as a game session – you still want people to focus on on the main goal.
6. Throw in a dance session or two (you’ll have to start it)
It was a foregone conclusion that I’d be dancing in Miami. It was just a matter of how often. I like to keep the music playing in a common area for attendees to come out, relax, and practice their salsa.
Dancing is a great way to stay loose and relaxed, and it’s probably less terrifying than, say, public speaking.
7. Prevent “hanger” by providing snacks and insist that everyone drink water frequently
Startup Weekend is a high-energy competition, and with brains working on overdrive, they’ll need to be replenished. I try to have a bottle of water and a protein-rich snack on my person at all times. Keep your people well-fed, and they’ll be well-tempered, too.
8. Give out hugs and high-fives whenever possible
At a hyper-networking event like Startup Weekend, these physical embraces lead to lasting connections that you’ll appreciate long after this experience.
9. Plan to finish your event as soon as possible…
- Links only: Instead of letting people present and demo on their own laptops with varying file types, have them send cloud-based links to both and put them in a single document. This moves things along quickly in between Q&A sessions.
- 4:3 presentation model: Limit presentations to 4 minutes with a loose 3 minutes for judges’ Q&A works well, too. Judges average about 45 seconds per question, so a group of 3-5 judges works well.
Why do we do this?
10. … so that everyone will go to the after-party
I love the idea of an after-party, but often Startup Weekends run too late, and who can really stick around to party on a Sunday night? However, if you aim to end your event around 8pm or earlier, and your event was a rousing success, you’ll have a great time.
Also, try to have ALL of your parties in Miami, regardless of your own location. Here’s why:
When a team that nearly imploded on Saturday night…
Team BreakinBread was a fun project for me. Constantly bickering in Spanish over every single detail, I was positive that they would implode and disband by Saturday night.
To fix this, I made them do a scrum. By getting them to talk in turn and truly listen to one another, they realized that they were actually a well-rounded team that agreed on one thing: they had communication problems.
Afterwards, they delivered a beautiful presentation that impressed the judges. The rest is Startup Weekend Miami history: they won first place.
Or when a team that won 2nd place got a standing ovation…
Ernie struggles to get where he needs to be due to the lack of convenient transportation options for the disabled. His dedicated friend Juan pitched an idea:
An “Uber for the differently-abled,” Juan wanted Ernie to have access to the ride-sharing technologies that dominate the startup marketplace today (e.g. Uber and Lyft). They found great validation by tapping into people’s good nature – an uncommon approach for a Startup Weekend team.
Once I announced their second place win, Ernie stood up and made his way to the main stage. With every step, more and more people rose with him and applauded his victory with deafening cheers of support.
Or when I could not stop smiling when I was presented with this amazing certificate
The text reads:
“A special recognition for surviving your
MIAMI DRAMA INITIATION
Let all who view this document know you survived Miami. We are diverse, speak at the same time and have a rollercoaster of emotions, but at the end of the day, we’re all family and end the night laughing with J’s (JAJAJAJA). You rock!”
Perhaps I had been a bit of a curmudgeon the whole time…
In short, Startup Weekend is indeed a roller coaster (it’s designed that way), but for a small minority, that can be an unpleasant experience. Emotions are meant to run high, but there are ways to keep it balanced yet still exciting.
I hope these suggestions serve as a way to hold someone’s hand to make them feel safe right before they take the deep plunge into entrepreneurship.
Good luck, and thank you, Startup Weekend Miami: Diversity Edition!
Lee Ngo is a community leader based out of Pittsburgh, PA.
Binary star: a star which is actually made up of two stars orbiting each other.
Meet Dwight Gunning, our binary star. Why is that, you may ask. Well, we’ve attributed that specific Universe element to him because he combines both tech and entrepreneurship expertise. Just like two specialists in one.
Dwight has a special role at our 4th edition: he’s our event facilitator. Facilitators a core part of the Startup Weekend model, as every Startup Weekend event must have a Certified Startup Weekend Facilitator to help ensure the event is run successfully.
Dwight is an Australian software engineer and entrepreneur currently based in Amsterdam. A technologist at heart, he has launched several web and mobile companies in the fields of transport and education. He has also been active as a Startup Weekend organizer and facilitator since 2010.
You can meet our binary star at the 4h edition of Startup Weekend Timisoara!
Book your seat here:
On behalf of the StartupWeekend Space Team, I would like to introduce you to the StartupWeekend Space: Bremen facilitator, Adrian Pica. He will act as the master of ceremony, managing the tone and logistics of key processes during the event. He will also act as the official representative of the global Startup Weekend organization.
Adrian is the founder of Oblico, a location based networking app for events and conferences, a project that came out of a Startup Weekend event, was part of the TechPeaks accelerator and received a grant from Telecom Italia. Oblico was one of the finalists at the How To Web conference. He is a lean startup fan and experienced in pitch training and public speaking. He is working as a global facilitator at Startup Weekend, but also as an organizer at Startup Weekend Timisoara, Rome, Oradea. He is involved in the startup scene in CEE as the communication manager and organizer at the Central European Startup Awards and as a Startup Scout at Inventures.eu, the biggest media outlet focused on startups and entrepreneurship in Central and Eastern Europe. He is working with early stage startups as a mentor at Spherik Accelerator and at various other events.
Adrian is an early adopter and you can reach him anytime on Facebook. Sometimes he writes on www.adrianpica.co and has one of the biggest collections of Startup Weekend T-shirts.