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!
Our Community Leader Highlight this month is with Katherine Roth from Jamestown, North Dakota.
She serves as the Executive Director of the Jamestown Regional Entrepreneur Center, which is hosting this year’s Techstars Startup Weekend Jamestown for the second time. The Jamestown Regional Entrepreneur Center supports the creation of rural startups in North Dakota by providing technical assistance, customized training, entrepreneur-led discussions, and entrepreneur-focused networking and training events. She have a passion for empowering individuals and organizations in achieving strategic goals.
Prior to working with the Entrepreneur Center, Katherine served as a consultant to the University of Jamestown and wrote the USDA Rural Development grant to secure project funding. As well, I worked in the federal government with much of this time at the U.S. Department of Commerce. Working in a capacity that serves others and the greater community is personally very meaningful. In my free time I am running for the North Dakota State Senate in District 29 with the Dem-NPL party and would like to serve as a proponent for family farming, youth STEM experiential education initiatives, and small businesses in the state legislature.
Why do you do what you do?
I live in Jamestown, North Dakota, which is a rural community in the south central region of the state. One key way to ensure rural sustainability and community livability is through supporting local entrepreneurs. Our center aims to support the economic vitality of our region.
What’s new for the Jamestown Regional Entrepreneur Center?
Techstars Startup Weekend is still very new to us! We participated last year in late 2017 and we are excited to deliver this program within the regional community again in 2018. North Dakota has great access to the internet and the cost of living is reasonable. This combination makes it a great place to start up.
In Jamestown, as throughout most of North Dakota, the commutes are short. The regional and statewide resources available to support new business ventures are impressive. The Jamestown Regional Entrepreneur Center welcomes public inquiries to learn more about business opportunities!
Santiago de Chile is a city found in South America, in the middle Los Andes, and a busy place for entrepreneurship in Latin America. Chile has the highest rate of Internet users in Latin America and the country ranks 9th in the world for mobile phone use according to the PEW research center.
Last year during the Latin American Techstars Summit, we met a lot of people who help Santiago maintain its position as a hub of innovation and entrepreneurship. One of those leaders is Rocío Fonseca, Director of Startup Chile, a governmental organization created in 2010 to support ideas and entrepreneurs from all over the world.
At the summit, more than 80 Techstars Startup Weekend and Techstars Startup Week community leaders from Latin America came together to meet, share best practices and learn how to grow startup communities. The summit was possible because of Gonzalo Mena, lead organizer of our programs in Santiago. He has helped re-ignite the Techstars community in Chile.
During Techstars Global Startup Weekend 2017, Santiago held its first ever MEGA event including verticals like video games, social innovation, research and a non-themed vertical.
“The idea of doing a MEGA event– 4 themed verticals within a single weekend– was born because we wanted to celebrate the community. After doing a non-themed Techstars Startup Weekend back in April, we wanted to bring attention to topics that have been growing importantly in the city but that do not get much media”, says Gonzalo. The video games and research themes– which are not super popular– were complemented with social innovation and another non-themed vertical.
The participants’ high energy mixed with the facilitators– who knew each other previously– were the perfect match to make the event a success. “More than 150 participants got to live the experience of going from idea to product in those 54 hours, for most of them it was the first event and we saw an amazing change in them between Friday night and Sunday’s final pitch,” according to Gonzalo.
A grand prize of mentorship from the commercial area from the Ministry of External Relations of Chile will help the winning team to get their project ready to launch abroad.
When asked about the upcoming plans for the community in Santiago, Gonzalo says that thanks to the exposure that came with Techstars Startup Weekend MEGA and the participation of high profile Judges, they will start pushing to make more events that support different thematics around tech entrepreneurship in 2018, collaborating with other communities that include Startup Grind, Emprendedores Anónimos, Founderlist and more.
To connect with the Startup Weekend Community in Santiago, you can visit their website or their Facebook Page. To learn more about Techstars Startup Programs or to find an event near you, go to techstars.com/startup-programs