On building a successful cultural association: Enrica Mannari, director of Pirati e Sirene

Elisa: Hello, Enrica! I know this is a busy time for you, as Pirati e Sirene has just turned one; congratulations! So what have you been doing with the startup exactly?

Enrica: www.piratiesirene.it is a cultural association dedicated to promoting the life, the style and the culture of the Etruscan coast, which is in Tuscany. We have been promoting it both on- and offline, with the online element having the main aim of strengthening the fidelity of our supporters, whilst helping the brand and its reputation to expand. The offline side of things consolidates the online, by weaving relationships with people and working actively in the area the website glorifies.


El: For me it seems this is a very community-based project that uses the Internet as a means of expanding this community, then?

En: Absolutely; it reaches out to the people who live along the coast as well as anyone who would like to visit the area. The main reason for establishing Pirati e Sirene was to fill a glaring gap in social exchange by forming a network made up of creatives and cultural events along the coast, and which, most importantly, would be a network accessible to everyone that could be consulted (and therefore updated) on a daily basis.


El: Would you say that you have filled this gap, and made a lot of noise in doing so?

En: Let’s put it this way: the strategy of using the web has led to us currently having a pool of users which comes to 30,000 individual views per month. After only a year of Pirati e Sirene’s existence, for such a ‘local’ project (for want of a better word), these numbers are very satisfying.


El: It must be a crazy experience to be reaching out to so many people! What is the main way you do this?

En: Well the Internet is obviously our main channel of communication, as it is the best way to get ourselves known and spread the word. This means that graphics, videos and photos all play an important role on our website and in promotional materials, both for advertising to potential followers and sponsors, as well as for maintaining a strong character that has brought our current users to continue following us.


El: And how do you generate money to continue offering this intense user experience?

En: This comes from a range of online activities that our site carries out, meaning the platform is self-maintaining in this way; so, for example, through articles and editorials that we publish on our portal and communications and market design workshops that we offer there. These could be given in person, but are further-reaching when offered online. We are, of course, very active offline, as well, organizing events and representing Pirati e Sirene at the events of others, too.


El: Do you think this blend of both on- and offline work is a trend in art-related startups right now?

En: Yes and no. The art-scene is becoming an ever-more ‘cross-contaminated’ environment, both in personal inclination and as a vocation. I would say that the best thing that is happening to the art scene now is indeed the fact that it is finding its way absolutely everywhere, thanks first and foremost to the web.


El: The Internet is even taking the art-world by storm; it’s true! Finally, on that very note, what advice would you give to people who want to start up their own digital business within the arts field?

En: Be professional to the max, have a great idea and surround yourself with trustworthy, reliable collaborators. It must be something you believe in wholeheartedly, and so you will be able to defend it against everyone who tries to find fault. Remember that a global approach is the formula that our times ask of us right now.


Here is a video made on the occasion of their first anniversary:

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Inspired? We look forward to seeing you at the Startup Weekend Art London in October!

5 reasons to attend a Startup Weekend

Mercedes Caño, is part of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Mexico City. Born in Spain and with a very special accent she shares with us her experience at the Startup Weekend DF – Creative Industries, of which she heard of through Startup Weekend México’s FanPage.

“I made the decision to go, because it was an initiative focused on the Creative Industries, a topic I feel deeply passionate about. During the weekend, I felt great, it was an extraordinary experience and I realized what I could achieve in only 54 hours. I also met people during the event, and made interesting synergies with them. It was very fun.” She says about the Startup Weekend.

When I asked what she liked the most, she answered with a smile and said the environment and the enthusiasm of the people is awesome, and she states the format of the event is very complete.


These are the 5 reasons to attend a Startup Weekend according to her:

  1. It’s not what you expect, and is so much more fun than you imagine.
  2. You discover your abilities in 54 hours.
  3. There’s a challenge to advance and create a product in a limited time.
  4. Meeting new people with whom you have things in common and creating interesting bonds.
  5. Inspiration and the will to learn.

Momentoteca, is the name of the winning project of the Creative Industries Edition, the idea came to Mercedes, from the relationship she wants to build with her niece, who lives in Spain. She wants to be more involved in her education and have the possibility to teach her things she likes whilst potentiating her creativity.

The main objective of the startup is connecting people through a platform that can achieve the humanization of technology, that helps them grow.

She says, “I’d recommend the program (SW) to my friends because I think is interesting to discover all the capacities we have, the experience was very positive.”.

To know more about Startup Weekend go to:  www.startupweekend.org . If you want to participate in other UP Global programs, go to: up.co

5 Razones para asistir a un Startup Weekend

Mercedes Caño, forma parte del ecosistema emprendedor en la ciudad de México. Nacida en España y con su acento tan especial, nos cuenta su experiencia en el Startup Weekend DF – Edición Industrias creativas, del que se enteró a través de la página de Facebook de Startup Weekend México.

“Decidí ir por que era una iniciativa enfocada en las industrias creativas, tema por el que me siento apasionada. Durante el fin de semana, me sentí excelente, fue una experiencia extraordinaria, y me dí cuenta de lo que soy capaz de hacer en 54 horas. Conocí gente durante el evento, y con esas personas tuve la oportunidad de crear sinergias interesantes. Fue muy divertido.” dice acerca del Startup Weekend.

Cuando le pregunté ¿Qué fue lo que más le gustó? con una sonrisa me dijo que el ambiente y el entusiasmo de la gente que se vive es espectacular y dice además que no cambiaría ninguna parte del formato del evento.

Estas son las 5 razones para ir a un startup weekend según Mercedes:

  1. No es lo que esperas, es mucho más divertido de lo que imaginas.
  2. Descubrir de lo que uno es capaz de hacer en 54 horas.
  3. Ponerse el reto de avanzar y crear algo en ese tiempo límite.
  4. Conocer gente nueva con la que se tiene cosas en común y crear conexiones interesantes.
  5. Inspiración y ganas de aprender.

Momentoteca, el proyecto ganador de la edición de Industrias Creativas, nace de la relación que tiene Mercedes con su sobrina, ella quiere estar más involucrada en su educación y tener la posibilidad de enseñarle cosas que le gusten, además de compartir con ella y potenciar su creatividad.

El objetivo de este startup es conectar a las personas a través de una plataforma que humanice la tecnología, que los ayude a crecer.

Ella dice: “Yo recomendaría el programa a mis amigos por que creo que es interesante descubrir las capacidades tan amplias que tenemos. La experiencia fue muy positiva”.

Para conocer más acerca de Startup Weekend, ingresa en www.startupweekend.org. Si quieres participar en algún otro programa de UP Global, ingresa en www.latam.up.co

Continua con tu Startup después de SW – Cryonix

Cryonix es el proyecto que resultó ganador en el Startup Weekend Mega 2014, celebrada en Tlaquepaque, Guadalajara. Es una plataforma de juego de realidad alterna, que integra la tecnología de los wearables, revoluciona los juegos de rol, y trae el laser tag a las calles.

Desde su perspectiva, los integrantes del equipo nos cuentan cómo surgió la idea, y cómo fue trabajada durante el evento.

El Reto

Desde el inicio, sabíamos que era necesaria una idea original e innovadora que pudiera adaptarse a los parámetros definidos para la división de “Internet of Things” del Startup Weekend y surgieron varias ideas por parte de todos los integrantes del que después sería el Cryonix Team. El mercado al que se dirigían dichos proyectos eran también diversos. La idea cualquiera que resultara elegida ganadora, debía desarrollarse en 54 horas, como estaba establecido por el programa.

De idea a proyecto en 54 horas

A pesar de habernos preparado antes del evento, no sabíamos si tendríamos el material necesario para trabajar en el proyecto en caso de necesitarlo. Trabajar en el proyecto de Cryonix, requería tiempo, dedicación, trabajo en extremo y muchos materiales que no teníamos contemplados, sin embargo la comunicación entre los integrantes del equipo nos ayudó a sacar adelante la idea.


El hecho de tener un tiempo limitado para desarrollar la idea, implicó dedicación intensiva por parte de todos, nos empapamos con la idea general para comenzar la distribución de tareas desde el primer minuto en que se formó el equipo. No nos conocíamos, ni habíamos trabajado juntos, así que tuvimos que confiar los unos en los otros.

Beneficios del Startup Weekend

Como participantes del MEGA, tuvimos la oportunidad de conocer a miembros de comunidades muy interesantes, que durante la marcha nos dieron retroalimentación acerca de diversos detalles del proyecto. Además pudimos conocer las temáticas más recientes en las que se enfocan los emprendedores hoy en día y nos dimos cuenta del papel tan importante que juega la tecnología dentro de todas esas temáticas. El coaching de parte de todos los mentores fue crucial para poder adoptar un plan de trabajo eficiente, y sus ideas nos impulsaron a hacer buenas tomas de decisiones durante el todo el evento.

El Secreto de Cryonix

Cuando regresamos a la ciudad de México, entre los integrantes nos estuvimos preguntando, qué fue lo que hicimos bien durante las 54 horas que nos permitieron resultar ganadores del Startup Weekend MEGA. ¿Cuál había sido la estrategia o el método ganador? La respuesta en la que todos concordamos fue la siguiente: comprometerse con el proyecto y tener confianza en el trabajo de los demás, enfocándose a las tareas propias. Fuera de ese esquema—que se dio con naturalidad—las condiciones a las que nos enfrentamos eran las mismas que las de los demás equipos participantes.

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Cryonix Alternate Reality Game from Cryonix on Vimeo.

Cryonix después de Startup Weekend

El resultado obtenido nos dio ánimos para seguir trabajando con el proyecto; desde antes de terminar el evento, se decidió someterlo a una plataforma de fondeo colectivo (www.fondeadora.mx), y obtuvimos una muy buena y rápida respuesta de los fondeadores. Obtuvimos varias propuestas para encontrarnos con inversionistas y oportunidades de capital. Una de ellas, que se aprovechó recientemente fue la oportunidad de pitchear frente al grupo de inversionistas GAIN en Guadalajara, y frente a los inversionistas de Venture Point, durante el EmTech México 2014. Hemos hecho contacto con el grupo hacedores.com, quienes nos han invitado a participar en el SG Conference & Expo, donde mostraremos al mundo de los makers a Cryonix y su potencial para dichas comunidades.

Lo que viene para Cryonix

Gracias al contacto continuo que hemos mantenido con inversionistas y aceleradoras, así como con el éxito de las presentaciones, hemos recibido diversas propuestas fuertes de inversión, nos presentaremos formalmente en Campus Party 2014, en la edición mexicana y el equipo está trabajando en el desarrollo de mejoras al hardware con fin de optimizar el juego, así como la creación de contenido para la plataforma. Seguimos recaudando fondos, pues creemos que podemos desarrollar un buen producto mínimo viable y mejorar nuestra infraestructura.

Para más información del proyecto sigue a Cryonix en Facebook y Twitter @cryonix_mx. Si quieres apoyar este proyecto, ingresa al portal de Cryonix en Fondeadora.

Este artículo fue escrito por el equipo fundador de Cryonix y editado por Lucía Tróchez, Especialista de Marketing Digital para UP Global en Latino América.

Emotional Roller Coaster of Entrepreneurship (Comic)

#entrepreneurfail EmotionalRollerCoaster


“Don’t forget to strap in your friends and family! It’s going to be a bumpy ride.”

No one can deny that starting your own venture is like a roller coaster ride, but those closest to you probably have no idea that they are also in for a stomach-churning adventure.

As you embark on your entrepreneurial journey, you, and your friends and family need to be prepared for internal turmoil and drama. Your only certainty is no paycheck, no steady income, no fixed schedule and no predictability.  Everyday something in the news, on acclaimed publications or trending websites, may send dismay through your spine. Whether it is a new well-funded competitor launching the same product as you, or perhaps an expert claiming your industry is dead, this isn’t a ride for the weak or complacent. And this is just the beginning.

However, this emotional ride is the only path! So don’t worry. Pivot as necessary, be strong and make sure your loved ones take their (e)motion-sickness medicine.  Free fall coming up!

How did your family and friends handle you jumping into entrepreneurship? Let us know in the comments below?

This comic and post was created by Kriti Vichare for #entrepreneurfail: Startup Success.

Utrip's Director of Biz Dev on Why Being An Entrepreneur Doesn't Have To Mean Being A Founder

This article is written by, Lewis Krell, a Canadian ex-pat currently stealing jobs from hard working Americans. In his spare time, Lewis enjoys planning trips on Utrip, allocating capital to its most productive use and dispensing advice despite being severely under-qualified to do so.


I believe that entrepreneurship and capitalism are two of the most positive forces on the planet. I believe that Shark Tank is one of the best shows on television. I also believe that too many bright, entrepreneurial minds are currently working in finance, accounting and consulting because they have narrowly defined views of what being an entrepreneur can be. The reality is that we can’t all be founders and CEO’s but one can be extremely entrepreneurial without being the entrepreneur.

After working for five years at an established, traditional Investment Consulting firm, I decided to pack my bags and join a promising travel technology start-up, Utrip, as the Director of Business Development. Despite my affinity for entrepreneurship, I didn’t leave my corporate confines to start up my own venture, but rather, I left to work directly under the guy who left his own corporate prison to start a successful company. I think of myself as a modern day ‘Hand of the King’.

There is no industry that suffers more from survivorship bias then entrepreneurship and it shows due to the plethora of articles about quitting your job to become an entrepreneur. If you are lucky enough to write an article giving advice about why you should start your own company that means one of two things:

• Your journey has just begun so success nor failure has happened yet

• Things have gone, at the very least, moderately well for you

You seldom see the article about people who tried and failed to make it on their own and then went back to their old careers. Failed entrepreneurs are much more common than successful ones and you can be sure that they are much less likely to write advice columns. I mention this because I find that the connective tissue of all stories about cubicle jockeys working for a big company daydreaming of making it on their own is exactly that – they go out on their own.

This can be a dangerous thought. Not everyone is meant to be a CEO and even if you are meant to be a CEO and start your own business, maybe the time isn’t right for you right now. Too many people get discouraged from leaving their traditional jobs because they think the path you have to take is to go ahead alone, or at most, with a cofounder, and start your own venture. Too many people equate entrepreneurship with being the founder of a new company.

Many would-be entrepreneurs stay in their comfy 9-5’s because they don’t think they have found the idea yet. The billion dollar idea that will lead you to a life of yacht parties and space exploration if you’re a fun person, or bequeathing millions to your pets and having your mistress record your horribly racist opinions if you are a terrible person. However, as the morbid expression goes:

There are many ways to skin a cat and there are also many ways to be entrepreneurial.

So what’s it like going from Finance to the Startup world? It’s not for everyone but for me it is a great fit. I find it liberating and not only because I really enjoy not shaving. To work for a company that you truly are passionate about, and where your success is perfectly aligned with the company’s success, more than makes up for the fact that I’m pretty sure our office furniture was purchased at a prison auction. Although it’s great having no websites blocked at work and I certainly am saving money on dry-cleaning bills, the thing I enjoy the most is that my impact on the company is tangible.

Every phone call I make can lead to something good for the company as opposed to my old firm where I was just another handsome, young cog in a well-oiled machine. A cog that worked to make the older, richer cogs in the machine… even richer. Please note that this arrangement doesn’t bother me. Those old, rich cogs worked hard to build the machine I was lucky enough to work in but I didn’t want to wait 15 years to become one of them. I knew the moment I handed in my resignation letter that the wheels were already turning to replace me. In a short period of time things would be running along smoothly again, just as they had before I got there, and just as they will long after I’m gone.

‘They say our generation has no patience and no loyalty but what we really have is no defined benefit plans’

They say – if you don’t want your boss’s job then you are in the wrong job. Although I wouldn’t have minded my boss’ paycheck or his ability to delegate work, I never once wanted his job. I knew I didn’t want to get too comfortable where I was and forsake my entrepreneurial inclination. Luckily, I had a great work/life balance so I was able to spend time exploring some of my ideas further. I filed for patents and I had prototypes built, but I never actually made the leap to fully commit myself to any of these endeavors.

The opportunity to work for Utrip presented itself mainly because some of the ideas and thoughts I had while working meshed with what the company was creating. I was able to pitch ideas to the CEO I never would have had if I tried to start my own venture years before. By being patient and realistic I was able to find a great opportunity to see some of my ideas come to life, and to finally take the plunge to become an entrepreneur.

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It’s important to note that I have no illusions about my role in the company. I get to work on and help with some of the most exciting parts of being an entrepreneur like fundraising, product discussions, strategy discussions, hiring and of course, selling. Having said that, my sweat and tears (and minimal blood) that will go into this business – if it’s successful as we hope – will never be on the same level as Utrip’s CEO, Gilad Berenstein. Gilad started Utrip at age 23 and as much as I thought I would make a kick-ass CEO at age 23, the reality is that I was probably not mature, motivated or sober enough to be running a company where people’s livelihoods depended on me.

Not jumping half-heartedly into trying to start my own venture, as I almost did, was one of the best decisions of my life. Every day I come to work and find creative solutions to solving problems as I attempt to turn our wonderful product, Utrip, into a market-leading business. My life is very entrepreneurial, but I am not the entrepreneur. And I couldn’t be happier with the arrangement.

Why Boring Startups Can be the Most Successful

When you think of a successful startup, revolutionary companies like Apple, Facebook and Google come to mind: companies that have changed the world as we know it, led by geniuses like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and Larry Page. Most of us forget about the hundreds of thousands of businesses that swung for the fences and failed. In fact, one-quarter of all startups fail within their first year, and 71 percent  fail by their 10th year. However, there are also hundreds of thousands of small businesses are that very successful, but don’t share the limelight with the likes of Google and Apple.

Don Fornes, CEO of Software Advice, recently shared his thoughts on why boring businesses have a better chance of being successful. For starters, he thinks that boring industries are less likely to be home to fierce competitors like Zuckerberg, Page and Jobs. Keeping a low profile and embracing being boring can pay off–but whether you decide to follow this path will depend on the kind of entrepreneur you want to be.


Here is summary of Fornes’ thoughts on why entrepreneurs might have more success keeping a low profile in lieu of shooting for the stars:

Shooting for the Stars

Many entrepreneurs have a passion to change the world, or the desire to be a cutting-edge innovator with a product that’s a household name. Others want to be famous, like Steve Jobs, and have billionaire wealth. Society needs these types of entrepreneurs, and Fornes encourages them to go out and start the next Apple.

The “shooting for the stars” mentality is driven by the venture capital community, which is constantly looking for the next big startup with the ability to change the world. Venture capitalists are willing to invest in these risky businesses because they only need one Facebook or Google to be extremely successful. Their diverse portfolio strategy helps them come out ahead, and absorb the losses from all the startups that didn’t make it.

For entrepreneurs, however, the repercussions are much greater. Most entrepreneurs don’t have the necessary capital to make gambles–they invest everything into their one dream company. If you are motivated by fame and fortune, Fornes encourages you to follow your passion, but if you’re not, there is a great alternative.

Keeping a low profile

For entrepreneurs not driven by billionaire fortune and fame, keeping a low profile might be a great strategy. Many entrepreneurs are driven by simply being their own boss, leading a team, defining a company culture or just having a sense of ownership. Maybe you want to make very good money, but you don’t have the desire to have more wealth than entire nations. Maybe you don’t consider yourself a revolutionary thinker. Maybe you just don’t like reporting to other people, and you enjoy controlling your own destiny.

Keeping a low profile also makes it easier to be profitable: you can increase your chances of success, even though the ultimate payday is smaller in size. For example, a 50 percent chance of making $100 and a 5 percent chance of making $1000 both leave you with a $50 payout.

Being a “boring” entrepreneur also makes it easier to bootstrap your company, because you can build your business with debt. And once your debt is paid off, the business is truly yours. When you seek out venture capital funding, on the other hand (as is necessary in most high-tech markets), the investors will always take a high percentage of ownership in your company–and they’ll make their money back long before you receive anything.

Embracing boring pays off

In the early 1980s, a Harvard Business School graduate pioneered the “search fund” model: buying a business, running it successfully and then selling it. This strategy is a perfect example of a smart individual deciding to go down the boring path, and seeing great financial success as a result. By buying a boring business and bringing high-level execution, strategy, management and talent to it, you are more likely to have a long and successful career than the entrepreneurs who are struggling to to start the next Google.

You can be a millionaire too

Becoming a boring entrepreneur might not make you the next Mark Zuckerberg, but it does have the power to make you very financially successful. In fact, the number of millionaires in the US is close to 9 million, and is projected to reach around 17 million by the year 2017. Two-thirds of these millionaires are self-employed entrepreneurs. These entrepreneurs don’t all run the Googles of the world; rather, the majority have become financially successful in boring industries such as farming, construction, welding, or owning mobile-home parks and gas stations.

Not everyone has the creative genius to be the next Steve Jobs, but many boring entrepreneurs are still great at their jobs. They are organized, diligent and give it their all every day.

So if you are not trying to go head-to-head with Zuckerberg and Page, all you need is a solid business model, and to be diligent and make well-thought out decisions. If you enjoy leading a team, hiring people, and controlling your own destiny, boring might be great for you.

Report provided by Robert Bellovin, Media Relations at Software Advice. 

Startup Weekend Alum Has Donated 3,000 meals, Picked up 13 Retails Stores and Landed a Deal with Kroger!

This post is written by David Khoshpasand, Co-Founder of Feed The Fire Candles – Empowering communities to alleviate hunger in their area.

Startup Weekend

In April of 2013, I came to the Harrisonburg Startup Weekend as an aspiring entrepreneur with immense passion and drive looking to ignite a path for greatness.

My hopes were to be able to network and create a legitimate business within 48 hours. The challenge was intriguing and off the bat I felt something special would happen. I was fortunate enough to become team members with a gentleman named Andrew, who had a fascinating idea for helping people. Feed the Fire Candles was born.

Startup Weekend

For each candle purchased, we would donate food in the area. Subsequent to choosing team members, the work NEVER STOPPED!! We stayed up Friday and Saturday nights working endlessly on Feed the Fire Candles. Although we did not win the competition, our hard work and grinding paid off! We networked intensely that weekend and assured everyone at Startup Weekend that our company would continue to move forward.

6 months later, we have donated close to 3,000 meals and counting, picked up 13 retail stores, and recently landed a deal with a major retailer, Kroger! 

Startup Weekend

Our mission is to empower communities to alleviate hunger in their area. For each candle you purchase, Feed the Fire Candles donates the equivalent of at least four meals of food to your local community, with goals to one day end hunger in America.

Feed The Fire Candles strives to provide a path to reduce hunger within the United States, beginning at a local level. We aim to not only create an elevated awareness about domestic hunger, but provide our customers with a unique, quality, and environmentally conscious product. Also, a rewarding sense of social responsibility.

Startup WeekendStartup Weekend

Every decision that is made at Feed the Fire Candles considers not only sound business sense, but the most efficient way to serve the cause at large. We focus on providing as much aid as possible to those that are in need of food donations. Donations are made by portions of proceeds from candle sales through such venues as retail outlets, online sales, fundraisers, and events.

Founded in May 2013, Feed the Fire Candles launched with tremendous support from every local community that we’ve visited. Based out of Harrisonburg, VA, Feed the Fire has quickly expanded to Staunton, VA, Lexington, VA, Waynesboro, VA, Buena Vista, VA, and Lancaster, PA. Our goal is to have candles for sale in most major retailers throughout the northeast region of the United States.

Startup weekend was an amazing platform and experience for us entrepreneurs.  The coaching, mentoring, and networking truly permitted the birth of our company in an innovative way!

Support Feed The Fire Candles buy purchasing a candle HERE.

Click here to attend a Startup Weekend in your area



How I Measure an Event's Success, or Why Facilitating a Startup Weekend is So Addicting

I often catch up with other Startup Weekend organizers to see how their event went. What they tell me usually starts like this:

“It went great! We had 60 attendees, there were 35 ideas pitched on Friday and 10 teams presented on Sunday.”

Those numbers matter, and they’re an easy answer to give when someone asks how the event went. I still catch myself doing it when people ask how my event went.

But that’s not how I measure success.

The first Startup Weekend I organized was in Des Moines, Iowa. All I cared about was getting 50 attendees.

We had less than 20.

The second event I organized was in NYC. All I cared about was getting everyone to pitch.

Of the 100+ attendees, only 20 pitched.

Startup Weekend, NYC startups, entrepreneurship, organizing an event
Me facilitating an event in NYC a very long time ago. Note the girl on the right more interested in her phone than whatever I was saying.

At the time, I told myself that both events were a failure.

Looking back now, I know that both events were great, but because I had already decided that success was a specific number of attendees or a certain attendee:pitch ratio, I wasn’t happy with the outcome.

Then Carmen happened.

Before my third Startup Weekend, a woman named Carmen emailed me. She wasn’t sure if she she should come to Startup Weekend. She said she doubted that anyone would value her skills. She was a writer for a children’s television show and she didn’t know if or how her background would translate to the startup world. I told her to come by on Friday and I’d let her eat pizza and watch the pitches for free, and if she wanted to stay, she could buy a ticket then.

A couple of weeks went by and I forgot about Carmen’s email.

Then on Friday night when I was welcoming attendees, Carmen introduced herself. She looked uncomfortable. She shrugged a lot. I told her to get some pizza and start meeting other attendees. She said she just wanted to watch the pitches and then she’d probably leave. I smiled.

Something must have inspired Carmen because halfway through the pitches, there she was, pitching, her face this time wearing a little less frown than before.

Then Carmen’s pitch got votes. Her expression changed again. She was rubbing her hands together high in front of her as if she was waiting to hear some good news. Soon  she was forming a team. Her chin lifted a little higher. Excitement was pouring out of her and others noticed. People started forming a circle around her.

Carmen ended up leading her team to a victory that weekend and giving the final presentation on Sunday herself. The Carmen that presented on Sunday was not the same Carmen that e-mailed me two weeks earlier. The old Carmen was shy, scared, unsure. The new Carmen was confident, energetic, curious. Everything about Carmen had changed in less than 48 hours.

After the presentations were done Carmen came up to me, tears in her eyes, to tell me the event had changed her life. The hair on my arms stood up.

It was in that moment that I realized I had it all wrong. It wasn’t about the number of participants or how many teams formed. It’s about the effect the event had on people. Did it change the course of someone’s life? Did it change the way someone looked at the world, or at themselves? Did it turn a timid girl into a confident woman?

Now, when I facilitate or organize Startup Weekends, I look for a change in just one person. If I see someone light-up the way I’ve seen so many others light-up at Startup Weekends all over the world, I declare the event a success.

That should be our #1 goal as event facilitators – to “light-up” as many people as we can. Facilitators aren’t just there to herd cats through the schedule. I think of facilitators as “activators,” looking for those beautiful souls just waiting to be awoken to new possibilities. Waiting for someone to tell them that yes, they too can be an entrepreneur. They too can have control over their lives.

For me, it takes just one of those to make the event a success.

And that moment when I see a change in someone – that’s the addicting part of being a Startup Weekend facilitator.

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Rover: My Small Business Story

Picture this: you are about to leave on vacation. You’re packing your bags, scrambling to find the perfect swimsuit for your evening plunges off the coast of Hawaii. Nothing could ruin the high of ABOUT to be getting on a plane.

Oh wait, here comes the gloomiest puppy you have ever seen. He slowly drags his paws along the hardwood floor and sits loyally in your suitcase; he bows his head ever so slightly so his little eyes appear much bigger than ever before. OH THAT SADNESS!

How will you ever leave him at your mother-in-laws? She is SUCH a cat lady.

Enter Rover.

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Rover won Startup Weekend back in 2011 with a vision to provide trusted pet sitters in every city. And boy, did they do just that!

“My friends love their big dogs. I love my 4 lb. Pom. The one thing we all agreed on was how hard it was to find trusted, loving dog sitters even when begging friends. And we weren’t alone! Our research showed most dogs are family members, so finding a dog sitter is as important as a baby sitter,” said Aaron Easterly, CEO of Rover.

Fast forward to 2013. Rover now has over 25,000 verified dog sitters (and counting) who strive to deliver a 5-star experience: catering to each dogs needs, in a loving home, at an affordable price.

And now, this Startup Weekend alum is nominated to win the greatest prize of them all. A Super Bowl commercial. Yep, you read right. A SUPER BOWL COMMERCIAL.

For most startups and small businesses, funds are limited, so they must be extra creative on how to break through the noise. Intuit is hosting a “Small Business Big Game” competition that allows small businesses to enter for a chance to win a Super Bowl commercial. Many will enter, but only one will win – lets support our community and help Rover win!


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