The following is a guest post by Startup Weekend Organizer and Facilitator Eric Brotto and was originally published on his personal blog.
I have just returned from Startup Weekend’s SOSummit which took place in Rio de Janeiro from March 15th to 18th of this year. My experience there was transformative for many reasons, some of which I am sure were common to all those who were present. You would be hard pressed to find an attendee that did not feel like they expanded their network or were not inspired by this global movement to change the world through entrepreneurship.
There was a lot to take away from this event, but in this post I would like to bring attention to the culture of failure within the Startup Weekend community. In particular, what interested me was how the people of SW applied this principle of ‘fail, fail, and fail again’ not only to their business ventures, but also to their career and life course. What I found in Rio was a common commitment to constantly seek out what one’s passion is and to do so regardless of the cost. It is this attitude that removes the negative connotation from the word failure. Here the idea of failing is synonomous with a continuous journey to find your own personal path, to find what truly inspires you.
It is it at this deeper level where I personally felt amongst my own. Granted there were people at SOSummit who are still in university or otherwise just beginning their life journey. Likewise, there were also people whose path seemed quite linear and focused. But even they understood the messiness and chaotic ways of the startup character. The new axiom ‘Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish’ meant a perpetual search into finding meaning in your own life and your own work, even if meant starting over from scratch. Everyone at SOSummit understood this innately.
One could say that I myself have had a somewhat colorful adventure so far. My first studies were at a technical school to become an acupuncturist. As I approached the end of that degree I realized that I had gotten what I had wanted from it and needed to move on. Not completely of sure what I wanted to do next, I became a teacher of English as a Second Language. An experience that not only paid the bills, but allowed me to meet people from all over the world and gain from their unique perspectives.
After doing this for a couple of years, I started tinkering around with web design. At some point I became so intrigued by this ‘hobby’ that I returned to school and received a degree in Creative Computing from Goldsmiths, University of London. This eventually lead to my current position as account director at Smile Machine, a mobile software development agency, also based in London.
Talking to people not involved in the startup world, I would be hesitant to share my experiences and my zigzaging journey for fear of being judged as flighty or unfocused or indeed ‘foolish’. At SOSummit it was quite the contrary. I met people of all different histories of all different stories who likewise had life paths that were atypical.
I believe it is this curiousity and this willingness to learn about new domains that will contribute greatly to our individual and collective successes. In fact our true power to innovate comes from taking knowledge from different spaces and cross-breeding them into new products and services. Did Steve Jobs not continuously cite his calligraphy course at college as the inspiration for the beautiful fonts of the first Apple computers?
And so this is yet another example of the myriad of ways Startup Weekend is fostering entrepreneurship and startup culture. It is not just about events and networking, but also providing a community for those of us whose non-traditional paths are less common, but all so important for the future of business and technology.
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