This post is by Tom Chikoore, a new contributor on Colorado Startups.
One phenomenon that has been quietly taking place in the tech startup world is Startup Weekend. Startup Weekend is the brainchild of Andrew Hyde, a Boulder, Colorado entrepreneur. Startup Weekends goal is to bring together a community of people to start a company and create a product in a single weekend. I participated in the first Startup Weekend (in Boulder) and really enjoyed the experience so much that I interviewed Andrew about future plans for Startup Weekend here. Since then I have been following Startup Weekend because I believe that it makes very valuable contributions by invigorating local tech startup communities in the different cities that host Startup Weekend. Startup Weekend has made some great strides since the first Boulder weekend (it is going across the pond to London this weekend), so I decided to interview Andrew for a second time to catch us up. Heres the interview:
Q: Since our last interview after the inaugural Boulder Startup Weekend, there have been 10 more Startup Weekends for a total of 11 Startup Weekends. That is incredible. How have you been keeping up with all this activity?
The Weekend has an amazing energy that keeps me going.
Q: Please give us a brief description of the 11 companies that have resulted from Startup Weekend thus far?
Boulder (July 6-8)
Company Created: VoSnap
What is it? Social voting by email or sms. Where do you want to get drinks? VoSnap it.
Toronto (September 14-16)
Company Created: LobbyThem
What is it? Push for Change. Lobby your representatives with issues you care about.
Hamburg, Germany (September 21-23)
What is it? Online photo editing.
NYC (September 21-23)
Company Created: FavorEats
What is it? Where do you get the best burger in the city? Food reviews about meals, not restaurants.
Houston (September 28-30)
Company Created: TipDish
What is it? A way for Tippers (PR agencies) to contact Dishers (Bloggers) in a way that is beneficial and non-obtrusive for both parties.
West Lafayette (October 12-14th)
Company Created: ScrollTalk
What is it? Contextual chat room.
Boston (October 19-21)
Company Created: DeskHappy
What is it? An at your desk wellness program, encouraging you to stretch and relax in the middle of the day.
DC (October 26-28)
Company Created: HolaNeighbor
What is it? You define your own community and HolaNeighbor will set up the online community. Find and meet those that live around you.
Chapel Hill (November 2-4)
Company Created: WorkPerch
What is it? Find a place to work for a short period, or rent out an extra desk in your office.
Atlanta (November 9-11)
Company Created: Skribit
What is it? Blog widget for readers to suggest subjects for the blogger to write about.
San Francisco (November 16-18)
Company Created: HelpHookup
What is it? An easy volunteer matchup for Facebook.
Q: Are all the companies still operating or there some that have decided to close shop?
I would say 3 of the 11 are not in a ‘building’ stage right now.
Q: One of the potential exits for Startup Weekend companies is a buyout. Have there been any offers for some of these companies?
We have been offered 2, and both teams said no to the offers.
Q: One of the goals of Startup Weekend is “enhancing the local entrepreneurial community”? What is your assessment of how well SW has done that? After Startup Weekend, would you say that some cities have continued with the entrepreneurial spirit or is it only limited to the completion of the Startup Weekend product?
If you were to ask me what the weekend’s biggest strength was, I would have to say building community. Now that there has been some time between the weekends I am hearing more and more stories of co-founders meeting or companies making new key hires from the event. So that was a really wordy way to say ‘yes it is doing a really good job of enhancing the local entrepreneurial community.’ The weekend goes so far past the weekend.
Q: How effectively do these companies run after Startup Weekend leaves town? Does it remain a development effort only? Is there any business development that continues after Sunday? Are there board meetings taking place after you leave?
It really depends on the town and the climate. Some towns, such as Atlanta, are really hungry for projects and have the talent to deliver. A successful company relies on all departments doing a good job, and a Startup Weekend company is no different. I wouldn’t say there are board meetings, but the core team of each company meets and plans on how to move forward. In Atlanta, the majority of the team is meeting this Saturday to have a workday and a move forward meeting. Very exciting to see communities take off like that.
Q: Startup Weekend seems to have proven that an internet company can be started in a weekend; however, do you think that it has gone as far as proving that a viable and sustainable business can be started in a weekend?
I don’t think there is a get rich quick way to the web. These companies are started and given really good launches into the real world. I have a few ideas of companies that can turn profit in a few days, but I don’t think communities would ever pick these projects, I think they pick projects they want to work on.
Q: Would you say there are entrepreneurial differences between the different cities, regions or countries? Have you made any interesting observations along those lines?
There are definitely differences city to city. The biggest difference I see is some communities have veteran community leaders that openly share their experiences. Some communities don’t have that Feld, Cohen, or Weatherby.
Q: For those cities out there that are thinking of putting together a Startup Weekend, how does a city go about putting together a Startup Weekend? What is the process? Do they need to get authorization from Startup Weekend LLC?
The first step is to see if there is any interest in your area. Check in with friends and co-workers, see if there is any interest. The next step is to contact Startup Weekend and say ‘let’s do this.’ Then the planning process begins. If the weekend is called “Startup Weekend” or similar, than yes, we kindly ask you are associated.
Q: There seems to be two camps that hold somewhat opposing views of what Startup Weekend is all about. One camp values the business and equity structure of the resulting entity, while on the other hand, the other values the community aspect of the idea. Do you see it the same way? How do you bridge the two?
It is like a music crowd, some like the lyrics, some like the music. They can enjoy the same bands, and just as likely one side can hate it and one can like it. It is all about your expectations coming into Startup Weekend. I don’t think you can build a business without putting community first. I see a strong community base as the dream of someone who is business minded, and for someone that is community minded, perhaps their equity will turn into something.
Q: For some time there was some confusion about the equity model of SW. May you take a little time to explain the 5%/45%/50% model?
Shortly after the Boulder weekend I interviews with many of the founders asking them about the equity model and what it would mean if I turned the Weekend into a startup of its own. The response was almost unanimous that I should move forward as a company and that the equity split of 5% for Startup Weekend LLC, 45% for future development of the company created and 50% to be split into the founders of the weekend.
Q: You are also a startup company. People seem to forget that Startup Weekend LLC is also a startup company that is only several months old. What are some of the growing pains that you have experienced? Have these followed the same pattern as the majority of the startups SW has generated?
There have been some really funny moments around this. The biggest growing pain was somehow thinking it was a good idea to book 7 straight weekends (and 9 in 10 weekends). It has been an amazing experience, but without downtime it is really hard to really learn the lessons you need to learn. I do follow the same general pattern weekend to weekend. There is always something new from the past weekend from a lesson learned.
Q: After each Startup Weekend, people are often blog about what worked, what did not work and the lessons learned. Would you say that Startup Weekend attendees have been learning from past experience of preceding Startup Weekends; and is Startup Weekend LLC getting better at organizing events and accomplishing its goals with each Startup Weekend?
Single weekend major lessons are learned from observations, blog posts, and post weekend interviews. The weekend is much stronger than it was in Boulder.
Q: It is interesting to see that as Startup Weekend grows, philosophical debates have also started around certain issues. For example, there have has been some interesting discussions in the blogosphere regarding the role of out-of-towners. In your opinion, should out-of-towners out-number locals? Should out-of-towners suggest ideas or should ideas only be limited to locals? What’s your take on all that?
I would say that 80% of the attendees of the weekends don’t know each other, so I see absolutely no problem in people coming in from out of town. There is really no reason to limit it.
Q: There have been observations regarding the low numbers of women participating at the Startup Weekend events. What is Startup Weekend doing to encourage more women to participate?
I am really starting to do outreach on this topic. There is no reason for such low numbers of women participating in entrepreneurship. I think Startup Weekend is a perfect introduction to entrepreneurship for anyone, especially groups that have not had exposure in the past.
There have been loose associations made between Startup Weekend and Techstars. There is no association between the two, is there? Please clarify.
Q: How far do you think we are from a major blockbuster killer app product coming out of a Startup Weekend?
You never know if one is going to happen. I see 4 companies having a shot of really building something that is compelling to a large community base.
Q: Whats in store for SW in 2008? How many cities are lined up so far?
Over 45 cities have shown interest, I am going to let the community decide where we go.
Q: And lastly, what do you say to those who fear that you are basically coming into their town and harvesting their ideas and making money off it?
The weekend is so much bigger than an idea or money.
Andrew, once again thanks for taking time out of your very busy schedule to answer our questions.