Startup vs. Weekend

12 November 2007

And so the debate continues… two recent articles following this past weekend talk about Andrew Hyde’s StartupWeekend’s focus on community building:

“… these events are clearly wonderful for creating community. Note that I am not saying “for creating useful startups” – it’s highly unlikely any of these will get funded, let alone reach a liquidity event. But participants are clearly charged up after the sessions, and the overall feedback is positive.” Michael Arrington of TechCrunch

and

“… it should come as no surprise (and Mike is very right) that it’s not primarily about building sustainable companies. Instead, think of it as building sustainable communities.” David Cohen of TechStars

and in Andrew’s own words

“The weekend is about building community, that is the first and biggest goal (and always will be). The connections made during the weekends are where you will really see the value of Startup Weekend. Partnerships and relationships forged out of these weekends will lead to greater business development in the future.”

SAY WHAT?  If it’s all about “community” then why take 5% equity?  In fact, Birmingham *already* has a very strong technology community.  For instance, TechBirmingham‘s TechMixers regularly draw 600+ attendees.  Our community has a wonderful startup ecosystem that supports efforts like the Birmingham Startup weekends.  My hats off to Andrew and his startup gypsies who are packing the house with ‘out of towners’ at each of his Startup Weekends.  But, what happens to the community when they leave town?  IF it’s about community, why not let local organizers build on and adapt the concept (as we’ve done) a little to fit into their local system?  When the 2nd Startup Weekend’s organizers tried (in Toronto) they were summarily slapped down for trying.  Now it’s as if they never had one, if not for the counter-blog’s recollection of the effort.

Instead, in Birmingham we set out to create a bona fide company.  I’ve blogged a couple of times about the rationale behind the organizers and participants not taking equity from the founders.  Even though the sleep depravation hasn’t subsided and I’m still consuming Advil in far greater doses than the bottle recommends, I believe that everyone who played with us in the past 2 weekends feels that it was worth their time to volunteer for such a momentous undertaking!

So, I ask the following rhetorical question… Is this all about creating a true STARTUP or is it all about having a great, invigorating, and challenging WEEKEND?  In Birmingham, we had both!!

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4 Responses to “Startup vs. Weekend”

  1. Gwen Bell said

    Excellent questions, here. Thank you for asking them. And congratulations on taking the SW concept and adapting it to fit your community! I think that the 2nd weekend is a really excellent way to go about implementing what happened in weekend 1.

    In fact, at the end of the Chapel Hill weekend I was left scratching my head about that, too. I decided that I wouldn’t be a “gypsy” anymore, as you’ve put it. But I’m really glad I did the 4 weekends that I did! I strongly encourage people to continue asking these questions. Foo Camp kicked off what ended up evolving into the Bar Camp model, right? So one thing’s for sure: it MUST EVOLVE.

    And honestly, from what I’ve heard from folks that organize these things (and myself and a team of 2 other locals organized the SW Chapel Hill event), and what I know from my own experience being on the “event coordinator” side of things, it’s hard work. You know it, too. There should be some sort of compensation for the hosts for these weekends, at the *very* least. I’m not talking “equity.” I’m talking about a percentage of sponsorship or some sort of payment for the countless hours spent connecting people, getting sponsors, calling the press, organizing food, finding and securing a location, cleaning up during and after, the list goes on.

    So, I celebrate the seed that Andrew planted. I’d love to see it go completely open source/open platform in terms of ownership as you’re suggesting here (the 5% to which you refer could be passed off to people in the cities that host Andrew, if he chooses to continue flying cross-country to host these events). Will it? We’ve yet to see.

    I’m also wanting to hear other creative solutions to implementation and keeping the local community engaged. I think simple things like planning ahead for “next actions” could save us a lot of headache.

    One final, perhaps more personal note, is that I hope you recover from the high that this inevitably gets people on. That high is not easy to come down from, nor is it necessarily healthy while you’re up there. May you be healthy and happy. And may the Birmingham tech community continue to thrive.

    *On a final note, I packed my house w/out-of-towners b/c it was “my” town and I currently live w/another local tech girl. We were showing some Southern hospitality. You know it…you’re from Alabama…

  2. […] north of the border.  Mysteriously (or not), Birmingham and Toronto aren’t on his list.  We don’t care, actually.  We’re running our event again here in 2008 with or without any official […]

  3. […] long been doing that here in Birmingham. We use our startup weekend effort to build a company, as I’ve noted before. If it’s community you want, however, then there’s no better than a […]

  4. […] team’s online presence.  Nonetheless, you can get a good flavor from watching this video of our focus on ensuring BUSINESS VALIDITY before […]

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