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!!