The closing moments of a Startup Weekend are truly all of these things. This weekend I spend 3 very long days at the Startup Weekend at Cal Poly. At the end I was truly Exhilarated by working with smart and dedicated people, Energized by what they can bring to our community and the world, and Exhausted from lack of sleep. For those not aware of the Startup Weekend Movement it is a global program that provides a forum for those that want to explore entrepreneurial ideas with like minded individuals. While the event is held at Cal Poly and the majority of the participants are students the event is open to the public. If you have never experienced one of these I highly recommend them as a bucket list idea.
This year started on Friday evening with a keynote from Kyle Wiens CEO of IFixIt. Kyle is always interesting to listen to because he has great storytelling ability and an interesting business. He is a Cal Poly grad and a long time sponsor of the Startup Weekend. Kyle did not fail to deliver energy and inspiration to the event. It was also great to see a local tech company engaged. If the Startup Weekend creates one more Kyle in our community that will a major homerun.
After the keynote they play a game of rock, paper, scissors. With the groups joining each other until there are only two groups left. This serves the purpose of mixing the groups up and it does a good job of this. It gets people out of their seats and interacting with each other. Since the group is very techy my only hope is that in the future they consider upgrading the game to the newest version. Here is my upgrade recommendation. Pitches
Next in the process are the pitches where each person with an idea gets up and does a 60 second pitch that is summarized and posted on the wall. With about 100 people in the event we ended up with about 50 concepts. This is followed by the chaos of voting and it is truly an inspiration for the State of Florida. Each person has three dots that they attach to the ideas they liked best and at the end of that the votes are tallied and the top 12 concepts are announced. I pitched a concept of an Enterprise Search solution but with only two votes my idea was crushed by others. Only the best survive and that is the way it should be.
Next came team formation and this is really the magic of the weekend and it is pure chaos. As it approached the end of process there were just a few kids left to be picked for a team and I was one of those. When that was announced Garrett Perkins the evangelist for the Ethic Marketplace invited me to his team. So true to the Startup Weekend best practice nobody is left unengaged not even the Token Old Guy.
The idea evolution is always an interesting process. Everyone looks at the challenges and goals differently based on their life experiences. From that diversity that the team gets its strength but it also causes tension in a fast paced evolving environment.As one of the people that brings up lots of the challenges it can be difficult for those possessed with the vision but the team always seems to find the balance. I like working with people that are smarter than I am and that was certainly true in this team. Working with brilliant people on tough problems is tons of fun.
Before discussing judging I have to disclose my bias. I thought the team I worked with was clearly better than the other groups although in the same breath I have to say that all the teams did great work. Having served as a judge before I know how hard it is to compare highly diverse proposals so reasonable people can disagree and I have more than a little bias toward our team. I do not believe in the everyone is winner concept because without failure we have no growth. These people are about to enter the business community and they will change the world and it will be better off because of them.
I was really disappointed in the level of community involvement in the final presentation and it is something that we can do better on. Our community and the tech community in specific needs to celebrate these people and this process because
as a community we get what we celebrate
If nothing else our team should have got honorable mention as the only team in uniform on Veterans Day. I am extremely proud of the work this team did on the important issue of conscious consumerism. I am excited to see them talk about taking this forward and they have the right stuff to change the world with this one.
Startup Weekends are a global program with hundreds of thousands of participants. On average 12% of the ideas pitched go on to some advanced stage of business formation. Here locally because of the support from Cal Poly and the Tech Business community our rate is much much higher. Often business survival is compared to baseball batting averages so the global batting average is .120, SLO is much higher probably .350 or so and I am batting .500 with a ball in the air with faith that this one could go over the wall. It has a couple of evangelists and a team of incredibly smart people aligned on the mission. Ethic Marketplace could be something important to our community and the world.
Watch for these Businesses in 2018!
- Poly Peels
- Tulum Cosmetics
- Poly Talent
- Openspace VR
- Female Synergies
- Health Block
- Ethic Marketplace
Why I do this?
Okay so I am a little crazy and that helps explain some of this but there is much more. To me this is a form of giving back to my community and I have been an advocate for Tech Entrepreneurs forever. Many of my peers give back as speakers, which is something I hate doing. Others serve as mentors, which is another way you can give back, and the the team experiences are much better because of that service to community. My choice is to have the deep experience of working in the trenches with the team as they bring innovation and the entrepreneurial spirit to our community. These teams are a critical element in the high quality of life we enjoy. We have to continue to innovate and create new business so we can live locally and compete globally with a quality of life I want for my family and community.
This is my 9th Startup Weekend and every time I learn from the team I work with and hopefully I contribute back. I love the fact that we are celebrating the Entrepreneurial Spirit in our community. Cal Poly and several community minded businesses and individuals have engineered a full ecosystem that starts with Startup Weekend, flows to the Hatchery and Hot House and ultimately to our tech business community. These new businesses create head of household jobs that improve our standard of living. I cannot think of anything better I could do over a weekend than help this exist in our community.
No article about Startup Weekends would be right without shout outs to the people that make it happen. That has to start with the Cal Poly Entrepreneurs (CPE) Club currently lead by Sierra Scolaro and the event lead Alistair Schwab. The entire team from this organization are just amazing.
They coordinate everything and while nothing is ever perfect this event is as close as it gets. The energy and attention to details makes a complex event seen simple.
The sponsors contribute the treasure needed to bring this to the community but one sponsor has to be called out and that is Guayaki. They actually provide the energy and some might even say the caffeine to fuel the teams.
Our shout outs cannot be complete without without mentioning the mentors. These experts volunteer their time and help all the groups in their specific specialty. Here they are:
About the Author:
Bob Dumouchel is a serial tech entrepreneur with four successful tech startups and three spectacular failures (batting average .571). Bob has been a Softec Member since inception, served as the Softec President twice, and served on the Board of Directors for over 20 years, and his businesses has been Softec Sponsors forever. Bob is a Senior Data Scientist at Systems & Marketing Solution a Google Ads Agency that creates unfair advantage for clients in PPC, SEO, and Social Media. Bob founded the Regional CEO Roundtables and ran the program for the first 11 years.
I was sick earlier in the week and was still recovering so my energy level was not what it normally is. As a result of that I did not get around to talking to all the other groups and I did go home 3 hours early on Saturday, which I felt bad about. I got 5 hours of sleep that day compared to the normal of about 3. As everyone on the team agreed sleep is grossly overrated 😉
I have written about this in great detail in past years so I would refer you to http://softec.org/startup-weekend-2016/ for more details.