4 Startup Weekends in 5 weeks followed by 1 week in Khartoum.
When Startup Weekend Women and Refugees Editions were announced, we of course applied. Not because we were asked by some organisation but we wanted to do it no matter what. We love creating a positive impact and both topics fit right in it. Ahmad Sufiad Bayram, the amazing Techstars and Jusoor coworker called me and we said yes to Gaziantep and Istanbul for Refugees Edition. As we now have our own coworking space, Urla Coworking, the Women edition was going to take place in Urla of course. At the same time, we wanted to go back to Adana as we had already 2 great experiences there and we felt that a Women Edition would make a lot of sense in this amazing town. Apart from Adana, we had to organise 3 of the 4 SWs ourselves and do the facilitation for all 4.
I actually panicked a bit as this seemed like too much hay on our pitchfork. We are a lean and small team, 3 to be correct, so we do have our limitations. Writing regular newsletters I could only think of 1 thing. Ask for help. That was also the title and to my surprise, the help came immediately in a way that I needed to make a Sheet with all names and offers and even had my hands full just handling this. I couldn’t even make use of all the help offered. In Gaziantep, Abdurrahman Kocak reached out and after 1 phone call, he happened to be the man on the spot, as well for preparation as for during the Startup Weekend. Thanks to him we learned a lot about the cuisine in Gaziantep. He became a good friend. No worries, I will not sum up all people who helped and create links for reposting. Though I should not forget Prof. Dr Selçuk Çolak, the centre of entrepreneurship at Çukurova University and Adana at large and his amazing team. I surely thank all of the many people who helped, without them this was a never going to be a success.
Even before the end of Startup Weekend Women in Urla I packed and flew to Khartoum, Sudan. I was very excited to go back and see my friends, Khansa Sayed Alhag and Mutaz Mohamednour. Last time I saw them they showed me an empty building, today that same building is 249startups coworking space. Very proud of how they put this all together in less than 2 years. They have good international partners like Orange Corners from the Netherlands and created a very vibrant community. I went for 7 days and I asked to fill all my time with workshops. They did and I even created 2 new workshops, one on how to start a Coworking space the other one on how to become a Facilitator. I could use my own experience of Urla Coworking combined with the many coworking spaces we have been working with in the past 7 years in Türkiye and even in Belgium. I will never forget Ramon Suarez who cofounded Betacowork in Brussels and my first experience with coworking and creating a community, although I already had some experience with Mobile Monday Belgium.
The result of this crazy schedule is manyfold. You meet a lot of new people and you learn. When immersed in workshops, also Startup Weekend is a workshop, you can improve your content and presence. Kind of a major upgrade on yourself. So a big thanks to all organisers, participants and whoever crossed my road. On the other side, I want to create a positive impact on young people who are enthusiastic to become a startup or entrepreneur. I get good grades in the reviews, but I always look back with mixed feelings. Happiness and frustration. The first one is easy to understand. The frustration might surprise you. I meet meanly very young people who have no idea what they are up to and most of the time miss role model, mentor or even basic experience, but with eagerness and stubbornness to reach their goal. I want to do more for the kids that touch my heart but I cannot and I know that when I leave after 2 or 3 days, it will all fall back to dreams for them. Apart from 249starups who work hard to have longer programs. We always repeat that 9 on 10 will fail but no one ever cames up with the idea to decrease that number.
Startup Weekend Refugees was part of the Final Road Show by Jusoor and Spark supported by Startupwithoutborders. The setup and communication had some flaws but the 10 teams pitching in Amman made great progress during the program. Great initiative with a lot of goodwill and motivation. The winner was Spermly, a participant in Startup Weekend Refugees in Gaziantep where we did the facilitation. In that way a bit proud that we could be part of the success but in a very, very modest way. They were the winners that deserved the 1st prize. It is quite impressive what Jusoor and Spark are pulling together and I am sure they will continue working on this road and improve the programs thriving for more and better entrepreneurs. Competitions are nice and give a fast satisfaction and result, like a dopamine shot, but I am convinced that more can be done.
Create more successes, that has become my, and more specific Stage-Co’s main goal after almost 7 years of entrepreneurship capacity building and all kinds of workshops. Of course, some kids just need a little spark and they take off, even without our programs. I never had any workshops or mentors to become an entrepreneur. But I also paid a huge price during the first years of learning by hitting the wall too many times. That is why I like very much what Holland Corners is doing with 249startups. They support local initiatives that go further than just a one-off workshop event. That is what I expect for quite some time from Startup Weekend. A more holistic approach going further than the event weekend. The SDGs are a good basis. Holland Corners understood this very good. As a person with Flemish roots, I like to tease my friends from the Netherlands, just like they do with us. At the same time, I admire the way they handle real problems with complete solutions and long term local partnerships.
Nobody can stop learning. I am always talking about agile, product/market fit and I prefer to highlight the impact economy. At the same time, some organisations don’t change at all. Bottom line, nothing stays the same forever, we have enough examples and we even started to highlight intrapreneurship in order to create innovation, unique value propositions and even survival for companies. Therefore I think it is time for all the entrepreneurship initiatives to think further, more strategic and more long term with local partnerships and real goals with implementation rather than prototype PR purpose. I am also looking at the many companies with Design Thinkers and Lean Startups and Business Model Canvases. Time for play is over. Let’s do real stuff. And create a sustainable future.