Communities are built from within. Also the Startup Weekend community.
I was very lucky to visit one community after the other. The visit to Sudan is still fresh on my mind and the startup community in Khartoum has some great drivers. The trip to Seedstars CEE Summit in Kiev is next and very happy Igor gave me a lot of todos so it will be busy for 3 days with the jury, mentorship and moderator activities.
We just returned from the Techstars MEA Summit in Amman, Jordan. That country has some great startup ecosystem, growing fast and quality driven. The Summit was mainly joined by Startup Weekend facilitators and organisers and the team from the US and of course, the ever-active Ahmad who has to combine the different cultures, representing the region of MEA.
Most people were newcomers, only 4 or 5 people were among the oldies doing this volunteer work for over 3 years. Building this awesome community is probably the most heard statement and how great that is. The US team didn’t have an easy time with me. The result was that more than half of the team didn’t talk to me during the almost 3 days.
Do know that I love the community building aspect of Startup Weekend but they are bought by Techstars so the story changed but we could not have a good discussion about this. It reminded me of the article written after TechStars acquired Startup Weekend 2 years ago.
Here is a quote: “These programs (Startup Weekend and the others) are important to the fabric of entrepreneurship,” said David Cohen, “and by joining forces, we make sure that they stay independent, community run, and sort of open-sourced like they are now. With the venture capital that we have and the accelerator platform we have, the combination of all this creates the first fully integrated startup community that is global and can support companies from idea to IPO. And that’s pretty neat.”
Now the question of all the participants was of course, how can we benefit from this approach now that the offering can be more than just a great experience during the weekend. I referred to it as “What is the story today?”. We discussed but the hunger stayed. I hope next year, if they still allow me, we will have a better and more comprehensive approach as David described in the interview.
It was Neşen who asked for me the most important question, “What are you doing for the community so they stay motivated to continue?”. The turnover of new organisers and facilitators is pretty high, so that should be a point of attention. It reminded me of the days that I was advocating like crazy for Mobile Monday, where my partners asked me what was the return except the network and the good feeling. When a volunteer community is not run from within, it is hard to keep the soul at a high level.
Startup Weekend has built over 10 years an amazing impact and all those who were part of it, or are part of it now, all love it including me, but it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be critical and try to find ways to improve. After 2 years the only update is branding and a new branded deck for the facilitators. It is also time to do some “Design Thinking” and pivot towards the needs that are there, especially in MEA, South America and the Far East. You can put out little fires all the time but I think it is better to understand where the fire is coming from and change, so there can not be a fire. Any firefighter can explain this.
Simple Minds, how strong a band’s name can be. In the 80’s they were a critical voice with great songs, covering more than just I love you. The title” Don’t You (Forget About Me)” refers to the fact that the band was very happy with the change in the country but they felt very deceived after. You can easily Google the details. Perception is key, as we always push brands that the brand promise must be kept, otherwise you lose market share. Leading a community in that way is tricky. The Boulder Thesis, by Brad Feld (co-founder TechStars), lists as a first condition for a successful startup community: “Entrepreneurs must lead the startup community”. Always good to go back to the basics sometimes to understand better now and tomorrow. Enjoy the song here.