Archive for April, 2011

Startup Weekend Comes to Las Vegas

Friday, April 29th, 2011

I’m really excited to tell you about Startup Weekend finally coming to Las Vegas. I’ve wanted to participate in Startup Weekend for quite a while. In fact, I was friends with one of the first people involved in Startup Weekend and I can’t say I wasn’t a little bit envious of him being part of it. Well, now it’s coming to Las Vegas.

If you don’t know what Startup Weekend is, it’s an intense 54 hour weekend of working on some cool project. You start with an idea and finish with a launched product. The basis for a potential business. Plus, we’ve already landed Zappos as a Startup Weekend Las Vegas sponsor and Kevin Rose (of Digg fame) as a judge. Plus, more announcements on the way.

Registration for Startup Weekend Las Vegas is open and only $75 for the Early Bird registration through May 25, 2011. It’s going to be a fun weekend, so go register now.

Ok, if you’re still not convinced, here’s the rest of the details about how the event works and a great video which captures the essence of Startup Weekend quite well.

| About SW |
Startup Weekend is a 501(c)3 non-profit that brings together the entrepreneurial, web development and design communities for one weekend with one goal: Going from idea to launch! Here’s a quick video of the recent events in Philly: watch. I believe it captures the essence of the Startup Weekend, a launchpad that we’re truly excited to bring to Vegas!

The weekend is easily broken down into PitchBuildPresentFriday is pitch night when anyone with an idea gets one minute to pitch to the crowd. The crowd votes on the top 8-10 ideas and we start to form teams and build. We build all day Saturday until around 4:00 on Sunday (with some awesome meals mixed in). Finally, Sunday is launch day where teams will have the opportunity to present their ideas to investors, industry leaders. A few awesome ideas and their entrepreneurs have even gone on to receive funding.

| Judges | Sunday (6/26) – 5 PM – 8:30 PM
There are so many ideas that come out of Startup Weekends. Some of them are wacky and a lot set out to rule the world. Judges are encouraged to give valuable advice/feedback in addition to just asking questions. We have a list of 5 basic criteria for the winners circle:
1. Execution (what teams have actually accomplished over the weekend; i.e. deliverable)
2. Presentation (self-explanatory)
3. Viability (financially speaking)
4. Innovation (is the concept unique? disruptive?)
5. Breakthrough Potential (maybe it’s popular among first adopters, but can it be scaled to a larger market?)

| Speakers |
Friday (6/24) 7PM – 7:45PM
We’re going to have two speakers and a local startup do a demo before we begin pitching. Speakers will have 10 minutes of full on attention to speak on topics like: bootstrapping vs. raising funds, the local investment ecosystem and team dynamics and the importance of picking the right people and communicating effectively. The audience will then have 5 minutes of Q&A. Slides are ok but not required.

| Mentors |
Generally speaking, mentors spend about two hours on Saturday and/or Sunday meeting with teams or individuals. We plan on having some awesome ideas launched in Vegas, so we understand if you want to stay longer.

Saturday – 10AM to 6 PM and/or
Sunday – 10AM to 5PM

| Help Spread the word |
– Checkout and
– Follow us: @SWVegas
– Send anyone you feel would be interested in attending, sponsoring or judging our way

6:00pm – Registration starts (pizza served)
7:00pm – Kickoff & Speakers
7:30pm – Pitches Begin – (60 seconds per person)
9:00pm – Attendees vote for the top ideas
9:15pm – Teams start forming and discussing ideas
10:00pm – 1:00am – Teams begin to work

[Recharge on Fremont E]

9:00am – Doors open. Breakfast & coffee
9:30am – Teams continue working. Mentors arrive and begin working with teams.
12:00pm – Lunch
6:30pm – Dinner
7:30pm – Mid weekend check-in, status reports, call for help
12:00 midnight – Finished for the day. Stay and work as late as the venue will allow.

[Recharge on Fremont E]

9:00am – Doors open. Breakfast & coffee
11:00pm – Lunch
12:30pm – Mentors arrive…
3:00pm – Gut check. Start prepping for presentations
4:00pm – Dinner
7:30pm – Judging & awards
8:30pm – Wrap-up
9:00pm – Wrap Party

Slow and Steady vs Boom and Bust Entrepeneurship

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

Seems like Friday’s are when I get my biggest inspiration for posting on this site. I guess that Friday evening is the time that I don’t want to do other work and so I take a little bit of time to think and meditate on things. I think that actually works out quite well.

Tonight I’m thinking about how so many people out there can’t see the long term vision of slow and steady growth. Instead they want to go all out and either crash and burn or hit it big. I’m not saying that the second option is not a good option. In fact, there are hundreds and thousands of amazing businesses that have been built by that approach. I just don’t think I have the stomach for that approach.

Many people might immediately react that well then I must not be an entrepreneur. How could someone as risk averse as I really be an entrepreneur? Let alone an entrepreneur that is going to be successful. They likely then continue to say that my competitors are going to eat me alive. They’ll likely suggest that you have to go fast to stay ahead of the competition. Then, they start to equate “fast” to working long hours at the office, not having a life making the startup company your life, and all the other highly fantasized parts of building a startup company.

Luckily, I’m not alone in this belief. It just seems that very few people are willing to talk about it in public. The notion that you have to give your life to a company to be successful in business, while glamorous in a story about a company, also misses out on some of the best parts of life. I think that the guys behind 37 Signals cover this quite well in their book Rework. It’s quite possibly the best $13 gift my wife’s given me. Not only is it a quick read, but it covers the type of entrepreneurship that I enjoy doing. It exposes all the myths that exist and gives people like me freedom to believe in another path to fulfill my entrepreneurial itch.

That path to me is paved in the principle of slow and steady persistence. It’s lined with working smarter, not harder. It’s foundation requires the passion of the entrepreneur.

I won’t cover all the reasons why I think passion is essential, but imagine it this way. The frenetic boom or bust method of entrepreneurship doesn’t require the same level of passion. You’re moving so quickly that you have no choice. There’s always a zillion things to do and you never know which way is up. It’s fun, exciting and you’re hitting all sorts of interesting milestones all the time. They may not have been effective or efficient, but they were exciting and it’s easy to be passionate about exciting things.

Instead, the slow and steady method of entrepreneurship requires passion to keep going even when the progress you’re making is hard to quantify and hard to see. It requires a certain amount of faith and determination that as long as you persistently do a little bit more each day that the persistent hammering away will be rewarded in the long term. That doesn’t sound fun to most people. That’s why passion matters. When you’re working on something you’re really passionate about, you don’t need the outside acknowledgement that what you’re doing is cool. You’re doing it because you love it and you’d likely do it even if there wasn’t the gold at the end of the rainbow.

In fact, your passion for what you’re doing is so great, that it’s hard for you to even classify it as work because you enjoy doing it so much.

Compare that principle with the warp speed entrepreneurship that takes a big round of investment and wants to grow the company quickly to reach the day of harvest when they sell the company to someone else. I’m not saying this approach is bad or evil. It’s not.

It’s just unfortunate that this boom or bust mentality in entrepreneurship actually discourages so many would be entrepreneurs from pursuing their dreams. Persistent passion can often take you a lot farther than money. However, it takes remembering the long term perspective of the business. Many people might not enjoy the long slow ride that takes you to amazing heights. Although, I think many more would if we helped them understand principles of slow and steady entrepreneurship.