OR, How many arm chair commentators does it take to completely and utterly miss the point?
A common response to a lot of high profile contemporary art is, “My eight year old kid could have done that.” or “I’ve got a camera, if I had the time I could take better pictures than that.”
Yeah. But you didn’t.
But I would encourage you to give it a go. You might find you’ve got a real talent. Or, you might find it’s harder than you think. Either way, you’ll discover something new.
I’ve heard similar things said about the projects that came out of Startup Weekend Brussels II. They’re no good, they won’t go anywhere, there’s nothing innovative there.
This isn’t a defence of the outcomes, it’s a clarification of what we can realistically expect from such a weekend.
From my perspective, Startup Weekend isn’t about creating highly polished, robust businesses that can be launched the following week. It’s about the process, not the outcome. It’s about working with others, listening, learning and rapidly making decisions to get to the Sunday night pitch. It’s about getting the damn idea out of your head and onto the table where it can grow, change and become more plausible thanks to the input of the other people that have also been crazy enough to turn up and spend 54 hours with you.
This is my second Startup Weekend Brussels. The first time I just helped out a bit, trying to hone the pitches of anyone that needed some help on the Sunday afternoon. This time I was a co-organiser.
If there was one marked difference between the February and the October events, it was how much people have taken on board that you have to start speaking to your potential customers as soon as possible so that you can actually figure out what they want. This may have been due to the fact that we had Lean Startup advocate, Ash Maurya here with us all weekend, but I think it’s also due to the fact more and more entrepreneurs are adopting Lean practices and not building their products in isolation.
Yes, there were a lot of surveys created in the February edition to find out who the customer really is, but look at how many more people really “got out of the building” this time. One team conducted video interviews in the street, another went to Brussels airport to conduct questionnaires. Others found potential customers in their local Saturday morning market,while another team actually set up a dedicated call centre in a separate office making outbound calls to do market research. So we are developing best practices here. These are lessons and skills that people can use in the future businesses they develop or take back with them to their existing jobs.
There are plenty of incubators and more structured programmes such as Founder Institute and MIC Boostcamp that will take you through the painstaking details of setting up your company and validating your business model in 3-4 months. SWBRU is a sandbox where everyone is welcome, everyone has a role and everyone had damn well better make their mistakes in a safe environment before committing thousands of euros and time into setting up a business selling stuff nobody wants. It doesn’t mean you won’t make mistakes in the real world. If you don’t make mistakes, you’re doing something wrong. But it does mean your chances of survival are much higher.
So here are my big three takes from the weekend:
- people came after a full week in 9 to 5 officeville and worked their asses off all weekend. 99% of the time I saw nothing but smiles and enthusiasm the whole weekend. When I didn’t it was usually a look of complete frustration. Not because they wanted to leave, but because the participant was struggling with a business problem for which they so wanted to find a solution. They were being challenged, but they were stepping up.
- people learned and “got out of the building”
- the Judges surprised us, but that’s why we use them. They have insight. They’ve built successful businesses many times before and can spot the holes in a business pitch immediately.
And finally, if you’re still reading this, here are some of my favourite pictures from the weekend. Enjoy.
Pictures by fellow co-organiser, Leo Exter of Westartup and Natalie Hill, official photographer