Inspiration from StartupWeekend Boise
Jan 05, 2010
Of the many people inspired by StartupWeekend Boise, which took place last November as part of Global Entrepreneurship Week 2009, were Don Dietrich and Brian Dickens.
Both men work with multiple statewide outreach programs on a daily basis, but they were particularly impressed with StartupWeekend. These weekends offer 54-hour marathons that provide networking, resources and incentives all designed to help entrepreneurs go from idea to launch. StartupWeekends were held in 10 cities in conjunction with Global Entrepreneurship Week 2009, and many more are planned for the Week in 2010.
“What was unique for StartupWeekend was the corporate teams available to connect with,” said Dickens, administrator for innovation in commerce. “Within 15 minutes, there were Webhosting resources and corporate resources to connect with, which is something I hadn’t seen before. We look to connect hard resources, but hadn’t thought about soft resources.”
Another unique element of StartupWeekend that they noticed was its uncanny ability to connect people and build working teams.
“Time constraints create great work environments,” said Dietrich, director of the Idaho Department of Commerce. “It brought people together. There was a sense of urgency to get things done.”
People who were previously disassociated with one another came in the door unaware of what to expect. Within a few hours, they had teamed up and were applying their specific skill set to a unique task.
“It just shows that within an entrepreneurship community there are unique skills and unique personalities that have really great ideas,” Dietrich said.
The Idaho Department of Commerce currently has 600 companies in their software community, and one thing Dickens has noticed is that some of them would be more efficient companies if they were working together – where some have stronger communication skills, others shine in programming.
“With StartupWeekend you get together and say that these are the best ideas, and the rest of you are going to go to work,” Dickens said. “Teams emerged after individuals, as a group, said, ‘These are the best ideas. Let’s coalesce around them.’”
Dietrich said the process of getting to this point was also beneficial. Each participant was handed three dollar bills and told they were Venture Capitalists, and needed to put their money behind the ideas. This fostered a level of friendly competition and an opportunity to build confidence in one’s business idea.
“They had 16 or 17 people with ideas who had to get out in front of this group that they didn’t know, and had to pitch (their business idea) within a very short period of time,” Dietrich said. “Once the teams pulled together it was competitive, but it was a fun competitive. They were so busy that I don’t think they had time to be competitive.”
Events like StartupWeekend also help to channel the passion so often associated with entrepreneurship, Dietrich said.
“One issue for entrepreneurs is to identify the point where it’s time to market an idea. We see that regularly with innovators — they want to keep working on what they have,” he said. “They want to make the perfect mousetrap, and sometimes the market isn’t looking for the perfect mousetrap.”
The Idaho Department of Commerce plans on getting more involved with Global Entrepreneurship Week in general, and StartupWeekend in particular, in 2010.
The two men see the initiative as a way to foster an interesting side effect of the recession of 2009.
“If we’ve ever experienced any kind of positive from lay offs, it’s that really smart people create start ups out of desperation,” Dickens said. “There were people at StartupWeekend who said, ‘I’ve got a skill set and I want to offer it, even if I don’t start my own company.’”
Find out more about StartupWeekend and where events will be held in the coming months.