By Mentor, Richard McLean
What an awesome model for equipping early entrepreneurs. Like any good environment where entrepreneurship can thrive, New Zealand now has a well-established eco-system to support innovation and risk-taking.
Some would argue it is immature and a few years ago I would have been one of the voices. Now I see things differently.
Any good eco-system needs diversity to work well. Before the weekend I had not really appreciated the important role SW plays within the larger structure but now I do. I was invited to be a mentor and agreed with much trepidation. I have done my share of mentoring but had never agreed to immerse myself for an entire weekend before and it sounded like a lot of time (and effort).
As it turned out it was a lot of time but there were others who donated much time than I did.
For me, it was time well invested.
In the last thirteen years I have met and offered various support to literally hundreds of young and not so young entrepreneurs. In nearly all cases the process of helping, advising and seeing results is cyclical and can take anything from months to years.
So naturally I was a sceptic.
How the hell could someone go through the process of idea to working business model in two days? Oh, all this with a team that just met and by the way it would be great if you could build the product too – and did we mention, you need to go out and validate it in the market?
Not only did I see 11 teams do just that, most of them completed the exercise successfully.
It was a truly eye opening learning experience for me. Some things you have to go through to learn well.
The skill and knowledge requirements for keeping a start-up alive and then growing it are in-part unique. The start-up weekend is the best model I have seen yet for learning this stuff quickly and safely. The local organisers are top flight and the international organisation behind it provides good support and structure.
We even had ice cream.
The weekend is all about the individuals who sign up and commit themselves to the process.
They will still be processing the experience and figuring out what it taught them about themselves. I can also imagine that one or two might be thinking that entrepreneurship might not be their cup of tea. I would bet that is only one or two out of a very large group that committed themselves to the weekend. Nearly every person leaving last night was hugely excited about what they had achieved, learnt and determined to accelerate their journey down the start-up road.
If you are wondering if you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur, or if you know you do and want to learn quickly then you would add Startup weekend to your list of things that you must do.
It probably can’t replace a tertiary degree or a year in an incubator – but what it will do is give you the most real experience of the first year of start-up life you could hope for in one weekend.
It will leave you amazed at how quickly you can get stuff done and with first-hand experience of all those labels you have been reading about and trying to put into action – market validation, MVP, pivot and so on.
To all the amazing young (and not so young) people who jumped in and competed this weekend, thank you for a good time, I feel like New Zealand’s future is a little more secure. Having grown up in a country where it was not only not ok to fail, it was a terrible social stigma – it is a relief to finally see an eco-system that celebrates risk taking and that sees failure as just another precursor to success.