Tuesday, November 25, 2008

How About a 54 Hour Startup Festival?



Quite a few years ago, I sat with Eric Hanberg and Noreen Hobson at the coffee shop next to the Grand Cinema (don't know if it was the One Heart Cafe back then) talking about Film in Tacoma. We wanted to know where all the filmmakers, cinematographers and screenwriters were in our section of the Puget Sound and how they might all get together and make some movies. Eric ran with the idea and the next thing you know there was a 72 hour film festival in town. I have only been able to participate in that first one, but have enjoyed watching the festival grow and the quality of those films rise each year.

Recently I read about another event, that not only falls in line with some projects that some of us have been kicking around, but would be very interesting to have here in Tacoma (or at least a facsimile of). Andrew Hyde founded a conference that focuses on learning by creating in the technology business space. Called the Startup Weekend, it brings together start up enthusiasts, marketing folks, developers and business managers who decide on a Friday what they want to tackle over the weekend, then come out of the event two days later with several developed companies or products. CNN covered the Atlanta, Georgia event on Monday of this week with a piece called "How to Start a Tech Company in One Weekend". TechCrunch also has a piece from 2007 that covers one of the results from that weekend, a product called Skribit. They describe the event as such.

Andrew Hyde’s Startup Weekend, born out of the TechStarts event this last summer, has been busy. The company goes from city to city, organizes developers to spend a long weekend deciding on a new business idea and then building it. Everyone who shows up is a founder, and everyone has equal equity in the new thing, whatever it ends up being.

Of course here in Tacoma we have just completed another successful South Sound Technology Conference, which focused this year on innovation and the Pierce County area. Many of the presenters offered advice on moving creative solutions to marketed products.

In fact, I have been engaged in numerous conversations about fostering innovation and technology with several folks over the last year, with panel moderator Senator Jim Kastama being one of this topics major drivers and proponents. Additionally, there has been discussion on ways in which we can pull people together to germinate ideas and provide an audience and feedback to those who have the desire to invent. Suggested formats have included conference breakouts, contests, awards and even a television show.

And I suppose that given that last suggested format I should leave this with a "stay tuned".

So what do you think?

8 comments:

jamie said...

Sounds fun...count me interested.

michael said...

I'm full of ideas, I'd be interested

Andrew Fry said...

I've met with a few folks in Tacoma over the last few years with good (and not as good) start up ideas. Sometimes I think you should just throw a few things against the wall to see what sticks.

More than one company has come out of those conversations, with one even being acquired (and unfortunately moved off to CA).

My very first fore' into business was no great success, but it kept me in beer and date money in my early, early twenties for nearly three years.

Andrew Becherer said...

I am a member of the Seattle Startup Weekend crew (Skillbit is dead! Long live Skillbit!). It was a phenomenal event and I have carried forward a number of relationships that formed there. Furthermore I think it had a very beneficial impact on the already operational group Six Hour Startup.

In my opinion there was one major flaw with the Seattle Startup Weekend. That flaw was the total lack of pre-event participant inclusion. No one knew what to expect. As such the group spent 3 hours on Friday night selecting a startup idea. Another significant amount of time was spent dividing into functional groups (designers, programmers, business types, lawyers, etc). Once the developers got together we spent at least hour choosing a web application technology. Those of us unfamiliar with Python and Django then spent a significant amount of time setting up development environments and getting up to speed.

Six Hour Startup has addressed these issues by communicating before their events. When you show up to Six Hour Startup the idea has been determined, the technology has been determined and the project leaders have become obvious. In this way no valuable time is wasted arguing about ideas and the developers can get up to speed on the technologies to be used before the event. They use an email listserv but there are other techniques for allowing this kind of coordination.

The latest incarnation of Seattle Mindcamp attempted to develop this level of pre-event participant coordination. They ustilized a social network platform developed by the Seattle firm Waggle Labs called Pathable. They encouraged attendees to build profiles and discover people with similar interests. The social network also allowed participants to discuss potential unconference topics before the event.I don't think it was entirely successful but it was an improvement over past Mindcamp events.

If a Tacoma Startup Weekend organizing crew were to form I would participate.

Andrew Becherer said...

One other quick comment. I have often wondered how long it will be until Tacoma reaches the technology professional density required to support events like Startup Weekends and such. We had a thriving Linux Users Group (Taclug) which was probably the largest consistent meetup for technology professionals in Pierce County. The physical manifestation has disappeared recently although a viable group still exists on the Internet.

An attempt was made at starting Dorkbot in Tacoma. Dorkbot is a meeting of technology inclined artists and art inclined technologists. After three or four meetings it faltered.

I believe it is not a case of "if" Tacoma can support meetings of technology professionals but rather "when." To give you an idea of the type of events I am writing about check out this list of random technology oriented Seattle events I pulled off of my 2008 calendar:

- ToorCon Seattle

- Saturday House

- Six Hour Startup

- Seattle Startup Weekend

- O'Reilly Publishing's IgniteSeattle!

- Seattle Mind Camp 5.0

- WTIA November Security SIG

- Seattle Ruby Brigade Open Hacking Night

- Seattle Wireless Hack Night

- Science on Tap

- Hops and Chops

- Coldfusion User Group

- FBI InfraGard

- NWEN Entrepreneur University

- WTIA November technology in focus series

- Seattle Podcasting Meetup

- MIT Enterprise Forum

- Dorkbot: People doing strange things with electricity

- SeaFunc (Seattle Functional Language Programming Group)

- Seattle Lunch 2.0 @ RocketDog

- Xcoders - Macintosh Programming SIG

- FundingUniverse Seattle LivePitch

- Seattle Monthly Information Architecture Meetup

- PSSIGCHI 2008 Tutorial: Service Innovation, Strategy, and Design!

- Seattle Robotics Society

- DC206 November Meeting

- WTIA November Urban Leadership Series

- Greater Seattle Linux Users Group (GSLUG)

- Seattle Drupal User Group

- StartPad Countdown: Startup Security

- Flash User Group

- Big Fish Games Interviewing/Improvisation Workshop

- Science with a Twist

- Seattle Tweetup

- SEAFLEX MEETING

- Hackerbot Labs

- Seattle Blogger Meetup

- Seattle Startup Drinks

- HazardFactory

- 2600 Meeting

- Seattle Area System Administrators Guild (SASAG)

- SummerMash Seattle

- SocialMediaCampSeattle

- The 10th Anniversary Final SubGenius Devival

- Jane and Robot Web Development and Seach Meetup

- UW CS&E Colloquia

- Developer Day @ SMX Advanced

- Web 2.0 & Beyond: Unmasking the Future

- Startpad Amazon Web Services Office Hours

- Web Development and Search Meetup

- Startup Junkies - Lessons from Serial Entrepreneurs

- UW Agora

- Thingamajiggr II

- Google Seattle Techtalk Series

- iSEC Open Forum Seattle

scott1223 said...

I am definitely interested. Notify me or do a blog post and I'll keep watch! :)

madhuri said...

I really like the vision a StartUp Festival inspires – a broader community of interesting people who actually talk and deal face-to-face with each other for a common cause. The sheer population density of these events (several people collaborating in a shared space for multiple hours) offers amazing opportunities (think Chinese symbol for danger) to communicate, work through conflicts, and actually emerge with a consensus, if not a landslide vote, for one or more viable start up companies.

And I echo the twist to encourage pre-event communications. More than one wrinkle could be ironed out before the actual event, and relationships can begin to take shape before participants meet up.

Bring it on, Tacoma!

Andrew Fry said...

Considering this is just a first post then it looks like there would definitely be some interest.

I am thinking sometime in the Spring. Let's keep the idea alive and move it forward by talking about it in January.