This past weekend I attended Nashville’s Startup Weekend. If you’re unfamiliar with the Startup Weekend concept, here’s a primer. I attended the event last year as well, and my two experiences couldn’t have been more dissimilar. Here are my lessons learned:
1. Leadership Matters
Last year, I voted for teams based entirely upon how impressed I was with the person pitching the idea. I was new to Nashville, and therefore figured I may as well just align myself with someone who (at least in all appearances) knew what they were doing.
This year, I shifted gears a bit.
My criteria for ideas was simple: “Does this sound like a fun way to spend a weekend?”
Having taken those two different approaches, I can say that picking a team based on leadership makes an enormous difference.
If you want to spend a weekend working in a creative environment, go with the idea.
If you want to launch a business in a weekend, go with leadership.
(I want to add the caveat that we had an awesome team with some really interesting people. We just didn’t have any one person, myself included, who decided to step up and provide the leadership necessary to carry the idea through to execution.)
2. Focus Matters
All businesses know they can’t be all things to all people.
Startup Weekend is no different.
Focus. Focus. Focus. In one weekend, you just don’t have time to pursue tangents, no matter how interesting they may seem. It’s a time suck. Avoid it all costs.
3. Strategy Matters
When you get a team full of creative people together with an incredible time crunch, it’s tempting to forgo planning for action.
“We’ll build the audience. Advertisers will follow.”
“Let’s talk feature set before we worry about strategy.”
Etc., etc., etc.
Yes, it takes time to lay out a strategy. But skip it at your own peril.
4. People Matter
Basically, I just want to say that the people involved in the entrepreneurship/digital space in Nashville are truly awesome.
And thanks especially to everyone who participated. You all make this town a fun place to work, live and play.
See you next year!
(And I know there are photos in that slideshow from 2008 – I couldn’t get Flickr to cooperate.)