Atlanta Startup Weekend 3 is coming November 13th-15th. Based on my experience at the first 2 Atlanta startup weekends, I want to challenge anyone who is planning to attend to come with the intent of launching some version of their company & product by Sunday night.
The first Atlanta startup weekend created Skribit, which launched VERY late Sunday night of that weekend, and was one of the first Startup Weekend projects to take on a life of its own beyond the weekend. With every ASW1 attendee united on 1 project, we had an amazingly balanced and capable team, but we lost a lot of people after day 1 when they decided the idea wasn’t for them. Skribit received funding from Georgia Tech’s Edison Fund, and is actively being worked on by Paul Stamatiou and others.
The second Atlanta startup weekend took on a new format. Instead of having 60+ people create one company, we split into multiple groups to launch multiple companies – this was a good thing, although it led to a skewed distribution of resources (Reepli may have had 1/3 of the total developer pool, possibly with zero non-developers.) I’m not convinced that the multiple projects led to any less attrition on day 2 than the ASW1 format.
The other big change was that teams were no longer encouraged to launch their company by Sunday night. I think this was a VERY bad thing. Businessy types who had been hunting for a technical co-founder for months pitched their huge-scope ideas. Developers don’t show up at Startup Weekend to get another job, especially on ideas that several other developers have already declined to work on. Friday night, I decided to join the Seed Stage Records team. Late that night, when SSR’s goal for the weekend was set as launching a static web page by Friday night and doing more in the months ahead, I bailed. The team imploded on Saturday over vision & direction issues that wouldn’t have been a problem if they had been focused on launching a minimum viable product by Sunday night. Saturday morning, I joined the GivingTi.me team. I rolled up my sleeves and put a lot of work into building a launchable site over the next 2 days. It didn’t launch, mostly, I think, because there was NO pressure to launch. Nobody cared if Giving Time launched by Sunday night, so there was no pressure to work until 1 AM at night, no pressure to cut scope, etc, etc. It STILL hasn’t launched 9 months later. As best I can tell, none of the code our team wrote will be used when it does launch. Almost sounds like a wasted weekend, but I still had a blast.
I believe the first Atlanta Startup Weekend did a better job of building community and launching product. ASW2 did launch TwitPay, but it germinated from the core Merb team, and I’m not sure the weekend did more than give those guys a kick in the pants to launch a rocking idea (to their credit, they DID launch something). ASW1 did a LOT more to build Atlanta’s entrepreneurial community. Part of that is because ASW1 was a part of Atlanta’s Great Awakening. In many cases, it was the first time many of Atlanta’s startup-oriented minds met and had a chance to size each other up. I think that’s too flippant, though. The process of fighting over the concept, scope, and design of Skribit to successfully launch it in 3 days led to a better product and a better community. At the end of ASW1, I knew who I wanted to work with again, and who I did not (AND I currently work with 2 of my Skribit co-founders).
So my call for Atlanta Startup Weekend 3 is to LAUNCH SOMETHING. Don’t pitch an idea that can’t be launched by Sunday night. Don’t join a concept that needs 6 months of work to launch – this isn’t startup speed-dating. Don’t let your first team meeting degenerate into 1 year planning meetings and a goal to launch a landing page. Find a great idea with other smart Atlanta / SouthEast regional people to work with to LAUNCH some version of that product in 3 days.
And if you’re working on a startup either full-time or on the side, the same challenge is out there. Launch Something so you can begin getting customer feedback, iterating on your idea, and learning, instead of thrashing on an unlaunched app.