Yesterday I caught up with Eric Brotto the lead organiser of London Startup Weekend. Startup Weekend is a worldwide organisation of entrepreneurs who are learning the basics of founding startups and launching successful ventures. It claims to be the largest community of passionate entrepreneurs with over 400 past events in 100 countries around the world in 2011.
The idea behind London Startup Weekend is to bring together entrepreneurs, coders, designers, people with ideas and anyone else interested in startups in one place for one weekend. The best ideas are then identified, teams formed around these and a viable tested business/product created. The latest startup weekend is aiming to encourage more women to get involved in tech startups.
I posed a few questions to Eric -
1) What made you decide to lead Startup Weekend in London?
Well, it's a really exciting time for entrepreneurs. Technology has allowed it so that anyone with a laptop and an idea can start a business and bring it to the market very quickly and at a low cost. Being around people who are pursuing their dreams and making these companies a reality is inspiring. That said, I want to be immersed in this environment as much as possible. I work for a startup called Smile Machine in Shoreditch, have recently joined another startup involved in 'tech outreach' called Decoded (also based in the Silicon Roundabout) and I make iPhone apps in my spare time.
Even though I am involved quite heavily in the tech community in London, Startup Weekend offers something that no one else does. It is hard to describe, but I guess it's the magic that comes form the synergy of many different elements. Obviously the format of the event is very unique and works quite well, but ultimately it seems to attract a very high calibre pool of people and that makes all the difference. There is just so much talent and energy at a Startup Weekend I can't image where else you could get more out of 54 hours!
2) What do you see as the key benefits of the startup weekend format?
An enormous amount could be said about what makes Startup Weekend successful. But I'll just touch on some key elements. First off, we insist on a balance of attendees. That means an even number of developers (tech), designers and business types (non-tech). This ensures that teams contain the necessary skill set to make a company truly successful. It also allows very different perspectives on how to solve problems.
The 54 hour deadline also creates an atmosphere of excitement that is unparalleled. Attendees get into a do or die mindset that pushes them to be more creative, more innovative and more productive then they ever really thought they could be.
Lastly, the mentors and the judges play a big role. SW attracts a lot of experienced people from the entrepreneurial world who know how to get to the heart of the matter quite quickly. This feedback contributes greatly to the efficiency of participants work and points them in the right direction from the start.
3) This startup weekend has a particular mission of encouraging women entrepreneurs - is this something important to you?
Definitely. At the moment this seems to be a two fold problem. Firstly, there aren't enough women in tech. Secondly, the women who are in tech aren't being recognised enough. We all suffers from this because there are so many talented inspiring women out there who could be helping us solve the big issues of our day, but unfortunately there are obstacles in the way. Once we overcome them I think we will look back and realise how badly we truly needed this to change.
4) What do you think could encourage more women to become entrepreneurs?
The list of answers to the question is quite long, but I think first and foremost we need to 'pass them the mic' (so to speak) and start listening. To understand how they want to contribute, what they have to contribute, what motivates them, what they would like to see changed, etc. This would give us quite a lot of insight in general, but should give us a better understanding of what we need to do to get them more involved. This edition to Startup Weekend is our contribution to that.
Find the London Startup Weekend website here: http://london.startupweekend.org/
Follow Stephen Canning on Twitter: www.twitter.com/cllrcanning