The flaw of Startup Weekend

I’m participating in my 3rd Startup Weekend event; this time in Tampa. My previous two Startup Weekends were both in Orlando with the previous one just last week. Some things that wasn’t apparent during my first event earlier this year have now become readily apparent after two more bites of the apple.  I present here my unfiltered observations.

  1.  The focus is on shallow businesses.  Though not exclusively, Startup Weekend tends to focus on technology startups by bringing together designs, developers and non-technical (i.e. business) people.  The idea seems to fit well in an era of web services where a business can be mashed together by amalgamating the right combination of APIs, throwing in a pretty interface and making some financial projections. “Google-y” eyed entrepreneurs with visions of Facebook riches don’t realize that it takes real sweat and a real idea to make money.  The persistent question at StartUp Weekend seems to be what is your secret sauce? Why isn’t anybody else doing this?  After three SWs under my belt, I’ve seen numerous repeated ideas or pitches, new to the pitchers, but with a dozen competitors.
  2. “No talk. All action.”- One of my partners in Orlando, a programmer and developer, really was under the impression that we were going to build something.  Unfortunately, he and two others on our team, spent the entire weekend working on a mobile application and back end only to see none of their work incorporated into the final pitch.What a waste of productivity and resources. While, given the technical focus of the weekend, it is important to have technical talent on the team, that talent should be geared towards keeping the business folks on the level when it comes to the technical capacity and what it’s going to take to actually bring a product/service to market.
  3. Cocky mentors – This is certainly not universal but quite a number of the mentors come across as smug. While they may be somewhat successful in their fields, I didn’t run across any household names. You can be constructive and provide insight and criticism without being passive aggressive. There is more than one way to skin a cat and yours is not the only way. This seemed far more prevalent in Tampa than in Orlando.
  4. Designers are golden. If you’re going to have a slick presentation at the end, you need a good designer.  I think next SW I’m going to bring a bunch of designers for hire.