Startup Weekend organizer Shane Reiser reflects on recent events
This is a guest post written by Shane Reiser, organizer of Startup Weekend events in Des Moines, Omaha and other cities across the country. Shane is also the curator for the Des Moines edition of Startup Digest and co-organizer of Startup Drinks Des Moines.
Omaha kicked off its first Startup Weekend this past Friday, March 19, at What Cheer. Just two weeks earlier Des Moines hosted its second Startup Weekend at Spindustry. Both events were well-received by their communities, and both served to highlight the amount of innovation and raw enthusiasm that can be found in each city.
Image by What Cheer
In Omaha, I was impressed not only with the city itself (it was my first visit), but also with the number of people (38) that made their way through an unexpected snowstorm to attend the city’s first Startup Weekend. Twenty ideas were pitched on Friday night, eight teams formed, and because of an incredible Twitter fundraising marathon, the winning team [GiftBright] walked away with $2,100 in prize money. The event also got some great coverage from KETV and WOWT. [Check out the Flickr pool.]
Given the high-growth potential and innovative nature of the concepts launched at Startup Weekend Omaha, I expect to see more than one big success story come out of the event. If you missed out this time but want to come to the next Omaha event, look for it to happen in six months and twice a year thereafter.
Perhaps the greatest thing that happened in Omaha lies with attendee and software developer Tracy Hiltbrand. Tracy wasn’t part of the winning team, but Tracy pitched an idea that she had been sitting on for 16 years. Yep, 16. She later told me that pitching her idea and even networking in general was very outside of her comfort zone. Encouraging people like Tracy to come out, share their ideas and make lasting connections is why I believe events like Startup Weekend are so important for the local community.
Photo above by techmonkey4u via Flickr
In Des Moines, we saw a marked improvement from the city’s first Startup Weekend. Thirty-three attendees pitched 30 concepts to the group on Friday. On Sunday, a panel of local experts and entrepreneurs awarded $300 to their favorite two concepts, one of which, Epplause, generated revenue by Sunday. [Check out the Flickr pool.]
I was pleased to see a very diverse crowd attend the Des Moines event (across industry, age and experience), but a little disappointed in the number of developers and designers that made it out. Given the context of the weekend, developers and designers are critical if a team wants to build a prototype to demo by Sunday.
However, the knowledge transfer that happened in Des Moines was pretty amazing. Several mentors came out on Saturday and Sunday to work one-on-one with teams. We had some cross pollination with attendees from Chicago, Omaha and Kansas City, and the panel on Sunday night gave some really good feedback to teams after their presentations.
Startup Weekends are based on the concept of “learning through creation.” Though not all the concepts from Omaha and Des Moines will survive after the weekend, everyone walks away a winner via the connections made, lessons learned and experience gained creating and launching a new product or venture. I had a few attendees tell me that the feeling of accomplishment they experienced at the end of the weekend was alone worth it. To quote one attendee, “I can’t believe how much can be done in only one weekend if you put your head down and focus. I’m gonna stop watching TV on the weekends and start taking action on my ideas.”
Photo above by whereisciao via Flickr
Shane can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, and you can find him on Twitter at twitter.com/shanereiser.