Experiments with Startup Weekend Meetups

I recently got to participate as an organizer for the Startup Weekend Mobile/Wearables Seattle.

It was a great chance for me to return to community organizing, but I also got to "eat my own dogfood" created by the UP Global engineering team.

But this post is about what happened when the team decided to make the event as engaging as possible.

Humans over Formulas

My colleague Chet Kittleson penned "It Takes More Than a Formula to Change the World". He had come home from an event where the organizers made their event special and unique.

He is correct, and I carry that spirit into the events I facilitate. As an organizer, it was my chance to reexamine the event experience and make it special.

Empathizing with First Timers

The first obvious focus area is the brand new Startup Weekend attendee experience. These are the folks who don't fully understand Startup Weekend yet, and choose to invest a weekend of their life anyway.

Most would likely agree with me that Friday night pitching and team formation is the most chaotic part of the event. Being unfamiliar with pitching in general just makes the first few hours hard. While some may argue that is a good thing, I personally want to empathize and do more for our attendees.

I want them to have the opportunity to have the best first Startup Weekend experience possible.

Pre-Event Pitch Workshops

With that vision in mind, the organizing team chose to create a pre-event pitch workshop. The goals were to:

  • Introduce new attendees to the function and format of Startup Weekend
  • Share knowledge and experience, and help entrepreneurs build skills
  • Make it valuable to both Startup Weekend attendees and entrepreneurs not
    related to the event
  • Build community before the event

It was a bit of a last-minute idea, so we needed it to be as lightweight as possible — as easy to plan as it is to attend.

It ended up being a great and fun experience, and totally pain-free to organize. In fact, 2 of the teams that formed through the weekend were formed by pitch workshop attendees.

Seattle as an Organizing Test Bed

The workshop energized the organizers and community members. Our plan is to create a monthly series of meetup/workshop mashups to create more opportunities to engage. Disassociating the workshops from events helps the community stay active between events.

The next event I'm aware of is a Pitch Karaoke bootcamp.

This will be a engaging way to work on your pitch skills in a really fun environment. Come check it out, and plan on looking out for more of these events in Seattle!

The following is an internal presentation that I prepared for the team covering what I learned at our workshop. Enjoy!

David Pierce

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