Right up front I want to apologize for poor grammar syntax etc. in this article, but the schedule is tight and we have a lot of work to accomplish in the next two days. I wanted to be sure to share something about the first day of Startup Weekend Tucson
Our keynote speaker on Friday night Jane Poynter homed in perfectly on something I had been thinking for weeks in preparation for Startup Weekend. The basic ideas was that the TEAM makes the company, not the idea, not the customers, not the market, not the investors. (and frankly, if the investors have to run the company you are in deep doo-doo!). Investors will commonly tell you that they base 30-50% of their decision to fund a company based upon the qualifications of, and the investor’s “gut instinct” feel for the management team.
At the startup weekend pre-events I can’t say I had a well formed idea that I was going to hand pick a team of people from the participant whom I thought would compliment me well, but I certainly was on the lookout for sharp people and good contacts.
Incidentally, as a joke, during our introductions on the Tuesday preceding Startup Weekend I said I was “Awesome”. It started with 90 second introductions with the intention of connecting like minded people and starting the collaboration and team building as soon as possible. Justin Williams was also keen to the fact that strong team interaction and workable dynamics were very important to the success of the weekend. Given that I didn’t have an idea to pitch, I kept it short, shared my background in Biomedical Engineering, Electrical Engineering and the fact that I had co-founded or grown a couple of successful high tech startups. Having run out of things to say I simply ended with “Justin, keep a straight face for this… I am pretty awesome and Justin will corroborate” The group got a good chuckle and some of the attendants started teasing me by saying “oh it’s Mr. Awesome” at introdcutions
Friday Night Pitches
Once the Pitches started on Friday night I had a real dilemma. I had met some really strong personalities and a lot of people who seemed sharp, articulate and had been through startups before. This was a group of people who I thought, if we put together the team with the right skillsets, we could form a team that could really kick butt over the weekend.
Here was the problem. Team forming was designated as a process by which anyone who wanted to pitch an idea could. The top ideas were voted upon using a clever web interface such that all of the participants could vote on their top picks. I didn’t have an idea, and if I found an idea that I liked how could I be sure I had the right team to do it.
So, I did something a little out of the box and non-conventional. I went up to the microphone and pitched what I believed was the key to success. I pitched Mr. Awesome. Not to say that I was pitching myself, but rather I was pitching a hypothesis: What happens when you form a team with hand selected members, but not people with the skills you need, but people who make you say to yourself “this guy(or gal) is AWESOME).”
That that’s what I did. After pitching the idea I quickly approached all the sharp people I had met and said: “What do you think? What ideas do you like? Would you consider working with me and take the risk that we don’t have an idea to start?” The response was outstanding. I wasn’t even sure I could get one person to buy into this higher risk approach. Not having an idea put us at a disadvantage compared to those teams who had ideas they had been considering, sharpening, and honing for days, weeks or in some cases months or years. I think it’s going to work, and so do my new team mates.
Now we down select our ideas. Last night we promised ourselves to have 3 ideas by the end of the night. Saturday morning we plan to complete secondary market validation on all three ideas and see if any of them look like they will fly.
I am optimistic for sure. I think I have a team that can’t fail: Dave the Mechanical Engineer and seasoned Entrepreneur in Solar and Energy, Jeff the Business and Marketing wiz, Tim the Software Architect, Josh also experienced in Business, Biotech, and startups, and me, also having gotten my scars and with a strong technical also peppered with entrepreneurship and business background.
Startup weekend is going to be a smashing success. I am confident we are going to produce something that will make our community proud!