This past weekend Shane Reiser and I took the train up to Vancouver to facilitate the Vancouver Startup Weekend event. The event went off extremely well hosting around 130 participants that formed into 14 teams and all had amazing demos. There has been many great blog posts covering the event, so I don’t want to be repetitive and you can find coverage on lead organizer, Michael Tippett‘s, blog.
There were many great things that came out of the event for all parties involved but my big take away was on how much understanding people plays significant roles in success. Here are a few examples of what I am talking about:
1. People love to live life by the same expected routine but most of the time these same routines holds us back from experiencing life.
I was surprised on how many people I had talked to that had never been to a Startup Weekend before. I would easily say about 80-85% of participants. All of these attendees heard of this new idea of a Startup Weekend but most importantly were willing to change what they normally do on the weekends and give that up for something they had no idea what to expect or what the outcome may be. How many times does someone ask you to do something new, whether it is going to a new restaurant but then you decide to pick the one you go to a million times because you know they have a dish you like there or whether it is to a party but you ask first who is going to ensure you are comfortable socializing with the people in attendance. Humans thrive off of routines but because of that, blind ourselves to so many remarkable experiences like the ones people had by the end of this weekend. As I went around Sunday night, I didn’t interact with one person who had a bad time and most were overwhelmed with excitement from the amount they had learned and the fun they had by making the decision to try something new.
Another great example of this is Saturday night after a long day from the event, Michael Tippett invited me and Shane to the Mayor of Vancouver’s election celebration party. We were both fairly exhausted and were debating on if we should go (not knowing where we were going, what the event was going to be like and not even knowing who the mayor was), but ultimately we decided to just check it out not expecting to stay very long. 7 glasses of champagne, 2 well drinks, 1 glass of wine, endless food buffet, dancing until 4:00am and 2 awesome photographs with mayor Greggor Robertson himself later, needless to say it was an epic experience. We could have easily decided to just go back to our hotel after that long day, but now knowing what we COULD have missed out on puts a little different perspective on the small decisions I make. When an uncertain opportunity comes your way, before you decide, weigh your options on if not doing something new is worth giving up what remarkable experience you could have.
2. Networking is all about your own mindset
I have been to many networking events and something finally clicked with me, successful networking is all about the mindset you create before going into the event. I definitely wouldn’t say I am the typical extroverted “networker” and at most events I end up only talking to a few people, then shy away. But at this Startup Weekend I was at ease with all my interactions. Here is how I changed my mindset beforehand which lead to my success:
– Because I was a facilitator, I felt like I had a little more to offer other people. Maybe it was a little power boost because I was a “facilitator” that I had confidence people would talk to me but in reality it was all in my head. That little confidence boost of being a facilitator encouraged me to network without being self conscious. You know your experiences best, so go into networking with the confidence that you can offer something to others.
– I chose to make the first introductions. Usually there are people like myself who attend events not knowing a ton of people and spend a majority of their time awkwardly walking in circles. Most people wait for people to come talk to them, so I set a conscious goal to go up and talk to as many people first before they could come talk to me. My buddy Justin Wilcox said it best about networking, ” I have never had an empty hand turn down a handshake…” People are willing to AT LEAST small chat with you, so why not make the most of that opportunity?
– I had the mentality that I wanted to connect with others. Coming to an event like Startup Weekend, you are surrounded by extremely talented people. I set a goal to learn as much as I could about other people which helped in creating genuine conversations that went deeper than the normal small chats.
– I had the understanding that everyone was there for the same reason. Everyone had a passion for startups and the intention to have a good time. Sometimes we forget going that most people go into networking events to… network! Always reassure yourself that people are at these events for all the same reasons but most are just afraid to make the first effort.
3. Team synergy is more valuable that a great idea.
Usually at Startup Weekends the ideas pitched aren’t fleshed out very well and are mediocre ideas at best. But to see the amount of great people and how well all the teams worked together in Vancouver showed the value of team synergy. I talked to Shane about this as well and he told me he has seen many, of what he thought to be, good ideas fail miserably at Startup Weekends because of bad teams and mediocre ideas become surprisingly successful because of quality execution. You hear all the time from investors that they look to invest in the team to see if they can execute what they say they can, and Startup Weekends are a perfect example of understanding why team execution is so valuable.
4. Creating experiences connects with peoples hearts.
Sometimes in the world of tech you get so caught up in the product that you forget about the people. No matter what, you have to always remember that your product is useless without the people who are using it. Seeing the power of what a remarkable experience did for 130 people at a Startup Weekend truly reminded me of this. The design of this experience touched an emotional sense that they will remember forever. So many people became believers in this experience and were overflowed with appreciation for all they learned in just 54 hours. That is a feeling they will remember for a long time and is ultimately why the growth of Startup Weekends has been so rapid globally. The people who live these incredible experiences tell other people about how they felt and want them to experience it as well. Just because you are a tech company doesn’t mean you should forget about creating these strong emotional experiences. Try to invest in creating experiences that connect with the hearts of your customers and success will follow. Zappos is a perfect example of a tech company who hasn’t forgotten about this.
I was so grateful to have had the opportunity to work with Michael, Emily, Julie, John, Shane and all other 22 volunteers 🙂 this past weekend to put on this great event. I am incredibly appreciative for the amount of kindness all of the people in Vancouver showed me, as well. Wherever you are in your life and whatever projects you are doing, don’t forget that it always comes back to people. People make the world go round.