In Wellington, startups mean business
Two Sundays ago, Wellington's most ambitious and brightest took part in Startup Weekend, the 48 hour accelerator to turn an idea into a business (often with total strangers) over a weekend. Think, the 48 Hour Film Festival, only with the goal to create a business, not a movie. This means time pressure, sleeplessness and lots of pizza.
Startups and tech culture inspire me as a Wellingtonian because they are such an awesome way of trying to solve a problem and create a new business. They allow our creativity to flourish. Wellingtonians love startup culture. From Xero to Powershop to Heyday Digital and Trademe, some of New Zealands most recognised companies across a wide range of sectors (from accounting to power) originally began as a startup in the Capital. They have gone on to do incredible things, both locally, nationally and internationally.
Now, here's the thing. Startup Weekend has always kind of intimidated me. I really thought it sounded cool but when I was first told about it my reaction was "Heeeeell there is no way I would put myself through that". It just sounded really intense and something where I wasn't sure I could add any value - because I can't write computer programmes or work photoshop beyond basics. So how would I be even of use? I wrote off Startup Weekend for a pleb like me who worked in a 'normal' job.
However, someone pretty knowledgeable persuaded me to reconsider and re-evaluate my perceptions of Startup Weekend. Earlier this year, I interviewed Dave Moskovitz for The Residents blog. Dave is the God-Father of startups in Wellington. He suggested I should check out the Startup weekend pitches in May to better understand what Startup Weekend was all about properly. He didn't tell me to do it, just to check it out.
I looked up Startup Weekend online before going along, who say:
So on a dark Sunday night, I went up the steep steps to the BIZ DOJO to watch the participants present what they had created in a very short time frame. From a online managed fund to a grammar corrector, I was blown away by how polished some of the presenters and their startups.
It was an absolute joy to see what these creative and clever people had made in just two days. I really got excited and it felt like my fear of participating in a Startup Weekend event was stripped away. I always thought that if I took part in a Start-Up Weekend, I would have to commit to changing jobs and committing to turn it into a proper business. But really it just looked like people were there to have fun.
Watching the pitches, you could totally tell that not all the people who had attempted the Startup Weekend process were there for that reason. Many just seemed happy to go along and meet new people and have a cool weekend. So I feel like now I would be far more confident to go and sign up myself (even though I am not a designer or a tech developer - I would have to come under the 'business/other' ticket category), just to try out something cool and get my hands dirty. I realised that because I had thought it was all really serious, I wouldn't be the right fit. I also realised that there was completely a place for non-tech and non-digital people as well and that these roles were just as important.
"I feel like now I would be far more confident to go and sign up myself... just to try out something cool and get my hands dirty"
If you are wondering about Startup Weekend, I would highly recommend going along to a pitch night to check it out. I might even sign up for the next weekend its on in November, just for a laugh. The theme of the next one in Wellington this year is Environment. It's not just for tech Whiz Kids - it's for everyone.
And if your dream is starting a small business and you don't know where to begin...well, you never know. Startup Weekend could end up being...well, you know...the perfect start to it all...