Review: Startup Weekend – how to take a company from concept to creation in 54 hours

Startup WeekendThis review first ran in the Dec.  17 edition of The Hamilton Spectator.

Startup Weekend: How to Take a Company From Concept to Creation in 54 Hours

By Marc Nager, Clint Nelsen and Franck Nouyrigat

John Wiley & Sons


There are no brilliant ideas, only brilliant execution.

So say the co-directors of Startup Weekend, a non-profit with the mission to educate entrepreneurs, strengthen communities and launch startups.

At last count, more than 34,000 people have taken part in hundreds of Startup Weekends in more than 60 cities, including Hamilton.

From Friday night to Sunday night, established and aspiring entrepreneurs get together to pitch ideas, join teams and compete to turn concepts into creations.

“The key to the startup is to, well, start,” Marc Nager, Clint Nelsen and Franck Nouyrigat advise Startup Weekend participants. The trio, who took over what was then a for-profit company in 2009, are big proponents of learning by doing. “Just pick an idea — any idea. They’re all good. And then get to work.”

One of the keys to brilliant execution is to surround yourself with the right people with complementary skill sets. Ideas are important but the team is essential, say the co-directors.

Forget the mythology of lone entrepreneurs toiling away late into the night, against all odds and for years on end in basements and garages.

“Even visionaries need a team of doers to bring their paradigm-shifting, brand new idea to life. From mentors to investors to lawyers to employees to fellow co-founders, there’s a whole stream of people involved in the most humble startup.”

And that’s whom you’ll meet at Startup Weekend. On Friday night, you make a 60-second pitch. You’re pitching your big idea and making a pitch for talent. If you don’t have an idea to pitch, you must still join a team before you call it a night.

Active networking at Startup Weekend is a high-energy, low-risk way to evaluate what potential co-founders could contribute. Deadline pressure reveals who’s a high performer in the clutch and who’s “all hat and no cattle.”

“Startup Weekend is essentially a chance to give this marriage a spin before actually tying the knot. Those 54 hours of work give you a chance to see whether things will work out. And if they don’t, nothing is lost. For many people, Startup Weekend’s value lies much more in the relationships that they form than in the business ideas themselves.”

The 54-hour deadline reinforces the need for entrepreneurs to move fast. “Startup Weekend imposes strict time constraints because there are time constraints in the real world, too. People have day jobs, families or both. They can’t take an infinite amount of time with an idea. You don’t want your great idea to be outdated — or accomplished by someone else — by the time you decide to do something about it.”

The co-directors say we’re at the beginning of an entrepreneurial revolution, with StartUp Weekend doing its part by pushing knowledge and networks, tools and technology to people who are committed to solving problems and changing the world. “Many inhibitors and limitations on startups and innovation are being removed. All at once, starting now.”

So if you spent 2012 daydreaming about launching a business, here’s your New Year’s resolution. Read the book and then do the event. Innovation Factory is hosting Hamilton’s no talk, all action 54-hour total immersion in entrepreneurship April 26-28. Meet other entrepreneurs, pitch your big idea, build a great team and execute brilliantly.

Published by

Jay Robb

I've reviewed more than 500 business books for the Hamilton Spectator since 1999 and worked in public relations since 1993.

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