“All marriages are happy. It’s the living together afterward that causes all the trouble. ” – Raymond Hull
It’s not so much that I don’t like the idea behind startup weekends. Getting people excited about entrepreneurship and creation is great, and I see the value in providing those thinking about taking the plunge into the startup world an opportunity to try their hands at it. The problem is that the name “startup weekend” suggests that the weekends are about startups, when really they are about products. They present an opportunity to try and build a product over a weekend, but the reality is that building a startup is something that takes much more time, effort, and sweat.
In several cases I’ve seen, people end up in a pseudo-random grouping of individuals with others they didn’t previously know. This is usually driven by the idea selection process at the start of the event intended to focus the efforts at the event on a few community selected concepts. This wouldn’t be a problem for an exercise in building something over a weekend , but it becomes problematic when people start to see the promise in their idea and questions of “what do we next?” begin to arrise. What was intended to be a one-weekend romance becomes believed to be something more. Afterwards they find themselves in discussions with their former team-mates trying to figure out what the path forward is.
It is possible that the random pairing of individuals at such an event may lead to a functional business partnership, it is just not very likely. The relationship between the principles in a startup is one that is very often, and fairly, compared to a marriage. Similarly I would compare the odds of a successful partnership arising from the random grouping of people at such an event to the odds of a successful marriage arising from the random meeting of strangers at a swingers party.
In some of these events, individuals who are seriously considering forming a business together can work together and get exposure to advisors and potential investors. In others, the idea is more community based and intended to allow developers and business people a chance to get experience and network. I find that confusion arises from events which are really the second type, but still bring in judges and advisors to offer prizes and opportunities to the winning teams.
I would recommend the organizers of these events to think about which type of event they are intending to run, and be consistent with that goal. For participants that find themselves in the situation I described, remember that the product is only a small part of building a startup. While the product you built may seem like it has amazing potential, the only way that potential will be realized is for a team to work hard together to make it happen. Don’t compromise on the team you work with just because an idea seems promising.