Let me add a bit of context to the journey so far from my point of view as a community member, one who has worn many hats over the last 5 years. On the global board of facilitators, as a facilitator, organiser, mentor and director of Startup New Zealand…
Let’s start with Startup New Zealand. Startup New Zealand was created because of the requirement early on by several sponsors to have a single entity for sponsorship. With a number of Startup Weekends being organised in New Zealand it meant the sponsors would have had to deal with each event individually, something they were not willing to do given that we had up to 12 per year. We also recognised that some of these events did not have an entity that could fulfil the requirements of the sponsor; i.e. many events organised their finance through existing private companies on a trust basis and that created some complexity for corporate sponsors.
Rather than losing the opportunity to underwrite a good number of Startup Weekends, especially in emerging regions, a few of us took on the statutory responsibility and formed Startup New Zealand.
Getting involved in a sponsorship agreement means that there is an exchange of value. It’s not just one way. Sponsors require brand exposure, blog posts, VIP tickets, etc. in exchange for the sponsorship dollar that Startup Weekend regional organisers use to defray costs. It takes some management in the middle to make the dots connect and the value stand up. It is also important that the events have a certain level of success for those communities long term sustainability and on the basis of success the community could grow and continue to enjoy the benefits of sponsorship year after year.
To that end Startup New Zealand was able to underwrite many events and provide individual organisers and teams with some risk mitigation against the costs of organising a Startup Weekend, particularly should it fail. That comes with an overhead of liaison with organising teams and sponsors.
Each of us who took up that volunteer responsibility was, and is, highly committed to the opportunity Startup Weekend affords everyone involved and its ability to kickstart local and national innovation. Like most organisers days and nights and weekends go into each event. Add to that some national coordination.
We also were together as five individual Startup Weekend facilitators and organisers that put our shoulders to the wheel with regional organisers and others to provide them with much of the understanding, process and on the ground support that goes into a successful event as we could. As the saying goes, it hasn’t always been easy but it has been worth it.
We shared those things that we learnt along the way that go into a great event and it has come a very long way.
In the very first event there was no Lean Canvas, no Kanban, no mentor room, no mentor coordination, there were no pitch practices, and no status updates on how the teams were doing. We had conversations and aspirations for the possibilities at hand and realised a good many but not all of them.
While there have been some events that have not made it out of the gate and others that have had their challenges, the sharing of commitment and information has enabled 11 regions in New Zealand to have had 47 events between April 2011 and the end of 2016; and to have had more Startup Weekends per capita and more facilitators per capita globally. Along with 45 out of 47 Startup Weekends facilitated by Kiwis (the very first SW in AKL and Marc Nager (CEO Startup Weekend) facilitating the first SW CHC are the exceptions.).
Those accomplishments belong to the whole community, to the larger us, to New Zealand. Because every hand that has had a hand in them has contributed something. They are always the accomplishments of a collective. The five of us who put our hands up to create a sponsorship management entity and also shared our knowledge as facilitators and organisers enabled something. And the deep passion, talent, commitment and plain work by the organising teams and supporters (volunteers, mentors, sponsors, etc) within each region brought it to fruition.
My own involvement in Startup Weekend was after being involved in another project with Dr Rick Boven, of the New Zealand Institute, in 2009. That project wrote a report on the innovation ecosystem and the talent and capital gaps within New Zealand. The findings on where we were heading on OECD indicators for quality-of-life in the future scared the crap out of me. New Zealand was underprepared (and I think still is) in its ability to produce resilient talent and place capital in meaningful endeavours.
I challenged Rick at the time to list initiatives that were working to grow innovation in the way it was needed to change this picture. His response, we both lamented, was very underwhelming. I had seen Startup Weekend promoted a few years before. When I participated in the very first New Zealand Startup Weekend I saw the possibility of a grassroots and broad beginning for the entrepreneurial journey that powers that innovation our country is sorely in need of. I saw it as an opportunity to reconcile inequity and ignite a wide range to local and national talent. At the end of 2016 with some 4000+ people being exposed to Startup Weekend. I believe it is possible that we have made a start.
But really I am interested in the critical next 10 years. I am interested in calling those who are able to lean in and create in the face of very critical challenges we face locally, nationally and globally.
The real thing is going to be hard work. It is going to take maturity and discipline.
I don’t believe that we have the time or resources to waste in activities or ways of being that fragment the accomplishment and foundations that we have built so far. The greater need of creating real sustainable value warrants a focus on the long view.
In a world dealing with complexity and challenges, too often systems and people seek to deal with fears and doubts with short term reactions. The course to a healthy future is going to take something else.
I believe that collectively that we have started something, and have built something important. Judging something a success or a failure is easy to do in a moment of time. It’s really the stand; the ongoing commitment to integral success that requires us to step up again and again. We are learning, growing every step and there is plenty to learn and understand about our world and working together in making it what it could be.
Personally, I am clearer on the scope and shape of the challenges, understand the systemic need to build real innovation and value, and after 5 years, have a lot more clarity on what the risks are, what it takes and how it evolves. I look forward to the leaning into the real work with those remarkable friends I have found so far and finding more talented, committed souls to work alongside as the journey unfolds.