This week our community ambassador Kate Montgomery interviews New Zealand Startup Weekend organizers Rowan Yeoman and Alan Froggatt. Follow Kate on Twitter via @katemontgom.
Alan Froggatt and Rowan Yeoman are two of the principal organisers for Startup weekend in New Zealand. Startup weekend is a 54-hour event run over (surprise!) a weekend, where startup enthusiasts form teams, build products and launch startups.
Alan and Rowan are understandably psyched about Startup Weekend and why it’s so important to the current and next generation of entrepreneurs in New Zealand and globally. The Fetch chatted to them about how they got involved, working under pressure, and why everyone should go to startup weekend.
You both come from entrepreneurial backgrounds. How did you get involved with Start Up weekend?
Rowan: I attended one of the first New Zealand weekends, and got really excited about being part of it. I had so much fun and met lots of people – and those of us who were really into what Startup Weekend was about stuck around and became organisers.
Alan: I knew one of the organisers and went along to an event for the pitches, then ended up staying for the whole weekend as a mentor and joined from there.
What’s great about Startup Weekend?
R: It’s a new way of operating – nimble, lean, you’ve got to understand your customers/users and market test your ideas in a really short space of time. And it’s fun.
A: You get the ability to interface with everyone there. Mentors, organisers, other attendees. It’s an awesome opportunity and an awesome atmosphere. Yes, you’re put through a tough experience but that compression builds a really swift kind of mastery.
Who should consider going to Startup Weekend?
R: Startup weekend can be for anyone. The experience is really different for everyone. We’ve had 14 year olds come along and come third, people at university or who’ve just graduated, business veterans, serial entrepreneurs, struggling writers. Everyone gets a different experience. People face hard challenges and they really value the experience – even if it’s hard at the time.
Why should people go to Start Up weekend?
A: Firstly, it’s great for networking. There’s also a high learning curve, high pressure and you have to figure things out as you go along. There’s an underlying shift in the way you have to work, in how quickly you make things, break things, how you engage with people you don’t even know. It’s a different way of collaborating and working for the majority of people that come along.
R: People learn things about their business from people who do different jobs from them. A salesperson sits with a designer and talks about user experience and finds they have a whole new way of talking about their product with their customers.
You’re not going to agree with everyone, or sometimes you’re market validating something you came up with half an hour before. Leaning in to your fear makes you better at dealing with it. In business and in life.
We’ve had teams implode. And it’s great to see how people learn very quickly to deal with that and work through it. And that’s what the mentors are there for, to help.
What can people expect to learn?
A: To learn how to fail, and fail fast. And be ok with failing. Failure is only truly failure if you take nothing from it for future endeavours. You have a new surface area from failing, you know that much more about what works or what doesn’t, what customers want or don’t.
You learn that everyone has a valid point of view – startup weekend is all about learning to ask questions instead of knowing answers. It’s not about doing what you think you know. It’s about being agile – businesses can’t afford to spend 2 years working on a business case anymore – the competition will beat them. So they need to learn to be faster, to make it, put it out there then iterate as they go.
R: You can’t back out, or procrastinate. You have to get it done. They’re great skills for life. In the chaos of Startup Weekend you learn resilience and you’re working towards a purpose. You’re also learning to be responsive. You come face to face with your confidence and while it can be confronting, you’re also in it with other people, and you can learn how to get immediate help, from your team and mentors, you get to communicate and work through things.
Any final words?
R: Come along for 54 hours – you don’t have to want to change the world, you can just want to learn about business. And yourself.
Editor’s note: The next Startup Weekend Auckland is going to be held on November 22, sign up for more info here.
About our Ambassador // Kate Montgomery is a copywriter-for-hire and wannabe web developer. She balances copious internetting with yoga, tea and vintage crime novels. She retweets other people’s funnies @katemontgom.