The Fetch Blog

Curated reads and events for professionals

Interview: Auckland Locals, Rowan Yeoman and Alan Froggatt — June 2, 2013

Interview: Auckland Locals, Rowan Yeoman and Alan Froggatt

This week our community ambassador Kate Montgomery interviews New Zealand Startup Weekend organizers Rowan Yeoman and Alan Froggatt. Follow Kate on Twitter via @katemontgom.

Rowan Yeoman and Alan Froggatt

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.


Event Review: Startup Weekend Auckland — May 19, 2013

Event Review: Startup Weekend Auckland

On Wednesday the 16 of May Deirdre Dawson from The Fetch Community Ambassador Team in Auckland went along to the Startup Weekend Auckland event. 

Photo Credit: Janine Barr
Photo Credit: Janine Barr

Hipsters, Hackers and Hustlers Unite

Auckland recently hosted its third annual Startup Weekend at the Emirates Building in Wynyard Quarter. Startup Weekends began in Seattle in 2010 with a vision of ‘inspiring change in entrepreneurs’. It seems to have worked with over 110 countries having adopted the frenetic event and this being Auckland’s third such event.

2013 saw close to 80 attendees who classed themselves either as hackers, hipsters or hustlers otherwise know as programmers, designers or those skilled in other areas of ‘non-technical’ business.

All participants are encouraged to pitch a new idea – the guise being to create something from scratch. An excited, nervous energy lingered around the room as people lined up to wow the audience with a 60-second pitch. From here, it was an organic selection process whereby those with the strongest ideas and most persuasive leaders shone.  Within 90 minutes of the pitching session, all teams were formed and the game was on.

Photo Credit: Janine Barr
Photo Credit: Janine Barr

The next two days were then spent conceptualizing, formulating, planning, validating, designing and in some cases, launching a new business. Mentors volunteered their time to assist with the curly questions, playing a massive role in the development of ideas. The fact that these experts in their field willingly give up their time and energy is a fantastic indicator of the thriving Startup scene here in Aotearoa.

Final pitches were on Sunday night in front of a panel of four judges all of whom are well respected in the business community. Teams had five minutes to share their workings from the weekend and convince the panel why their business would succeed. A high caliber of ideas were taken from conception and into the real world over the weekend, with an average of a third of them expected to still be operating in three months.

Startup Weekends are an excellent event for entrepreneurs of all flavours. Often misunderstood by their boundless optimism and never-ending torrent of ideas, events like this create a nurturing environment where everyone is welcomed to the start-up family. Those interested should get it quick for the next event scheduled in November.

For more information about the event, winners, judges and general hype, check out

About our Ambassador // This article was contributed by Community Ambassador Deirdre Dawson. While she is currently working on the startup, Rentaholic, her background includes steering Disruptv gallery as the business manager of the multi faceted creative company  which specialised in large scale murals, graphic design, event management and graffiti workshops. 

Curator Year in Review 2012: Kate in San Francisco — December 12, 2012

Curator Year in Review 2012: Kate in San Francisco

This time I give my own rundown of cool shit happening in SF including my most appreciated events, spaces and top moments of 2012.

meMaking up for a lack of SF sunshine

Best event for meeting people?

Depends on what kind of people you want to meet…

People in tech and startups? I’d recommend heading to a hack weekend like Startup Weekend or AngelHack as you really get to know someone by working with them. The first ever friend I made in SF was at a SW in July 2010 (hello Jenn!) – and I didn’t even make it through the whole weekend.

I tend to shy away from busy drink-based mixers but if you’re after solid networking (with some knowledge sharing), head along to a StartupGrind, DrinkEntrepreneursSF, SF New Tech, Hack and TellDesigners + Geeks and so forth.

In search of professionals outside the tech bubble? Check out Social Media Club SF or SV, and some of the industry associations’ local chapters as they have regular events (PRSA, AMA, etc.).

Best event for content shared and learnings?

You can’t go past the Commonwealth Club – seriously, it’s unique to the area, covers cross-industry chats and is where I first met my online doppelgänger Kate Kendell at (note the ‘e’ instead of ‘a’).

I haven’t been able to get to a PandoMonthly event but watch the videos online. Sarah Cuda’s doing a great job with cutting the crap in a tech Oprah style.

Both the annual conference and monthly chats version of Cassie Phillip’s FailCon are worth heading along to. Then you can’t go past Airbnb TechTalks (also streamed online). CollabChats is another series you can’t find elsewhere in the world – Emily Castor does a great job of covering the collaborative consumption space. Sharers of SF by Chelsea Rustrum ties the sharing economy in nicely too.

Then of course, there’s the multi-city favourites: General Assembly classes, Skillshare (although their focus is less on offline classes in SF now) and Creative Mornings.

I don’t get down to the Bay as much as I’d like to but I always find MIT/Stanford’s VLAB worth the Caltrain trip.

Personal event stye preference (breakfast/conference/workshop/etc/etc)?

Smaller gatherings hence kicking off The Fetch Dinner Conversations series.

Favourite source of local community news?

Outside the biased recommendation for The Fetch, I love love love The Bold Italic – we often feature some of their best articles in our email digests.

For lifestyle happenings, Johnny Funcheap is an institution and you can download the glossy SanFrancisco magazine free on your iPad. It’s not text-based but any Instagram pic from Karl The Fog.

Then there’s the news sites like SFGate which I check sporadically.

Favourite coworking space?

I got to check out Makeshift Society in Hayes Valley for the first time last week and felt at home with the vibe instantly. It’s a smaller space otherwise known as a “clubhouse and coworking space for creatives” and I found it refreshing to be out of the tech clique.

An an Aussie Citizen, Soma-based StartupHQ run by an Australian and New Zealander has mostly been my base though. They had some mega ‘First Friday’ events in summer that helped me settle in and house some great guys who’ve been there, done that before.

In 2013, I’m keen to check out what’s happening in the East Bay scene though as there’s so much opportunity there. It’s a little like how Brooklyn emerged as an alternative to Manhattan since the latter grew too expensive for creatives. In any case, stay across our Coworking in SFBA in the meantime.

Favourite cafe with wifi?

Epicenter Cafe on Harrison, any Starbucks for convenience and soy chai lattes and Coupa Cafe in Palo Alto to do the startup tourist thing.

What’s been a personal highlight and not so high moment of the year?

Riding this wave and seeing an incredible community come together to help build their local ecosystems. It’s humbling to be able to work with such a passionate, aware and smart crew of curators. Not to forget our 70-person plus ambassador network. The feeling like this has become a real thing that’s grown and escaped me is incredible.

Not so high moment – well there’s lots! Working hard to create something requires energy – it’s like a fitness. You need to build up resilience and your confidence. I thought writing my 14K-word thesis was a slog (hello attention span!) but doing a startup is like being permanently in college exam-time.

Going fulltime on The Fetch was also a big unknown – but six months later, I’d say I’ve never been as strong, grateful and unfazed by things as I am now.

What have you enjoyed about being involved with The Fetch in 2012?

Being able to work across the globe (I trekked to every Fetch city asides from Auckland/NZ in the past year!) and noticing there’s so many similarities everywhere. You know how startups have that X of Y thing going? Well, you can do the same thing with people. It hilarious and reminds me of that Simpson’s episode where there’s a town that’s exactly like Springfield, a mirror or copy. I’m sure there’s another Kate Kendall writing almost exactly the same post as I type!

What are you looking forward to in 2013?

Less travel (I know, I know, hard life but it can be disorientating). Exercise (hopefully even getting back into indoor or outdoor soccer). Doing a lot more writing and blogging.

Doing more product and community development for The Fetch. Although someone should stop me… I’m not talking about feature bloat… this will be feature obesity if I’m not careful! 😉

Interview: Perth Local, Sam Birmingham — August 5, 2012

Interview: Perth Local, Sam Birmingham

Perth curator Justin Strharsky learns a bit about starting a business in 54 hours from Perth local Sam Birmingham.

Sam Birmingham

Name: Sam Birmingham


Twitter: @sambirmingham

Works at: Making it all happen.

You’ve been a fixture in Perth’s entrepreneurial community for a while – what would you say are our unique challenges here?

Disconnection. Perth is the most isolated capital city in the world, yet we can all do so much more to find out what is going on in our own backyard. With challenge comes opportunity though — it fills me with optimism every time I meet a new person or hear about a new venture starting up here.

Do you see any unique advantages or opportunities to starting a new venture here?

Absolutely! Beyond the obvious answers like servicing the mining boom, access to Asian markets and tapping Perth’s entrepreneurial spirit, starting a new venture in a (relatively) small and (very) isolated city gives you the chance to test and refine your service amongst a receptive local audience. Then when the time comes to scale up, hopefully you’ll already have a lot of the gremlins out of your system!

Oh, it is doesn’t hurt to have great weather and an amazing coastline — sometimes you’ve got to reward yourself with a break and there aren’t many better places to do that than here!

You are currently organising a Startup Weekend for Perth .  Can you give us a three sentence explanation and pitch?

Startup Weekend is an intense 54 hour event which brings together people with diverse skills sets — from software developers and designers, to marketers and hustlers — to build applications and develop a credible business around them. As well as meeting a bunch of interesting people, you’ll learn a lot about yourself and how to give life to the hundred and one ideas that all of us have swirling around our heads each day.

There is no better way to test your ideas and skills than put them into action, and what better place to do it than in an environment where you’ve got nothing to lose?!

Why does Perth need a Startup Weekend?

To address that disconnection issue that I talked about earlier… By its very nature, Startup Weekend brings a bunch of otherwise disconnected people into the same room, to work on solving a bunch of problems together. By the end of the weekend, not only will everyone have learned a lot and had a heap of fun, hopefully we’ll be more aware of the countless others who are doing awesome things all around us.

You recently returned from seeing Startup Weekend in Wellington. What excited you about what you saw there? Were there any disappointments?

For sure! I had high expectations before Startup Weekend Wellington and left even more excited and optimistic by the end of the weekend. Perhaps the most exciting thing was seeing such a diverse group of people (almost all of whom had never met) form teams organically, and so openly share the journey with their teammates and everyone else who participated.

I wouldn’t say there were any disappointments. There were certainly some reality checks for a few people, though, but that’s what happens when you condense the entire ideation, validation and business creation process into 54 hours!

Any tips for those who are going to participate in Perth Startup Weekend?

First and foremost, get involved — JFDI!

Embrace new perspectives; learn, learn, learn; focus on solving problems; and whatever you end up building, keep it lean!

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