WASHINGTON – Talk is cheap. Anyone can park their backside in a conference room and bloviate all day about an idea, a product or the market for that product. To revive our economy, it’s time to act.
To that end, its backers are claiming something called “Startup Weekend Next” is the largest entrepreneurial initiative yet launched in the U.S. The effort is a partnership among Startup Weekend (motto: “No talk, all action”), Startup America, TechStars and Udacity. The sponsors promise four weeks of hands-on training to launch startups in American and around the world.
The goal, says lean startup guru Steve Blank, is “to inspire, educate and empower hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs” while helping to launch no less than 10,000 startups.
Most will fail, but the point here is to try something, anything, and find out through first-hand experience in the field whether a startup has a technology that solves someone’s problem or a product that taps an unmet market. The point is to stop talking and try to make something happen.
Blank said “Startup Weekend Next” also represents his attempt to take his Lean (Startup) LaunchPad course to the next level. The essence of Blank’s approach is to get entrepreneurs out meeting a minimum of 100 potential customers to find out if they have a viable product or technology. Again, shoe leather and human interaction triumph over PowerPoint presentations.
From a purely engineering standpoint, Blank argues: “How your product gets implemented is not with water fall engineering but with agile engineering.”
The video below explains the goals of the Startup Week Next”. It’s a good first step from anguishing over the sources of the next phase of innovation and economic growth to translating ideas into action.
I agree. Although a good VC knows what ideas might or might not fly, and has a good understanding of the engineering involved, I get frustrated when the hangers on in the sidelines, be it politicians or the sort of "self improvement gurus," claim to "teach innovation."
What it takes to actually innovate is best understood by those who do it.
I'm not so sure about this VC thing to start up. Rather it has been my experience that one MUST start on their own, their own money, and get to the point where a customer likes their idea. Then the VCs are great as essentially a bank that accepts high risk on "loans".
Almost all major startups I can think of did their first product on their own money (i.e. savings, family, or boot-strapping from a job working nights and weekends). It wasn't much of a product that was cobbled together, but it attracted customer interest and that is the document you take to the VC-bank.
Certainly if you want to startup with a capital intensive business there is little possibility to do this without VC-type money. But then that's not necessarily the domain for first-time entrepreneurs. Need a little grey hair to start a business with the first VC check for $100 Million.
Yes, risk aversion is a big part of the problem. If you can get a young entrepreneur used to working out of a converted warehouse pointed in the right direction and plugged into the VC community, then something good might come of it. What is needed is an idea and an organizing principle, then it's sink or swim.
The reason that most publicly successful startups are done by young people is that they aren't crippled by a life full of picking up "risk aversion" baggage. They don't listen to all the nay sayers. Anybody who has had children knows how little most young people pay to advice from "old-folks.
My point? To be successful at any age you have to set aside your risk aversion. Be willing to fail. Believe in yourself. Avoid listening to others saying you are wasting time.
Thoughts from an old guy.....
No one is claiming this approach is a panacea, as some of the knee-jerk reactions above imply. It's likely that little will come from this initiative. But if one new startup emerges from it, then it was well worth the effort.
Which is the point: Try it and see if anything comes of it. Then try something else. Make something happen.
Hopefully this fares better than the local invent/startup gatherings which occured here a few yeas ago. A bunch of 20 somethings gathered with their iDistractors, gossipped, tweeted, and texted, then disbursed. After a few such gatherings the event was cancelled.
I concur that the real innovations come not from the people in suits in conferences or, "initiatives", (regardless of their lip service to action, their very premise is contradictory) but from folks in labs and shop floors wearing sneakers and jeans who just need problems to solve. The suits follow the fruits of the sneakers.
My take on this is that the trade press gets it wrong on this subject, most of the time.
"Necessity is the mother of invention." Innovation happens out of necessity. The trick is to see innovations evolving that way, instead of seeing them as a sudden "new thing." This certainly includes PCs, tablets, cellular telephony, smart phones, and all the rest that people like to gush over. Even airplanes and cars, for that matter.
One recent example might be that robotics article in EE Times. Robots are nothing new. It's the same old household or work applicances, being evolved into doing more of the chores. Robots don't have to be thought of as looking like R2D2 or R2PO, and doing so will only limit one's perspective on these matters.
Necessity. For example, how do you provide personal communications for everyone, a la Star Trek "communicator"? Answer: you have to employ a scheme that allows for a whole lot more RF frequency reuse than what was already being done.
It's not like frequency reuse was unknown before the 1980s. It was fully understood. That's why the FCC limits transmit power to different degrees, for different category of devices. Now that concept had to be taken to a new level, where range was short enough that retuning to a different frequency had to be automated. And where the real "heavy lifting" was relegated to a cabled backhaul network instead of to the RF infrastructure.
That's how cellular evolved. From necessity. And then that opened up the possibility for all manner of new devices.
Fail fast, fail cheap. Startup Incubators like TechStars have had some spectacular successes, but clearly those have emerged from many, many more failures.
It makes sense really... you can't innovate unless you are doing something new, and if you're doing something new, you don't know if it's going to work, or what problems you might face. Takes a few "fails" to get something good out.