A deeper look into Tehran Startup Weekend, a Sweet Failure for Wannabe Entrepreneurs
In today’s world, sustainable development is what economists recommend.
Sustainable development requires intellectual, legal, industrial and governmental foundations and infrastructures. Sustainable development should be authentic and grass-rooted. It should starts and grows up within communities to be able to create jobs, promote economic growth and raise the quality of life.
The definition of wealth has been radically changed from the past. Wealthiest people of today’s world are knowledge oriented people and entrepreneurs such as Microsoft’s Bill Gates, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, and Iranian-American founder of eBay Pierre Omidyar.
Universities, research centers, incubators, technology parks and events such as Startup Weekend are prerequisites of economic growth and sustainable development.
In programs such as Startup Weekend, wannabe entrepreneurs would get a great opportunity to experience some of the pains, problems, happiness and success along the path from idea to product.
The Iran event was held at the Kherad Institute, a K-12 school in Tehran, 5 – 7 September 2012.
As a mentor to the teams of I had a great opportunity to meet with top modern Iranian entrepreneurs as well as so many enthusiastic and talented men and women who came to learn experiences and build something great.
I tried to speak with many business development members of teams but my main focus was on 5 teams: “Good News”, “Lenzkadeh”, “Where do we go?”, “Wall” and “Wet Sponge”. I tried to do my best to guide them toward differentiating their ideas by creating USP (Unique Selling Points), simplifying their working process and set their focus on making and improving MVPs (Minimum Viable Products).
Put all the advantages of such event aside, I think if sponsors, organizers and attendants try to figure out some solutions for following problems, next events would be much more useful:
۱. Most of the coaches and judges were from IT industry. It would create a different, more useful mindset if there were entrepreneurs from other industries.
۲. Business Plan or Business Model, that’s the question. I found some of the teams are under a lot of pressure and they are frustrated because some of the coaches suggest them to make business plan and they had a sense that the jury will give them a positive rating because of that. Whereas, writing a business plan is not possible in such short time (54 hours) and it is not 100% necessary for starting a new business. So I tried to talk with them and guide them to focus on creating a business model rather than business plan.
۳. In a world of rapid changes, making a product out of an idea requires a rapid formation of the team. Team members should act professional so without any long term preparation and in a very short time they could get together around their common interest (making the idea happen) putting their differences aside.
۴. There is no secret short-cut to an over a night success. So instead of looking for magic tools, software and hardware, wannabe entrepreneurs should think about solutions, ideas and frameworks. According to Robert D. Cooter and Hans-Bernd Schäfer in their book, Solomon’s Knot: “The United States imports bulky goods from china to fill stores like Walmart, and exports intangible services like computer programs, Hollywood movies, and banking services.”
۵. Sponsors who appeared as talent hunters had no clear sponsorship and agenda. In the opening speech of the event, sponsors talked about how they are there to not just sponsoring the event but also finding talents and great ideas so they would invest in them as VCs.
Fanap and Timwe from Portugal were the main sponsors. I was surprised that the president of Fanap, Mr. Javanmardi did not have any prepared presentation or even a few slides so his speech would not bore the audiences. Although Timwe’s spokesman had a powerpoint along his speech, but it was confusing and misleading with so many texts and little bit of images.
Their employees were there but whenever I asked them about their plans and programs for sponsoring and investing in an idea or a team their replay was something like this: “We want to gain market share in the Middle East. To do so, we came here because we want to find great talents and ideas”. But whenever I asked then how are you going to do that and what kinds of ideas and teams interest you more, they only gave me their business cards.
۶. The number of ideas in the first day of the event was a record in the history of Startup Weekend events. Some of them were really great while some others had no USP and would not attract the market.
The Sweet Failure
All teams at the end of the event experienced a sweet failure. In other words, all teams tried their bests to turn their ideas into product but the result was not exactly what they have expected and the path from idea to product was not as easy as they thought. On the other hand, they felt the joy of progress, magic of teamwork and they made new friends which all are priceless experiences.
I am sure that after the event, they will start thinking about their actions and mistakes as well as their hidden talents and abilities which they never thought they had.