Startup Weekend Toronto – My Two Cents

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Overall the weekend was a blast — but not exactly what I expected. I had my own expectations of the weekend after hearing about the Boulder Startup Weekend.

I had expectations of a lot of fun, meeting new people (crazy people — entrepreneurs — like me), knockin back some beers, and building something cool.

There was way too much structure to the weekend. People were all assigned into functional groups prior to the weekend, there were about 30 ideas that the “facilitators” narrowed down to 8 that were pitched and voted on once everyone was together. I think there were some goodies that were missed from the 30, so I spoke up and said I think people should voice an idea if they have one — there were many people that hadn’t been on the wiki or forums for the weekend. The facilitators’ answer was that everyone was notified of the wiki/forums and structure of the weekend ahead of time — fair enough I suppose.

I also expected an even split on all the equity in the company we were collectively creating. Sure, you’re going to have some leeches, but whatever — there shouldn’t be certain people with a ton more equity in the company. How Boulder operated with Vosnap was they took 50% of the shares and divided them equally amongst the participants (each participant could earn up to 3 shares of stock — 1 for each day – Fri/Sat/Sun – that they participated in). The remaining 50% — 25% is being divided amongst a management team that will continue pursuing the business as a real company (those stock options mature over time) and the remaining 25% is being held for a future investment from an Angel or VC.

Toronto was structured to give the person who’s idea was selected 20% equity right off the bat — for having an idea! Ideas are shit, it’s all in the execution. We were required to sign a doc handing over the rights to anything we built over the weekend — and the shares didn’t even add up (they were 35k short; it turned out to be a typo, but still). The legal guy that apparently put this all together (and was also the guy whose idea “won”) explained to us (the 4 Americans that were “disruptive” as we were told the next morning) that “VCs invest $1-$3mm in ideas alone, so we wanted to reward the idea holder — and ensure that people submitted good ideas.” When I heard that, I knew it was just inexperience as to why the division of equity was the way it was — because also, equity was disbursed based on your time put in pre-event and post-event. Thus, I think the facilitators ended up with like 5% each, the idea guy had probably 25%, and the 30 others ended up with 0.02% each. 15% was reserved for future management and nothing for future investment — thus, that 0.02% would be diluted if an investment was ever made.

Well, that’s crap in my opinion — and thus, future official Startup Weekend events (put on by Andrew Hyde) will have a certain structure to them; including division of equity and less structure. In Boulder, leaders emerged within the groups — whereas in Toronto, leaders were preselected; and quite honestly it felt like they were “the boss”. I didn’t come somewhere on my weekend off to be bossed around. And not that I was, but I wanted to see leaders emerge — people that you start to trust and that you start to agree with.

This is all my opinion of course — I’m a Type B, so I’m not into tons of structure or organization.

So anyhow, some really great people in Toronto. And the organizers had very good intentions, I just didn’t agree with all of the structure — and I think the people spoke with their actions (60 people showed up Friday night and 30 returned on Saturday).

I look forward to this coming weekend in NYC — Andrew will be leading the effort and it’ll be tons of fun I know. I can’t wait! And Andrew needed this to all happen last weekend, so that all future ones will have the right vibe to them.