A first timers’ retrospective

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Guest Post by Josh Gartenbaum, Portland Startup Weekend Organizer for November 2013:

The first time I heard of Startup Weekend I knew I had to go. Creating a business in a weekend? What a great idea! So I bought my ticket and watched the calendar, excited.

As the event drew nearer I began to fret. What contribution can I make? I don’t have any technical or design expertise, just a willingness to help out and a belief that I have some skills… somewhere. I just didn’t know what they were exactly.

Then I came across an interview with Shashi Jain where he spoke about his experience with Startup Weekend, and I immediately identified with what he said. He felt similarly nervous about his first time, but excited about the prospect of finding a team and partnering to build an idea into a business — all in a weekend’s time!

The day of the event I was a bundle of nerves. I showed up early to “stake out the joint” and get a feel for the vibe, and I was pleasantly surprised. The facilitators were extremely organized, and everyone seemed relaxed and happy. People were smiling and introducing themselves — it didn’t seem that anyone was left out! When the time came for the pitches, we all funneled into the main room and took our seats.

I didn’t have an idea to pitch, and frankly I didn’t expect many people to pitch either, but what took me by surprise was that nearly 1/2 of the attendees had ideas! I was impressed by the level of creativity and the courage of the people who seemed to be shy speaking in public, but who delivered compelling messages. You could tell from each person after they finished their pitch — especially the shy ones — that they stepped off the stage with a feeling of accomplishment. The crowd was warm and supportive, which I know made it easy for the presenters.

The rest of the weekend just flew by. After we paired into our “companies” and started working, the next thing I knew it was Sunday and we were scrambling to put the finishing touches on our presentation. Although our company wasn’t awarded a finalist by the judges, we were voted by our peers as a top group, which left us feeling very proud.

I’m thrilled and honored to be an organizer for this fall’s Portland Startup Weekend, and I hope to see you all there!