Why Startup Weekend is Great


Guest blog from Leigh Gill Attorney at Immix Law and advocate of #PDXSW on the merits of Startup Weekend.

Leigh Gill

“All reasonings about matters of fact seem to be based on the relation of cause and effect, which is the only relation that can take us beyond the evidence of our memory and senses.” DavidHume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding.

I can tell you why Startup Weekend is great, and why the Portland event is the best event of all, and how it will change your life, but I’m not sure you will believe me. Instead I just have to tell you to try—you’ll learn the rest yourself if you try. The relationship between cause and effect can only be discerned by observation.

In most of my life, asking “why” is the most critical and most difficult question: among a number of priorities, managing a fixed amount of time, the answer to “what should I be doing” is going to start with asking “why?”  Like Robert Frost, the choices may be stark and the consequences severe and into the past will recede the moments and choices that were unexplored. Fortunately for you as a potential Startup Weekend attendee I’ve got good news: there is no “why” for three days. Attendees come together with a diverse and dynamic crew of talented, able, inventive and curious people who suspend their disbelief and focus on a collective goal—from idea to company in 54 hours.

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If you’re a practical person I can recommend Startup Weekend to you for the following reasons:From the pitches on Friday night to the presentations on Sunday night there is a focus on achievement. Sure, there are highs and lows, and invariably it seems things won’t come together in time, and there’s always more to do, but throughout it all is the drive and infectious energy of your team and competing teams. Even though you can’t do it all, you can do more than you think. Are you a person of action? Good, you’ll learn to build consensus because you can’t do it alone. Shy? Good, you’ll have an opportunity to speak softly and have an entire team hanging on every word. Technically minded? Good, you’ll learn about sales and design. Not technically minded? You’ll learn some code or at least the process by which code is written, tested and deployed. Every member of the team brings an important perspective that is valuable to the achievement and no matter what you bring, it’s a learning process.

  1. You might meet someone who can help your career, whether through coaching, skills training, connections, or simply good advice;
  2. You will have the opportunity to influence others, and your willingness to try will be rewarded—no matter what you do in your daily life, I’m certain both that you need to convince others and that your skills can get better;
  3. There are donuts and beer, plus plentiful food (you seriously couldn’t feed yourself for the weekend for the price of admission);
  4. The organizing team is amazing, the mentors are amazing, and the participants are amazing, and you get to spend 54 hours with them.

David Hume wrote, in “An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding,” about the limits of rational thought and reason. Reason can enlighten and entertain, it can promote the sciences and the arts, and it is perhaps a part of a movement towards improving Humanity. But, if I can paraphrase Hume, we must occasionally act based on instinct and judgment, not reason. Startup Weekend has plenty of reasoned thought but, in 54 hours of activity, at a certain point you will find yourself taking a chance, not knowing the outcome but believing that the time for action is now. That is the moment of entrepreneurship and it will leave you the better for having had it.