This was my second StartUp Weekend. I was seeking ways to promote Kirkland as a hotbed of startup companies and brand the town as the silicon valley of the northwest. This is one of the reasons I accepted the job of being executive director of the Kirkland Chamber. I had seen the final presentations of a StartUp Weekend in Seattle and pitched the idea around town. I had enough positive feedback that I moved forward to bring it to life. The planning team was a handful of people in Kirkland that I knew were entrepreneurs. Like any new idea, the first year was hard and participant registrations were slow, but we put in the marketing hours and we hit our target number of registrations in the final hours before kick-off.What made this year’s Kirkland Startup Weekend so successful?
The first year, with 90 participants, we had about 40 pitches and 8 teams. This year we had 150 participants, 77 pitches and 20 teams. We made a concerted effort to attract engineers and designers to this startup to compliment the students and non-IT talent registered. It was a great mix and not the team anxieties we experienced in 2012 when the majority were non-technical. We also had exceptional team leaders and coaches this year. Participants could focus on what they knew well which inspired more creativity and originality. What I experienced also was real world application ideas – not as sexy as something really out there, but something that a consumer might actually buy. Also, I surveyed the group and was pleased that it was a good mix of Seattle and Eastside talent.What was your favorite part about the weekend?
I love the community think tank atmosphere. Participants want to work hard and win. I liked being the provider that kept them well fed and supported so that they could focus on their work. I love the pitches and feel for the ones that are not selected. I brought back John Seacrest as facilitator since I was so impressed with him in 2012. I like the formality of the kick-off and atmosphere of being at Google. Needless to say, I like taking care of our sponsors and finding as many ways possible to have them be noticed and valued. The final presentations and celebration of the winners at the end is always the ultimate highlight of the weekend.To learn more about Startup Weekend and to find an event near you, visit www.startupweekend.org