A Diversity Discussion from CES

How do we move from just talking about the topic to taking action?

During CES 2017, on Friday at Startup Stage, a diversity discussion took place between Brad Feld, managing director of Foundry Group; Jenny Fielding, MD for Techstars IoT in NYC; Anielle Guedes, CEO & co-founder at Urban 3D, Jinger Zeng, co-founder at Drone Smith, and Jayant Ratti, co-founder at Vairdo. This panel discussed the specific actions startups can take on the issue, rather than just talking about a hot topic with a lot of buzz.


Having diversity creates a better working environment
For Anielle, a Brazilian Founder of Urban 3D, it is important to have people from different backgrounds on her team. One of the perks of having a diverse team, is that they can go into different markets and regions on a shorter timeline. Having people from India, Brazil and the USA, makes it easier for them to achieve the goal of expansion for the startup because of connections and language barriers that no longer exist.

Surround yourself with people who think differently, and who have a distinct life experience
Jayant, who studied engineering, has a PhD in Robotics, and is co-founder at Vairdo,  thinks it’s extremely important to have people on your team who can challenge your point of view. Differences in background and the contrast in thinking often lead to the most innovative ideas and solutions.  

Be aware of your Unconscious Bias so you understand diversity better
As Managing Director of Techstars Internet of Things, founder of several companies, and with a long background in tech entrepreneurship, Jenny Fielding is — on many occasions — the only female voice in the room. She gave an example of a meeting with venture capitalists, where all the questions for the product were aimed at her co-founders (both males). The VCs ignored her.

She explained the importance of awareness over something as small as eye contact, which can make you feel good or bad. This is all part of the unconscious bias we have within because of how we were raised, our level of education, and other factors that influence it. Learn more about Unconscious Bias and how to prevent it here.

Enhancing entrepreneurship through age diversity
For Jinger Zeng, founder at Dronesmith, she has been dealing with age discrimination as she has built her company. On several occasions she felt that potential customers would not take her seriously or who saw her only as very young and didn’t think she had enough experience to be credible. She understood that business owners sometimes rely heavily on experience (age) to purchase a product or be convinced that it works. One way she handled this was to ask her mentors to help her team reach people who would not respond to them directly.


The conversation then moved to the Techstars Foundation, which is committed to improving diversity in tech entrepreneurship. We do this by investing in organizations with grant money and leveraging the Techstars network to empower these organizations to accelerate their mission.

Here are a few ways we encourage founders and startups to take action to improve diversity:

  • Set up office hours where you invite interns or high school students to learn about entrepreneurship and startups
  • Invite youth or veterans to learn about the environment in startups.
  • Mentor a Startup Weekend
  • Make time to teach entrepreneurial concepts in places where people are eager to learn– Schools, underprivileged sectors.

For even more ways to learn about what actions you can take to improve diversity, visit techstarsblog.wpengine.com/bealeader.

Fireside Chat with Fitbit: From Inspiration to IPO

At CES, Brad Feld, CEO of the Foundry Group, led a fireside chat with James Park, Co-Founder and CEO of Fitbit, about the startup journey and the ups and downs they’ve experienced since they started and all the way through to IPO.

How did Fitbit get started?

In late 2006, James Park and his co-founder, Eric Friedman, were working at a company which is now part of CBS. Nintendo had just released the Nintendo Wii, which was the first consumer device that had accelerometers, and it was the first product that proved gaming was begging to be made into something fun and active for users. During April 2007, they decided to start Fitbit. At the time, the company was just Eric, James, and some consultants helping part time.


How long did it take for Fitbit to have something that would look like a Fitbit?

By the time they created their first prototype, they were raising Series A investment. People started to get more interested in the company once they saw a fancy object (that was actually made out of plastic).

Around the IPO, they went back to review their pitch decks. The slides read, “Automated personal trainer and nutritionist in your pocket.” It is not far from what they are now, even though they pivoted every six months. Fitbit has held through the original vision, however they weren’t presenting much to investors.

How much money did the company raise before Series A?

Thanks to friends and family, James and Eric were able to raise around $400K. This initial funding is what took them to production and launched the product. However, the money ran out quickly.

In September 2007, raising for Series A was different – they went to TechCrunch Disrupt with a prototype that “kind of worked” for the demo. They told people that they were shipping at Christmas (but they didn’t say which Christmas!) — and everyone was excited.

How did you get people excited about Fitbit?

The initial excitement came after the company joined Kickstarter. Later, the weekend before TechCrunch Disrupt, James shared photos of his friends using the device. Their website was poorly built on a ‘sketchy’ platform, so they didn’t think anyone was going to pre-order the device. But less than a month after the conference, they had over one thousand pre-orders.

Since the production wasn’t ready for release, James created a blog and a Flickr account to keep people updated on the status of the product, including what they were doing to get the product ready for customers. This consistent communication kept people from rioting and hating the company.


Did any of you have a background in consumer electronics products?

James only had a single semester of school under his belt, so no. Eric, on the other hand, had a Bachelor’s degree and a Master’s. Eric was responsible for software and James was responsible for hardware.

How did it feel the first moment you had the box in your hand with the produced Fitbit?

Both co-founders did not feel 100% confident in the product. Unlike software, they couldn’t fix it and patch it up once it was released and shipped; this was hardware, it required different kind of work. We were lucky enough to tap into something people were passionate about, so people just ignored the first few mistakes.

What was the path like going forward after the first production line?

In the beginning, during the Christmas of 2008, 5000 units were out after a couple of months of production. They had 25K to 30K pre-orders in their platform and by the end of 2009 they had about $500K in revenue. In 2010, the production was up to 50K devices with $5M in revenue.

When James and Eric were seeking to raise their Series B, they were looking for around $12M in financing. During this time, they met with around 40 VCs. In the end, they were rejected by all of them and ended up raising a Series A-1 instead.

By the time they met with Brad Feld as a potential investor, Fitbit already had Fitbit One, which was the product they were releasing after Fitbit Classic and Fitbit Ultra, and that’s when things started to really move. Classic and Ultra were both released before any type of mobile connectivity, so in order for them to get data from the device to the backend, they had to develop their own platform. It was not a quality experience for the user.

When they heard Apple was releasing third party app development, they stopped coding the backend, because they decided to bet on Apple to do that, even though it was just a rumor. When it finally happened, that’s when the business took off; Fitbit went from $15M to $76M in revenue, which signified 5x growth over a year.


What made Fitbit different from other companies?

The keywords to describe Fitbit was “fitness tracker” or “activity tracker.” Information that was invisible before was made visible so people could play with it, adding different sorts of data to provide a personalized coaching or guidance experience which used information in a smart way. That change brought them from $70M to $300M in revenue.

Next, they changed the marketing strategy. Before, they only used social media platforms and word of mouth, maybe a blog post here and there. But in order to go from $300M to $750M, they needed to change their distribution in a major way, starting with their distribution deal with Best Buy. Marketing dollars were invested in channel marketing, buying displays and putting them in stores, which helped with advertising, but also helped educating staff of stores by having POP marketing at the stores.

What would you have done differently since you started Fitbit?

Fitbit was lucky to end up with a small pool of investors, which meant there was a lot of cohesiveness on the board and practically no egos; it was focused on getting stuff done. At some point as a company, they were really desperate for investment but now are grateful to not have accepted some of those investors on the board, because the key ingredient was having people that believed in the product.

One of James’ biggest transitions was when he stopped coding. He went to manage the hardware part of the business in the summer of 2014, but he was still involved in the company’s internal operations. A lot of stuff was being neglected, for example, they were still using Quickbooks until they had about $300M in revenue, so they hired a CFO that helped them prepare for the IPO.


What was it like going from a private to a public company?

The transition from private to public was one of the hardest things for the founders to do. They experienced incredibly fast paced growth and launched a new product called Fitbit 4, which included Color ID and alphanumeric display. At the time, they sold around 600K units and within a couple of months, discovered the product had health risks and people were starting to get skin irritation. They had already raised about $65M by that point and had $300M in revenue.

The exposure and liability included inventory, stock that they owed the suppliers, and the cost of that production mistake, which was close to $100M. In terms of cash flow, it was a hit they could take, but the risk was losing consumer confidence. They had to work on convincing the suppliers to stack their displays with other Fitbit products instead of their competitors.

The IPO process started in late 2014, Fitbit started all the documentation in January 2015 and went public by June of that year.

What’s coming for Fitbit in 2017?

Fitbit’s vision is to make everyone in the world healthier, and they want to do it from a consumer point of view. The goal is to make Fitbit an essential part of the healthcare ecosystem. Currently they’re developing sensors and the software that will support them.


What is the best advice for entrepreneurs?

  • Be prepared for a lot of grey hairs.
  • Raise efficient capital – mistakes are really expensive.
  • Try to have the right investor base.
  • Co-found your startup with someone you have chemistry with.

Community Leader Spotlight: Arturo Guizar

In memory of our dear friend Carole Granade, director, president, mother and wife. We will make sure that the entrepreneurial flame never dies in Lyon.

My name is Arturo Guizar, I am from Mexico City but I live in Lyon, France for almost 10 years. Since then, I have been traveling around the world but I always come back to Lyon.


What do you do when you are not wearing your Community Leader cape?

I consider myself as a hound and a hustler, two terms I learned from the startup culture. I use these terms to describe my two backgrounds as young scientist (hound) and entrepreneur (hustler). I did my PhD on wearable technologies at the CITI Lab, a joint Inria-INSA laboratory devoted to do research in the telecom sector. I am also co-cofounder of a non-profit organization BeyondLab which aims to connect the research and entrepreneur communities to create strong collaborations and democratise the discoveries of science to turn them into innovative projects. For that, we organise events and build scientific/business communities to reduce the cultural gap. My job here is to help on the community building and find money to continue growing. Since our first event in Grenoble, two years ago, we organised more than 50 events across France, from Lille to Marseille, and worldwide too, in Tokyo, Lausanne and Barcelona. We have worked with local partners, such as EPFL, Inria, CEA, The Family, Kic InnoEnergy, EDF, Withings and more.

For us, Startup Weekend has been a big inspiration, as well as Brad Feld’s philosophy about Startup Communities. We want to continue creating transdisciplinary hubs around the world to help scientist to find entrepreneurs and go beyond the lab.

When did you get involved with Startup Weekend?

The first time I heard about Startup Weekend was in 2011 when I was trying to create my first startup, but I missed the opportunity to participate in Lyon. At that time, I didn’t know it was an international community and I waited a whole year for the next event in Lyon. So, my first SW was on November 2012 in a vertical (SW OpenLabs which now is called SW Science) where scientists pitch their ideas and then, we work with them during the weekend to create startups using technologies coming from research.

This experience was so crazy, I learned a lot, especially about organization, team management and the importance of having a complementary team for the innovation process. I loved so much the concept of startup communities (thanks to Bernabé Chumpitazi), so I wanted to learn more about it and build our own for scientists/entrepreneurs. After that, I started organizing in Lyon (2013) and then facilitating in France (2014).

Startup Weekend inspired me to create BeyondLab (with Xavier Blot and Raphaël Meyer) in Lyon and Grenoble. But now, it’s becoming worldwide.

What is your favorite thing about Startup Weekend and the community?

Transdisciplinarity, international dimension and the fun. I’ve been involved in this community for almost 4 years and I got the opportunity to meet people from everywhere sharing the same values about community, economy and innovation. I also love to see passionate people trying to help their local ecosystem and I always learn something new by listening their background, everyone has an interesting history to tell

What is the funniest thing that you have witnessed and/or experienced with your team?

Each Startup Weekend is different, I have seen many funny and amazing things. But on the last two weeks (during the Global Startup Weekend), I saw for the first time a connected community without frontiers in real time. I connected with many communities using appear.in from Bolivia to US and even Australia. I found always someone to have a chat with and share moments/experience. That’s how we came with the idea to make the Mannequin Challenge during the GSW, it was fun and magical.

What are your bold plans for the future of your community?  

In Lyon, we believe that Startup Weekend is the perfect way to create strong communities for the local economy. The last time we organized a horizontal Startup Weekend was in 2014. Since then, there is always a theme (Science, Food, Makers, Women, MedTech, …). And for each one of them, we have a different team that shares the same passion for that vertical. As a result, we build multiple communities that continue doing things to keep growing our local ecosystem. For instance, the MedTech team also created a new community called Exponential Medicine that organized meetings and Hackathons to improve our healthcare system, find new solutions for pathologies, and more. Nonetheless, they continue organizing other Startup Weekends and we are waiting for the next SW MedTech.  

So, we try to create these ad hoc communities using team building and community chat sessions (every first Monday of each month). The next step is to create more community leaders and increase our local family. But also, we are open to help neighbor cities to create their own.

If you want to become a Techstars Startup Program organiser, go to techstars.com for more information.

Community Leader Spotlight: Rayanny Nunes

Brazil CLEu sou co-fundadora da startup Klipbox e All Bugdet, uma apaixonada por empreendedorismo e por organizar eventos nessa área, fomentando comunidades e empoderando pessoas no meu país.

Meu primeiro Startup Weekend como participante foi em 2013 em Recife, uma experiência transformadora e que marcou para sempre minha jornada empreendedora. Me apaixonei completamente pelo evento, pelo propósito e pela comunidade que estávamos construindo. Então, em 2014 organizei duas edições em Natal e participei do primeiro Statup Weekend Women do Brasil em João Pessoa. Ainda nesse ano, fui convidada para mentorar o Startup Weekend Campina Grande.

Definitivamente o Startup Weekend fazia (faz) parte da minha vida, em 2015  fui convidada para mentorar em outros eventos e  participei de mais 5 edições como mentora e voluntária, organizei mais uma edição em Natal e entrei pro time de facilitadores do Brasil.  

No Summit, pude conhecer outras líderes de comunidade do país, nos unimos para organizar um Startup Weekend Women simultâneo, foram cinco eventos realizados em cidades de quatro regiões e que impactou mais de 600 pessoas, você poderá encontrar alguns dados aqui.

O Startup Weekend Women é uma paixão ainda maior, a causa me atrai e meu desejo é que cada vez mais tenhamos mais mulheres  no movimento empreendedor. Assumi a liderança desse movimento e me orgulho muito do trabalho incrível que nossas líderes vem realizando em suas comunidades. Após esse movimento, aumentamos a participação de mulheres em mais de 20% nos eventos do Startup Weekend.  

SW Women /brazil

Depois de realizar o maior Startup Weekend Women do mundo, nós resolvemos aumentar o desafio para 2016 e impactar ainda mais participantes. Estamos realizando nove edições em diferentes cidades do país (Recife, Florianópolis, Belém, Belo Horizonte, Rio de Janeiro, Brasília, São Paulo, Natal e Manaus), tive o prazer de facilitar dois desses eventos (Recife e Florianópolis) e contribuir com a construção dos demais.

Hoje estou participando de um programa de aceleração focado em fundadoras mulheres no Chile (The S Factory), os aprendizados, habilidades, desafios e as conexões que o Startup Weekend me proporcionaram, contribuíram muito para essa conquista.

Os planos para 2017 incluem o desafio de impactar mais pessoas e levar o SW Women para outras cidades do país, sonhamos com 15 cidades, assim seguimos ampliando as conexões e participação das mulheres na tecnologia e no empreendedorismo. O desafio é grande, mas estamos preparadas!

Linkedin: https://br.linkedin.com/in/rayannynunes

Community leader Spotlight: Mike Michalec, Bangkok (Thailand)

1.When did you get involved with Startup Weekend?

My very first exposure to the Startup Weekend community was way back in 2012 in Bangkok when I was working for a startup. Two of our team members were asked to mentor at Startup Weekend so I tagged along to see what all the hype was about and I’ve been hooked ever since contributing most recently the past few years as an organizer, facilitator, mentor, and judge.  

  1. What do you do when you are not wearing your Community Leader cape?

I’m a consultant in the international development sector so I’ve been fortunate enough to contribute to a lot of impactful social and economic development projects throughout the world that influence things like climate finance, education budgeting, literacy, disaster preparation, innovation, etc. Most of my work is for organizations like UNESCO, UNICEF, or USAID contractors but I also occasionally work for corporate clients. I don’t really have a lot of free time but when there is I like to get away from congested places and hike for as long as my legs will let me! There’s some great treks within our region like Chiang Dao in northern Thailand, Rinjani in Lombok, and pretty much anything in Nepal is awesome. I’m also a big fan of black and white photography and have a website with my work over the years, bwphotography.org

  1. What are your bold plans for the future of your community?

That’s the million dollar question! I think about this everyday and to be honest the plans are constantly being refined as the regional edtech ecosystem and community evolves. As we engage the community we’re always finding new ways to bring value to stakeholders and catalyze growth in the edtech sector either through events, capacity building, research, product, programs, data, etc. Startup Weekend definitely plays a big role in this as we’re keen to keep introducing new groups of people throughout the region to entrepreneurship with the intent to solve problems and improve education outcomes. There are so many unique opportunities to have positive impact by empowering others, creating employment, and transforming education, it’s an exciting time in Asia and we’re quite happy to be here helping to make some of these changes happen.  

Connect with Mike on LinkedIn or follow his endeavours on Facebook.


Community Leader Spotlight: Andrei Cosmin

From Timisoara, Romania, Andrei shares with us his experience as Community Leader in Europe.
Andrei Cosmin

What do you do when you are not wearing your Community Leader cape?

I’m a geek 🙂 I work full time as a Software Test Engineer at a big automotive company. Besides the techie side there’s of course the community part where there’s enthusiasm from the community to help organise tech & startup events.

Oh, and we’re also working on opening a co-working space.

When did you get involved with Startup Weekend?

I first heard about Startup Weekend in 2013. The 1st edition of Startup Weekend Timisoara was about to take place, so I bought a ticket the rest was history. It was an amazing experience: I got to learn a lot from the event, made friends and from that point on I was hooked.

I jumped to help the local organizing team prepare the 2nd edition of SWTimisoara where I got a chance to learn what happens behind the curtains. It got me even more enthusiastic and I decided to lead the organising team for a great 3rd edition of SWTimisoara.

This just got me even more excited about the entire SW movement. I wanted to be a facilitator to get to see how things are happening in other entrepreneurial communities across Europe. In 2015 I became a Global Facilitator and since then I have facilitated a bunch of great events across Europe.

If I had to summarize it all: amazing, energetic, roller coaster of awesomeness.

What is the funniest thing that you have witnessed and/or experienced with your team?

Organizing Startup Weekends is as much of a roller coaster ride as participating in an event.

There are so many funny / crazy & amazing things happening at Startup Weekends – helium balloons, Batman and Superman cupcakes as mentors, cards against humanity SW, Nerf guns, VR corners to name a few!

One thing I want to mention here and for sure it’s the most important thing (coming back to being serious): there’s always an amazing team behind each Startup Weekend event. In Timisoara there’s a great team which has evolved from event to event and they’re THE BEST!

What are your bold plans for the future of your community?  

Our community in Timisoara has potential to grow a lot when it comes to the entrepreneurial spirit. There’s a lot to learn and there’s a lot of potential.

We’re striving to direct that drive of the community in a direction while also offering the framework that the ecosystem needs to flourish and grow.

Organizing events and having the community to meet up is one way we plan on growing. Together we’re stronger & better.

Community Spotlight: Maaike van der Post, Netherlands

Every month, we do a Community Leader Highlight in Europe. For October, we had the chance to ask Maaike, from the Netherlands, about her Startup Weekend involvement. This is what she said.



I work part-time as a graphic designer at Kr8werk. Besides that I am the founder of the startups Baguru and Surprise Dinner and I organize events that are all startup (community) related.

My first Startup Weekend as a participant was in 2013 in Groningen. Wout Laban and Matthijs Menses convinced me to join that edition. I was still a student and one of my biggest fears was pitching. The next year Nick Stevens convinced me to grab the microphone, and I did! My project got enough votes and at the end of the weekend we won the second price. After this edition, I was hooked. In 2014 I participated in three Startup Weekends in Groningen and Amsterdam. Baguru and Surprise Dinner are still on their way to become real companies, I just had to find the right people to get them off the ground. And I found them!

After participating in five Startup Weekends it was time for me to join the organizing team. Last year I was the lead organizer of Startup Weekend Groningen together with David Hamoen. It was a great experience and I was able to work on my own skills and at the same time inspire and connect others. I really like the way startup weekend can make a change in the participants’ mindset.

That is also why a mini-startup weekend with kids is so valuable. It is important to show them that you don’t need to come from a wealthy family or join the highest education to become a successful entrepreneur. In the end, everyone can create their own future.

There are also smaller cities where there is no startup community yet. With Startup Weekend we can create a spark and make a real difference. Our community in the North of the Netherlands will make its next big step by introducing Startup Weekend Friesland. The challenge is to spread the Startup Weekend mentality and grow a community that spans across the several small cities in the province.

We expect that this will be a very different challenge compared to the one in Groningen, but it will be awesome!

Connect with Maaike on LinkedIn and follow Startup Weekend Groningen on Facebook.

Community Spotlight: Stavros Messinis & Maria Calafatis, Greece

Every month, we do a Community Leader Highlight in Europe. For September, we had the chance to ask Stavros and Maria, from Greece, about their Startup Weekend involvement. This is what they said.

Stavros Messinis & Maria Calafatis


When did you get involved with Startup Weekend?

We became involved with Startup Weekend in 2008 when Andrew Hyde came to Athens to do the first Startup Weekend Athens. Our idea was Blognudge – it went nowhere. At the second Startup Weekend Athens in 2009, we cofounded coLab – Athens’ first co-working space; that evolved into The Cube, our current business. Since then, we have had the privilege to host a Startup Weekend – so you could say we’ve come full circle.

What do you do when you are not wearing your Community Leader cape?

Startup Weekend has changed of our lives for the better and we want it to do the same for everyone, so we’re always wearing our facilitator cape. When we’re not facilitating an actual event, we’re running The Cube or running after our children. Sometimes, we do some consulting too. In our spare time, we run a school for refugee children who have been uprooted by the Syrian conflict. It’s called SOLE Greece – a social enterprise whose aim is to offer a more disruptive learning method than is offered by our traditional school system.

What are your bold plans for the future of your community?

Our plans for the community are to facilitate growth and more entrepreneurial activation. We want to help a team organize a weekend in each city around Greece and perhaps a little further afield too.

15 Amazing Group Dynamics to Break the Ice

by Bernard de Luna

I had the opportunity to attend the Techstars Brazil Summit 2016 at São Paulo. As a Facilitator and Community Leader, I spent the amazing days there sharing experiences about our communities and how to improve them to stay competitive and fascinating. I had the mission to give a workshop to almost 40 people, and with my experience on workshops and group activities, I decided to share some tips and dynamics to do at Startup Weekend with the attendees. The final feedback was so amazing that I decided to create a post to share my experience with you 🙂

But Why Group Dynamics, You Ask?

Well, we know Startup Weekend is a life changer. So, to be able to facilitate group activities is a necessary skill to make the weekend unforgettable. There are many different objectives of group dynamics. I prefer to group them into 3 categories:

  • Create a Positive Group Atmosphere

Icebreaker activities are intended for a group of participants who don’t know each other well. All facilitators should apply a icebreaker dynamic to break down social barriers and help people to have crazy and disruptive ideas.

  • Energize & Motivate

Vibrant activities intended to re-engage people into their activities and help you to take control of the space energy.

  • Help People to Relax

Experimental activities meant to relax and de-stress teams. Some activities are also focused on creating a more meaningful and inspiring experience for the audience.

Before I start showing you some dynamics, here are a few considerations to take into account:

  • Before you start an activity, check some variables like space size, tables, stairs, temperature, music, mic volume, lighting, etc.
  • Only pick up your phone to check time or time activities, or something that I love, play and pause music on spotify remotely. Remember that you are the reference of the audience throughout the dynamic, even if you’re not saying anything on the microphone.
  • Encourage organizers and mentors to participate in the dynamics. Take the opportunity to realize they are also fun and involve them more throughout the event.

1. One, Two, Three

Useful for: Icebreaker, opening the final Pitches

Supplies needed: None

People: No limit

Ask participants to form into pairs. If the final number is odd, you complete the game. One of the participants has to start counting, while the other participant starts at the second number (i.e. they say one, then I say two, etc.).  Loop count 1 through 3, and continue counting faster and faster.

In 10 seconds, you can celebrate with them. Tell them how easy that was and you want to make the dynamic more complicated. Have them repeat the same process, but this time, rather than saying “one”, substitute it with a handclap. 10-15 seconds later, you can celebrate again with the participants – have fun and laugh with them. Repeat the process again by changing the number 2 to a different action, like barking. Then in the third round, change the number 3 to a scream.

This activity is a great opportunity for you to record and put on Instagram and Snapchat to start to engage the event on social media.


2. Start a Band

Useful for: Icebreaker, Opening the final Pitches

Supplies needed: None

People: No limit

Do you like music? How about if you use the crowd to create music? In this activity, you have to split the audience into instruments to create collaborative music. If you are facilitating in a open space, use each team to simulate an instrument, if you are facilitating in a space like a theater or auditorium, create invisible columns to split the audience.

I love this activity, so I recommend that you practice a little at home by recording some sounds and interacting with your own videos to see what could work. Here are a few tips to help you in this task:

PS: Make your song have a 4/4 time signature (common time).

  1. Evolve the music in order: Beat, sample, effects
  2. Start counting loud until 4. The quarter note gets the beat, so you can clap your hand to mark the beat.
  3. Ask for the second column to do two-fast claps in the 2/4. Now you have a dance beat.
  4. Ask for the other columns to create another clap using body sounds to get more rhythm. Check the Stomp videos on youtube to generate more ideas ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l0XdDKwFe3k ).
  5. Create some notes to create a sample and play with the audience.
  6. Maybe even try to re-create “Build Me Up Buttercup” 

Just remember, you have to define your time and strategy really well to play this dynamic, because it can demand too much energy to engage the audience and compromise your schedule.


3. My Name Is

Useful for: Icebreaker

Supplies needed: None

People: 20-60

Ask each person to state his/her name and say an adjective that starts with the same letter of her name e.g. Dynamic Dave, Bold Bruna, Fast Felipe. You can refer to them by this for the rest of the evening and make everyone laugh.

PS: His/her adjective can’t be attached a dominant characteristic. This rule is so important to keep the environment positive and avoid embarrassment.


4. Toilet Paper

Useful for: Icebreaker

Supplies needed: None (but you can use a toilet paper roll for demonstration)

People: Teams of 6+

Give 7 minutes for all groups to decide what the best way is to use the toilet paper. They need to reach a consensus, think about the rational and emotion. Then in 1 minute, the leader of each group says the conclusion and the reasoning behind their pick. The group that makes the best argument wins.

After the activity, use a moment to say there’s no right answers, explain that the best way is what was best for them. Take this time to also say that a consensus doesn’t consist in a battle of opinions, but a collaboration of opinions, and they need to consider this over the weekend.


5. Human Knot

Useful for: Icebreaker, Open the final Pitches

Supplies needed: None

People: Teams of 5-10 (Split larger groups into multiple circles)

Have participants stand shoulder to shoulder in a tight circle. Instruct the members to put their right hand in and grasp the hand of someone across from them (not beside them). The members should now put their left hand in and grasp the left hand of someone across from them (not the same person). Now the members must “untie” the knot without anyone unlinking.

The group “wins” when they have un-knotted the chain into a large circle or multiple circles. If a group unlinks any hand, you can make it harder for them, by blindfolding some members of the group, or forbidding them to use their voice to communicate in the activity.


6. Rock, Paper, Scissors

Useful for: Icebreaker, Saturday Night, Open the final Pitches, Entertain the audience during the deliberation

Supplies needed: None

People: No limit

This is my favourite Startup Weekend game. It’s funny because it is a competition inside another competition.

The shapes are “rock” (a simple fist), “paper” (a flat hand), and “scissors” (a fist with the index and middle fingers together forming a V). The game has only three possible outcomes other than a tie: a player who decides to play rock will beat another player who has chosen scissors (“rock crushes scissors”) but will lose to one who has played paper (“paper covers rock”); a play of paper will lose to a play of scissors (“scissors cut paper”). If both players choose the same shape, the game is tied and is usually immediately replayed to break the tie.

The players usually count aloud to 3, or speak the name of the game (e.g. “Rock Paper Scissors!”), each time either raising one hand in a fist and swinging it down on the count or holding it behind. On the fourth count, the players change their hands into one of three gestures, which they then “throw” by extending it towards their opponent. Variations include a version where players shake their hands three times before “throwing.”

After a match, the winner has to walk around looking for another winner, while every loser becomes part of his/her crowd. In the finals, put the competitors on stage. 


7. Jump In, Jump Out

Useful for: Icebreaker, Saturday Night, Open the final Pitches, Entertain the audience during the deliberation

Supplies needed: None

People: No limit

This icebreaker is great for getting your group warmed up, both physically and mentally! It activates listening and communication skills while letting your group have fun and laugh at their own mistakes. To start this activity, have participants stand in a circle and hold hands (see an example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k6bHltjIYzE ).

Round One: Have participants REPEAT AND DO as you say. For example, say, “jump in.” Participants will say “jump in” as they do so. Use the directions jump in, jump out, jump right and jump left.

Round Two: Have participants SAY AND DO THE OPPOSITE of what you say. For example, say, “jump in.” Participants will say “jump out” as they do so. Again, use the directions jump in, jump out, jump right and jump left.

Round Three: Have participants REPEAT BUT DO THE OPPOSITE. For example, say, “jump in.” Participants will say “jump in,” but actually jump out. Use the directions jump in, jump out, jump right and jump left.


8. Dead, Alive

Useful for: Saturday Night, Entertain the audience during the deliberation

Supplies needed: None

People: Any

When you say: “Dead!” everyone will be crouching or sitting. When you say, “Alive!”, Everyone will stand. Those who do not follow the orders are eliminated until 3 or 4 participants remain. Bring them to the stage and continue until there is a winner.

The difficulty level changes as the speed at which the commands are given, recalling that the sequence of orders can vary, for example: “Alive! Alive! Alive! Dead! Dead! Alive!” This will confuse the players and still require more attention from participants. You also can create some pranks like yelling, “Bread”, “Ted,” “Dread,” “Thrive”, etc.


9. Limbo Dance

Useful for: Saturday Night, Entertain the audience during the deliberation

Supplies needed: Stick or String

People: No limit

A participant moves to a rhythm and dances under a stick, held up by a person on each end of it, without knocking or touching it. If the dancer is successful, he must repeat this again and again with the bar being lowered another “notch” each time.

Each dancer does this until there is only one left standing who has not touched the bar, fallen down, laid on the floor or used his/her hands to keep balance. On-lookers as well as other dancers would clap and cheer (or egg on) and sing while the dancer tries to go under the stick. You can replace the stick with a string.

PS: You can create a competition between groups. Each group needs to send a participant to participate in this competition and define the champion.


10. Karaoke

Useful for: Saturday Night

Supplies needed: Microphone, Karaoke songs

People: No limit

Karaoke is meant to be sociable. So, you can challenge the teams by asking them to send a participant up to sing. You can make some mentors or organizers judges and rate the best performances.

At first, participants can be a bit shy, so try to break the ice by being the first to sing, having one mentor and one organizer to sing after you.


11. Talent show

Useful for: Saturday Night

Supplies needed: Microphone, Instruments, Cards, Tennis Balls, etc.

People: No limit

Invite people to participate individually or in groups to show off a talent. They can do magic tricks, dance, sing, play some instrument, do malabarism, and much more.

Yet again, at first, participants can be a bit shy, so try to break the ice by being the first to perform, and have one mentor and one organizer set up to perform after you.


12. Kung fu Master

Useful for: Icebreaker, Saturday Night

Supplies needed: None

People: Teams of 5-10 (Split larger groups into multiple circles)

Do not think of a pink pig! Yeah! You thought about it, right? This is how the dynamics of kung fu master works!

Place a mentor or organizer in the center of each circle. This person will be the kung fu master. The circle is closed and all members of the group are hand in hand. When you say GO! The masters will have to do 3 kung fu moves, and after that, participants have to start jumping and count to 5, unlink hands and make any “kung fu” move as long as it is different than the movements presented by the kung fu master. It is important to say that participants can’t repeat the same move.

Participants that repeat his/her own movement, or one from your master, is removed from the circle. When there is one person left in each circle, merge to a single group and that one person will be the kung fu master. Now, participants have to count to 3 instead of 5 as before.

13. Clapping Circle

Useful for: Icebreaker, Saturday Night, Sunday Morning

Supplies needed: None

People: No limit

Create a big circle and have all participants put their hands in front of them. Have each person interchange their hands so that the space in front of them contains not only one of their hands but someone elses. So, that pattern should be: your own hand, hand of person on your left, your own hand, hand of person on your right.

You should lead the group by having each person tapping their hand on the ground in a clockwise direction. Then repeat but in an anti-clockwise direction. Up the competition by allowing the participant to control which direction the tap moves in by adding in a double tap to change the direction. If participants are too slow or pick their hand up to tap out of turn, they are out and must remove their hand from the circle. The last two players are the winners.


14. Questions Only

Useful for: Saturday Night, Entertain the audience during the deliberation

Supplies needed: None

People: No limit

I love this dynamic because I was a big fan of a TV show called, “Who’s Line is it Anyway?” The format is very simple – only questions may be used in this activity.

Whoever makes a mistake is replaced by another person from the audience. If you want to give more rhythm, you can create some topics on post-it notes (similar to Half Baked) and change the subject with each error.


15. Right Path

Useful for: After the deliberation

Supplies needed: None

People: No limit

There is a traditional practice in a tribe in Africa where they take a person to the center of the village when they do something wrong. The tribe surrounds him, and for 2 days they say all the good he/she has done. The tribe believes each person is good, but sometimes people make mistakes, which is really a cry for help. They unite to reconnect them with his good nature.

Now it’s your time to invite all participants to pair up and hug each other and say good things about one another. It’s so inspiring! You can also do the same with organizers and mentors.



There are dozens of dynamics that can be used, but pay attention with these following tips:

  • Choose volunteers carefully and don’t cause embarrassment.
  • If something is not working, move quickly on to the next activity.
  • Timing is important.
  • No event is the same and your understanding of what will and will not work is your super power.
  • Enjoy it!

“People are here for many different reasons, but we are here for just one. Make their weekend unforgettable” @bernarddeluna


Follow me on Twitter @bernarddeluna. If you have any suggestions for a new, awesome group dynamic for Startup Weekends, please comment below. 

Recap: A Look at Techstars Brazil Summit 2016

The second delivery of the Techstars Brazil Summit took place during July of 2016 in São Paulo.

Tony Celestino, Regional Director and Andre Hotta, Regional Manager of Techstars Regional Office in Brazil.
Tony Celestino, Regional Director and Andre Hotta, Regional Manager of Techstars Regional Office in Brazil welcome the attendees.

The event, with 117 people from 38 cities and 19 states participating, included:

Techstars Brazil Summit held a number of activities & was focused on the connections between communities, best practices and training for both organizers and facilitators, as well as discussion panels of Investments in Brazil and communities.

This year the Summit had 2 special guests: David Brown (Co-founder and Managing Partner of Techstars) and Cody Simms (Head of Techstars Accelerator and Startup programs in North and South America). We ran an AMA (ask me anything) session with them and the Community Leaders. It was a great opportunity to connect to the Brazilian ecosystem.

One of the high peaks of the Summit was the presentation about the impact that Startup Weekend Women had last year in Brazil, what our community leaders are doing and how they could improve in the diversity inclusion to empower women. 

It was important to us to share the entrepreneur journey with the attendees and give them the opportunity to connect to founders that started their startups in a Startup Weekend event. We wanted them to see what their journey had been like. It was great to show to the Community Leaders the steps that each entrepreneur had to take to become successful. Tallis Gomes (Easy Taxi), Claudio Castro (One Cloud) and Luiz Gomes (Lotebox), were founders that built their startups at a Startup Weekend program in Brazil. They got the opportunity to share their journey, discuss challenges and how the community can support new startups in their early days.

Thanks to everyone involved in this great event. If you’re interested in learning even more about the event, check out the Techstars Brazil Summit infographic!