Test, dream and practice at Startup Weekend

This article was contributed by John Schnipkoweit, CEO and Co-Founder at NextStep.io. His company’s genesis began at a Startup Weekend in Iowa City years ago, before leading to an accelerator backed by Techstars and Nike and then back home to build in Iowa’s Creative Corridor.

John Schnipkoweit of NextStep.io (Photo via 1 Million Cups IC/CR on Facebook)
John Schnipkoweit of NextStep.io (Photo via 1 Million Cups IC/CR on Facebook)

I attended the first startup weekend in Iowa City, only the second in Iowa. Now several happen throughout Iowa each year. I don’t believe that Startup Weekends create more companies – a common misconception, however they do let people experiment – a key part of what you do everyday in a startup. Its important for everyone to practice the process you go through in a Startup Weekend, but only the brave ones actually commit to attending. So my challenge to everyone, is what are you waiting for? Think a Startup Weekend is just for tech geeks? Entrepreneurs? Think again – everyone has a skill that will not only be useful at a Startup Weekend, but will actually be improved as a result of the weekend.

Not convinced yet? Consider these few examples:

Testing tiny

We’ve read and heard about various industries adopting lean methods – and there is a reason for that. It’s that we don’t know, what we don’t know. I bet we all do repetitive tasks everyday that fall into the “its the way its always been done” category. Just think about the impact you could have by taking a step back and testing tiny steps to make that task better? If you change something massive, you may not even come close to success – how do you know what to change/add/build differently, if you don’t test tiny?

Dream Big to be Great

Dream isn’t the right word – but its the closest feeling to what I want people to picture. If you don’t dream and have a goal set that is big, how do you know where you are going? Chances are, you’ll end up exactly where each of your daily tasks takes you – which is generally in a circle. Are you letting good, get in the way of great? I recently learned about Google’s OKR system (Objectives and Key Results), which requires an organization to set big goals. So big, that only 60-70% of them are actually achieved. If you hit all of your goals, that means you didn’t set them high enough, and you never failed. And failure is data, good data.

Practicing How to Make a Difference

We all want to make a difference – but how can one person change the world? I’m sure you’ve heard plenty of “everyone can make a difference” anecdotes before, but when it comes to successful startups, there are always a couple consistent themes – a key one, being with the founders. First, someone has to have the courage to leap and say, “let’s do this.” Second, someone has to be passionate enough to follow that first person. Third, the entire founding “team” must believe. When I say “team” – I mean founders, first employees, significant others, investors, customers and a community. And its not that they believe in the first MVP product, its that they believe in the team to build/test/deploy enough times to find the magic recipe.

Don’t Just Think About It, Do It

Think about these, and how experimenting completely out of context from your daily grind (home, job, family, etc) could benefit you? If its your first Startup Weekend, don’t default to what you are used to doing – can you be the leader? Can you be the passionate worker that inspires a movement? A Startup Weekend is your chance to find out. Everyone learns something different, but I’ll guarantee that you will start to see ways to do things differently and probably end up with some new friends as well.


Find the next Startup Weekend in Iowa at swia.co!