Startup Weekend Cedar Rapids 2015: Meet Max

Max Farrell, startup weekend organizer (photo via Create Reason)
Max Farrell, startup weekend organizer (photo via Create Reason)

Max Farrell, serial Startup Weekender and co-founder of Create Reason, will facilitate Startup Weekend Cedar Rapids 2015!

He’s facilitated more than a dozen high-energy weekends throughout the Midwest, and first brought Startup Weekend to Arkansas and to high schoolers.

Full-time, he’s building Create Reason, which helps existing companies create and innovate.

Oh, and he’s also a rapper and a duck hunter. Read on for more about Max:

You said in your Tedx talk that hip hop was like entrepreneurship. What is entrepreneurship like?

Hip-hop is the most entrepreneurial genre. The movement from the Bronx became this multi-billion dollar global industry and the art itself encourages a streak of entrepreneurship. It’s a build from the ground up attitude and in order to make it in music, you have to make yourself heard and gain new fans (customers). Same as in business or startups. If you’re not creating what people want and not doing what it takes to creatively get your point across, you probably won’t be successful. It’s a beautiful thing.

Describe it for us – What was your first Startup Weekend experience like? Did you know what you were getting into? What kept you coming back?

My first Startup Weekend was in Kansas City in 2011. I drove down because I was curious about entrepreneurship and it seemed like a good way to get my hands dirty in “startups.” My current business partner was in school nearby and met me there. It shook both our worlds. We realized it was possible to build something from the ground up and that we could learn quickly and immediately execute. It was a huge shift away from the college mindset of learn all the time and then get a job. I kept going back because I learned an amazing amount from creative people in various parts of the country. 

I see you facilitated the first-ever high school Startup Weekend – how was that the same or different than an “adult” version?

Young people kick ass. Adults have a lot of jadedness / cynicism, but high schoolers, when treated like equals can do amazing things. Their minds are full of curiosity/ambition and many of them have talents that could exceed that of folks that work in companies today. The format was modified a bit to focus on forming teams from specific schools to make it easier to keep projects going after the weekend. The teams also had their pitches / ideas ready ahead of time. The experience sent a shockwave through the students that participated and the faculty that saw what the students were capable of. I’m pumped to see the ripples through the state’s education system.

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned through your work with Startup Weekend? How have you applied it to your work with Create Reason?

Biggest lessons learned:

  • Ideas are worth acting on, not talking about
  • You can learn new things from the same process
  • People use products, not ideas. You have to create something that people can use and will pay to use. Ideas have a total value of $0
  • Execution wins the day

How I’ve applied these:

I’ve made sure to productize the offerings Create Reason can provide. It’s really tough to put things in boxes, but if people don’t know what they can buy, you can’t sell anything.

What super practical piece of advice would you give to first-timers?

For first-timers:

  • Don’t get stuck on your own ideas. Startup Weekend is about the experience, the community and learning. If your ideas aren’t selected, rally with some other folks and learn.
  • For students: please don’t tell us you have too much homework. You’ll be rubbing elbows with the parents of multiple kids and working professionals that are finding a way to make it work for the weekend, don’t come with that weak “homework” stuff.
  • No one is “above” participating. Too often I hear people say “I’m more of a mentor than a participant”. That’s bogus. I’ve seen CEOs/Founders jump in and participate in a Startup Weekend. They have a blast, wind up making great connections and learning something new themselves. 

One more thing people should know about you:

I rap good:

I duck hunt too.