Startup Organizers Summit recap and takeaways

(Marc Nager speaks at the Startup Organizers Summit. Photo by Steven Chau via Flickr.) Scott Heiferman, Meetup.com founder, said it best in a tweet following his closing keynote presentation at the Startup Organizers Summit. "Imagine! Ppl start @startupweekend chapters in cities globally &they come together in KansasCity. #sosummit was impressive.Watch this space!" Heiferman was spot

The more than 120 Startup Organizers Summit attendees execute the classic jump photo on the lawn of the Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City. Photo by Danny Schreiber.

Scott Heiferman, Meetup.com founder, said it best in a tweet following his closing keynote presentation at the Startup Organizers Summit. “Imagine! Ppl start @startupweekend chapters in cities globally &they come together in KansasCity. #sosummit was impressive.Watch this space!” (twitter.com/heif)

Heiferman was spot on.

The first-time event brought in more than 120 individuals to Kansas City, most of which were Startup Weekend organizers and StartupDigest curators, and a handful were startup community activists (that was us!).* Attendees flew (and drove) in from 89 cities across 25 countries. Was this a world-wide movement in its earliest stage? It sure felt like it.

Startup Weekend is a nonprofit organization that hosts 54-hour weekend events to educate aspiring entrepreneurs by immersing them in the process of moving an idea to market. Since the first event in 2007, Startup Weekend has now held more than 120 events in more than 100 cities across 25 countries.

StartupDigest sends out a weekly email to inform its subscribers of entrepreneur and startup focused events in their respective city. Since it began in Silicon Valley nearly eight months ago, StartupDigest is now circulated in 51 cities, five universities, and six other verticals throughout the world.

“The purpose of [the Startup Organizers Summit] was to bring together all of our volunteers,” said Startup Weekend COO and Des Moines resident Shane Reiser. “We have a 150-plus members of the startup weekend family across the globe.”

Chris McCann, co-founder of StartupDigest, echoed those sentiments. “The biggest thing was a lot of our StartupDigest curators, and even me, myself, have not met each other in person…our whole thing is about physical events.

“So, it’s kind of a big deal to bring everybody in the same room, to have everybody from all these countries kind of look at each other and say, ‘Oh [wow], we’re all doing this together,'” said McCann.

After kicking off with a welcome Thursday afternoon from the Summit’s organizers – Startup Weekend’s Marc NagerClint Nelsen, Franck Nouyrigat, and Shane Reiser; Startup Digest’s Chris McCann; and Infegy‘s Adam Coomes of Kansas City – Bo Fishback of the Kauffman Foundation took the stage to talk about Kauffman’s work and the grant they recently awarded to Startup Weekend. (see: Grant to expand organization’s successful model)

Startup Weekend director Marc Nager welcomes attendees to the first-ever Startup Organizers Summit. Photo by Steven Chau via Flickr.

Fishback’s message strengthened the case for this global movement as he spoke highly of the mission of Startup Weekend and the leadership of their growing staff based out of Seattle. And now that the forces of Kauffman, the largest American foundation with a focus on entrepreneurship, combine with the energy and global reach of Startup Weekend, I imagine big things are underway.

The next two days focused on teaching Startup Weekend organizers and StartupDigest curators event and email best practices, how to communicate their respective missions, how to positively impact their entrepreneurial ecosystems, and how to build overlap and relationships among participating cities.

Friday and all-day Saturday featured lecture hall style presentations, while Friday afternoon was conducted as an unconference. All three nights of the Startup Organizers Summit had activities planned, from a night out at a club to bowling to an open bar closing party.

Above: Attendees listen to Startup Weekend advisor Cooley Godward Kronish. Photo by Danny Schreiber.

From start to finish, whether it was between talks or between bowling frames, one of the biggest values of this event was connecting with other like-minded community builders. Dusty Davidson and I were humbled to be invited to attend, and we were honored to give a talk on Saturday evening about the details that go into Silicon Prairie News’ annual event, Big Omaha. Our two and a half hour ride home on Saturday (yes, we were lame and snuck away at the start of the closing party) was non-stop conversation. We were talking about who we met, what others told us, what others did in their communities, what we can do in the future, what other communities we should visit, and more.

Games, such as a paper airplane competition, kept the energy up throughout the weekend. Photo by Steven Chau via Flickr.

The two and half days in Kansas City for the Startup Organizers Summit was an awesome experience. I hope Kauffman (the main sponsor of the event), Startup Weekend, and StartupDigest team up again to bring together the same folks and more. And if I was to guess, I’d say they will and it will be lots more individuals.

Referring to those at the summit, Heiferman’s tweet said to “Watch this space!” In 2002, Heiferman founded Meetup.com. In 2004, he founded the NY Tech Meetup. Today, the NY Tech Meetup is the largest meetup on Meetup.com, wrangling in over 15,000 “NYC Technologists.” The popularity of the meetup is so high there is a limited number of tickets released for each and those who don’t secure one scramble on the meetup’s page for an extra one.

There’s no doubt about it, Heiferman is a visionary. I’ll take his word on this one, too.

In the video below, hear Reiser talk about the true value of Startup Weekend, McCann talk about the biggest takeaway from the summit, and Nouyrigat talk about Startup Weekend around the world as well as provide some closing thoughts.

*Update 5:40 p.m. – When published, the article incorrectly stated the ratio of Startup Weekend organizers to StartupDigest curators.

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