A little bit about me. I’m a Startup Weekend organizer, which means I’m part of one of the most incredible movements in the entire world, by organizing one tiny event at a time. We encourage, empower, and network entrepreneurs, developers, and designers in our local communities to come together to try and build something ridiculously awesome in 54-hours.
About 3 weeks ago, I came back from SOSummit 2013 that was hosted in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil by Startup Weekend. This summit is for the organizers and facilitators to learn about what’s new going on at Startup Weekend, how we can run bigger and better events, and how to build lasting relationships and make an impact in our local communities. You get the chance to network and hear stories of how these other organizers are working to shape their communities, encouraging their local startup talent, and basically making opportunities the these people that they would have never had otherwise.
In short: I’ve never been (to the country or summit), met a lot of inspiring people, and drank many caipirinhas (thank you, Microsoft BizSpark).
So I hear all these awesome things and I leave Rio super pumped up and excited, and I come back to Dallas and you know what I saw? Barely anything. There’s a couple of meetup groups, we have a hackathon every now and then, but nothing really… buzzing. I feel that Dallas is full of older corporate tech companies that aren’t worried about being “disrupted” by startups, because they don’t have any competition in our area. I also feel that everyone just kind of tip toes around the word “startup”, but never commits to anything. I can get a lot of people and companies interested in hosting or sponsoring an event, but then when the times comes down to the nitty gritty - oh, you don’t really want to help that much anymore.
I will have to give props to a couple of people here. Of course we have Tech Wildcatters, the local successful accelerator. The fine folks behind LaunchDFW, who curates an event calendar of startup, tech, business, and marketing related events - such as StartupGrind and Digital Dallas. The geography in North Texas is an issue because everything is so far apart, trying to get talented people together is a challenge due to long distance travelling.
It seems that anyone who actually wants to build a startup feels like they have to move down to Austin or out to the coast, to be in these types of collaborative communities that welcome startups with open arms.
Rolling up my sleeves
I took my IKEA desk that is coated in whiteboard material, removed the legs and stuck it to the wall. It was 4 am and I started writing down every single thought I had that was influenced by all these people I met. How can I get the cities more involved, what is a roadmap for an Open Data policy, how can I get more students interested, what do other cities do well and how does it make a positive impact on their community?
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been talking to people, businesses, and schools at meetups, over emails, and through tweets. I applied, and was selected, to be a curator for StartupDigest Dallas, to help get the word out for tech and startup events going on around DFW. Through all of these meetings I found out, I’m not the only one trying to change our area. People such as Denton city councilman, Kevin Roden, who has been such a strong proponent in boosting all aspects of the local community through innovation and entrepreneurship. Nancy Hong, the executive director of the UNT Innovation Greenhouse, that creates a campus-wide environment for innovation and helps connect students with mentors to build their ideas into startups. Even down in Deep Ellum, Nick Clark of The Common Desk, was interested in partnering up to hold more events like hackathons and Startup Weekend.
So what now. Well, my life has changed forever thanks to SOSummit. I came back a new person, with a whole more exciting outlook on how I can make our area more suitable for startups and a place that drives and encourages innovation. I met an incredibly inspiring individual at SOSummit, Eduardo Rocha, a fellow Startup Weekend organizer from Brazil. I was talking to him about a project I was working on with a colleague that kind of fell through the cracks after we graduated. He told me, “Kyle, you just have to do it. One weekend, just sit down and code. If you never do it, nothing will ever get done and you won’t know how it might turn out.” How will we ever know anything unless we just get up and do it?
Want to help?
We’re going to change the way North Texas thinks about startups. Give me a shout. I’m always looking for other startup enthusiasts who want to help out. I have notes on different approaches that I’d like some feedback on. Email me, tweet me. I’m always open for business.
Image credit graciously goes to fellow Startup Weekender, Marion Desmazières.