What happens to all those startup weekend projects?

Leon Organ
June 19, 2014

We do startup weekend twice a year.  The outcome of which is 2-5 things.  These things are actually a couple things.  They are all software (at least to date, more discussion on that is coming).  Some are prototypes, proofs of concept, or MVPs.  The other thing that all of them are is SEP assets.  Like it or not part of working in our industry is often signing away your rights to certain IP.  While SEP may like to call it Leon’s project or Jon’s project at the end of the day its SEP’s project.  However, all is not gloomy, being an ESOP they are all actually OUR projects.  As employee owners we all own a share of each startup weekend project.  That’s why something I noticed recently should interest many of us.

 

Two weeks ago I was reading Wired.  I came across this article http://www.wired.com/2014/06/doodle-for-scheduling.  The product featured looks, smells, and quacks like the When app that was built at a previous startup weekend.  I had to ask myself a few questions.

“Why did we let someone beat us to market on this?”

“Are we letting a bunch of startup projects die and missing opportunities?”

“How valuable would it be to have an SEP product featured like that?”

Then I started asking smarter questions.

“Did we miss an opportunity or did someone else waste resources building Doodle?”

“Do we know why we didn’t invest in this opportunity?”

 

The last question is one I think warrants an answer.  Did we purposefully make an informed decision not to pursue this or was is negligence.  I’ve recently been focusing on the validated learning concept with Raman.  When I asked him the question he told me to investigate.  I did just that and looked into the startup weekend portfolio.  I want to share some of my findings with the other owners.

 

I classified 21 projects as opportunities.  This included Morale and Health2Wealth even though they were not startup weekend projects. 

Our management team doesn’t take control of these projects, they instead leave that to an employee to become the project’s champion.  The champion is responsible to organize any ongoing effort and petition management for SEP resources.

I grouped the projects into some affinities for current state and created the following breakdown:

Category Number of projects My thoughts on this
Champion has no interest in opportunity. 4 I think its ok to build projects and abandon them if we lose interest.
Champion doesn’t believe SEP should invest resources in the opportunity. 3 This is a fine state for projects of a personal interest with no business value.
Champion was denied the resources they believe are necessary to proceed. 1 A decision was made here, I can agree or disagree with the champion or management.  What’s important to me is that it is a purposeful decision.
Champion doesn’t have the personal time and didn’t ask for company resources. 1 The important thing to me here is that champion’s know they can ask and that we encourage champions of promising opportunities to do so.
Champion initially got SEP time for themselves, but then went billable and didn’t get SEP time for others to replace them. 1 Again the important thing to me here is that champion’s know they can ask and that we encourage champions of promising opportunities to do so.
Champion is swamped by a number of opportunities. “The JCF problem” 3 This is a problem because one person can only have so much personal or SEP time to invest in opportunities.  SEP should look into how to offload some or all of the burden of excess opportunities.
SEP has shown interest in 3 These are projects have been given some real measure of attention but for various reasons the commitment isn’t where it could be.  These are opportunities that I worry might slip us by
SEP is backing at an appropriate level to move forward. 5 I was pleasantly surprised that it was this many.

 

 

What does the data tell us?  It gives me some ideas and more questions, but maybe not the whole story.  That’s point of the exercise.  I learned some things and now you have too.  Let’s take our data and do two things.  One, make more informed decisions, even if they are the same ones as before.  Two, Find out what other data we should collect to make better decisions.