“Money! Money in Oz!” cried the Tin Woodman “What a queer idea! Did you suppose we are so vulgar as to use money here? … If we used money to buy things with, instead of love and kindness and the desire to please one another, then we should be no better than the rest of the world.” -L. Frank Baum

How to Get the Most Out of Startup Weekend

Startup Weekend is a crazy, amazing opportunity to meet people, to learn about starting a company, to understand yourself and test your boundaries, and to have a blast! But, like anything, what you get out of it depends on what you put into it.

My first recommendation is to consider what you want to get out of weekend.

  • Are you looking to start a company?
  • Are you looking to join a startup?
  • Are you looking for a “regular” job?
  • Do you want to increase your network?
  • Do you just enjoy hacking and want to have some fun in the process?
Meeting People Leads to Building Community

Meeting People Leads to Building Community

While Startup Weekends push the idea of starting great companies, and it does happen, it isn’t your main benefit of the weekend. You can even win first place and not have that be your main benefit (it happened to me). The major benefit of startup weekend is the building of a startup community and your participation in it. The people you meet and interact with, especially those not on your team, are what helps you and helps the entire community.

Community is about people, connections, shared goals, and common experiences. Startup Weekend builds that for the local entrepreneurial community faster than any other networking group I’ve encountered. We fill a room with people who already have overlapping goals, in an environment that forces them to interact with each other in meaningful ways, and gives them a bonding through fire experience together. You get to see how people behave under stress. You can determine quickly who can get things done and who is just along for the ride. And the young enthusiastic students get to work side by side with the experienced serial entrepreneur, marketer, or venture capitalist.

So, how do you get the most out of startup weekend?

Meet people. Network at every opportunity. Visit other teams and see if you can help them (Don’t consider them competitors. Consider them partners.) Get to know coaches, organizers, mentors, and judges. Bring a stack of business cards. Collect a stack of business cards. Connect on LinkedIn with everyone you meet.
Learn as much as you can by trying it. Learn about Lean and Agile principles. Step out of your comfort zone. If you have never done marketing, try talking to people and testing the market. If you have never coded, sit down with a developer and work closely together. Try, fail, and try again. Which leads us to …
Pivot. Pivot. Pivot. You pitched a great idea or joined a team based on a pitch. It is wrong. Test the idea against the market. Will somebody pay for it? Listen to what the market says and change the idea. Then change it again. And again. “But it is only one weekend, we don’t have time to pivot.” WRONG. The weekend is all about pivoting. If the idea won’t work wouldn’t you rather kill it in a weekend rather then spending the next six months working on it?
Have fun. News flash…nobody is paying you to do this. If you are not having fun this weekend then you just learned something critically important about yourself. This isn’t for you. Go get a 9-5 job.
Santa Barbara Startup Weekend - Voting for Crowd Favorite

Santa Barbara Startup Weekend – Voting for Crowd Favorite

So by now I’ve hopefully convinced you that winning startup weekend is not the goal of startup weekend. However, this is where it gets interesting. If you do all of the above, and your work resonates with your team, resonates with the market, and resonates with the audience, then it will resonate with the judges. And you will know that you are onto something worth exploring after the 54 hours are up. And you will have won.

Live in Santa Barbara? Sign up for our next Startup Weekend Nov 15-17, 2013.

Santa Barbara Groups

(Updated October 2016)

Santa Barbara is a town of microclimates. The weather variation from one side of town to another, or one block to another, is as significant as the weather variation from season to season. It is the same with the business community. In my explorations I have discovered quite a variety of business meet-ups, groups, and organizations and there are not too many people who move between all of these groups.For those looking to expand beyond their own familiar territory, I’ve started a list of some of these groups and suggestions for finding more. What are your favorite groups that you don’t see on the list?


Startup Focused Groups & Resources

Santa Barbara Startup Weekend – Runs an annual weekend long event for entrepreneurs to start companies, networks, and build community. Find regional startup weekend at the Startup Weekend site or participate in the annual November Global Startup Battle.

StartupSB – Formerly StartupSB MeetUp – 1500+ member group that runs monthly networking get-togethers and presentations. Closely associated with SB Startup Weekend.

Startup Digest – A weekly (or so) newsletter listing local events and activities for the startup community.

MIT Enterprise Forum of the Central Coast – Hosts monthly business and technology events linking experienced entrepreneurs to the community.

Santa Barbara Hacker Space – A space for physical product innovation.

Clean Business Investment Summit – Annual conference for entrepreneurs to connect with investors.

University Groups

UCSB Technology Management Program – TMP is the focal point for management training and entrepreneurial education at UCSB.

The Scheinfeld Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation – Santa Barbara City College hub of entrepreneurial activity. Runs periodic events open to students and the public.

Friends of the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics (KITP) – Holds public lectures on physics topics a dozen times a year.

Antioch University MBA Program – Started in fall 2014 with a focus on management of social impact businesses and non-profits.

Technology Focused Groups

Science and Engineering Council of Santa Barbara – Holds monthly luncheon programs on technical topic of interest. Also supports scholarships for local college students.

IEEE Central Coast Chapter

Santa Ynez Valley Technology Club

ASME Channel Islands – American Society of Mechanical Engineers local chapter for Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

Various MeetUp.Com Groups – There are quite a variety of these in Santa Barbara. Some examples are below:

  1. Santa Barbara Hackerspace
  2. UX Group
  3. Mobile Santa Barbara
  4. Javascript
  5. Ruby on Rails
  6. “R” (Programming Language)
  7. Society for Technical Communication
  8. Newbie Web Developer and Web Designer Meetup
  9. Santa Barbara AngularJS Meetup
  10. Learn to Code — Santa Barbara
  11. SB Agile

Incubators/Working Spaces

Workzones – Membership-based co-working space offering day-user passes, conference rooms, and private offices.

Synergy Business & Technology Center – Co-working space for local startup companies and entrepreneurs.

Santa Barbara Impact HUB – Opened July 2016. Part of a global network of socially oriented incubators.

Goleta Entrepreneurial Magnet – Incubator space in Old Town Goleta, which aims to serve as a catalyst for startups in the area as well as a way to capture young talent and ideas emerging from UCSB.

Noospheric is a Santa Barbara Incubator that provides expert business consulting and strategic investment to startups focused on the Quantified Self and Data Algorithm market sectors.

Tech Haus coworking and event space.

In Santa Ynez, The Network is a coworking space.

UCSB offers many Shared Instrument Labs available for industry use, as well as the California Nanosystem Institute Incubator for UCSB-affiliated startups.

Business Groups

Santa Barbara Chamber of Commerce

Goleta Chamber of Commerce


Santa Barbara County Connections

Santa Barbara Young Professionals

Softec: The Central Coast Technology Association

Women-Focused Groups

Women’s Economic Ventures – Trains (mostly) women to start brick-and-mortar companies and home-based businesses. Also provides loans and other business assistance.

Women’s Community Business Network – Hold monthly luncheons. Additional benefits for members, such as an online membership directory.

National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) – Regular meetings on the 4th Wednesday of each month. Additional benefits for members.

Santa Barbara Women in Technology International (WITI) Group – Both web events and monthly local networking events.

Santa Barbara Women Entrepreneurs Meetup Group and the Women’s Community Business Network.

School Mentoring/Volunteer Opportunities

Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy (High School)

Santa Barbara High School Robotics Club

Santa Barbara High School Green Academy

Santa Barbara County Science Fair (Junior High School)

MOXI: Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation

SB County Education Office – Computers for Families Program