Santa Barbara Makes Waves in Global Startup Community

Team Santa Barbara returned from Las Vegas and this year’s UP Summit with some great news to share. But before I break that bombshell, I hear you asking “Up What?”

UP Summit

UP Summit is self-described as the “largest grassroots gathering of startup Community Leaders from across the planet.” It is the annual global leadership conference of UP Global, a merger of Startup Weekend and Startup America.

UP Summit Community leaders

UP Summit Community leaders gathering before dinner

UP Global currently engages over 300,000 entrepreneurs in 500+ cities across 126 countries. Their goal by 2016 is 500,000 entrepreneurs in 1000 startup communities.

This year’s UP Summit, held in Las Vegas, brought together over 500 community organizers, volunteers, and UP Global staff who support the four major initiatives of UP Global:

  1. Startup Weekend
  2. Startup Next
  3. Startup Digest
  4. Startup Education

UP Global Programs

SBSW3The Startup Weekend weekend program has been held three times so far in Santa Barbara, as well as in neighboring cities such as Santa Maria and San Luis Obispo. It brings together entrepreneurs for 54 hours to pitch an idea, form a team, and create a startup company from scratch. Startup Next, as its name implies, takes Startup Weekend or other fledgling companies to the next level of growth.

Startup Digest is a weekly curated email listing and calendar of the most relevant startup news in a local community. You can sign up for the Santa Barbara Startup Digest. Startup Education is a program to support startups specifically in the education vertical.

The UP Summit Experience

The goals of UP Summit were to bring together a diverse group of community leaders who all share the commonality of organizing their local startup communities. Rather than the formal lecture format you might expect in an ordinary conference, the summit was designed to provide many opportunities for meeting people, networking, sharing ideas, group discussions, and learning.

Marc Nager, Brad Feld, and Steve Case hold a "fireside chat".

Marc Nager, Brad Feld, and Steve Case hold a “fireside chat”.

Activities included “fireside chats”, short lectures with lots of discussion, meals together in many different combinations and configurations, and fun events such as indoor skydiving, driving a bulldozer, and zip lining.

We also pulled out some tricks from the entrepreneurial community, such as Ignite, a series of presentations, each exactly 5-minutes long, containing 20 slides for exactly 15 seconds each.

Major speakers included Steve Case, Cofounder of AOL, Marc Nager, CEO of UP Global, and Brad Feld, author of Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City.

The Big News

Santa Barbara was represented by five of our Startup Weekend and Startup Digest leaders: Kyle Ashby, Jose Huitron, Laura Fagundes, Jim McGaw, and Ron Gans. We went with the goal of bringing back knowledge and contacts for our local startup community as well as raising awareness of Santa Barbara on the national and global scene. And that we did …

Santa Barbara attendees Kyle Ashby and Jose Huitron

Santa Barbara attendees Kyle Ashby and Jose Huitron

We are happy to announce that Santa Barbara will be hosting the Southwest USA Regional UpSummit conference in January 2015. This will bring in community leaders from a half dozen states in the region and provide national and international attention for Santa Barbara’s entrepreneurs, startup companies, and startup successes.

We are excited to have the opportunity to show off our local and regional community and bring national attention and business into our area.

3 Critical Roles in a Startup Team

What does a startup need to do to succeed? The most important thing is to have the right people involved and leading the startup team. But having good people is not enough. You need to have the right mix of people.

There are three critical roles:


The Visionary. leader-visionary

Every team needs the idea person. Unlike the “entrepreneur” who’s just waiting for his great idea to appear, this person is plagued with too many ideas all the time. The tough thing for them is sifting through these ideas to figure out which ones have business potential. Don’t be fooled into thinking that you just need one great idea to start a business. The business continuously needs new ideas, changes, and improvements in order to grow.


The Market Maker.leader-market-maker

No we are not talking about stocks and bonds. This is a person who understands the market, understands customers, and closes sales. They drive sales of your MVP into paying customers hands. They figure out what the market wants and what it doesn’t want and feeds that information back into the company. They are the reality check. Do we have something of value here?


The Builder.leader-builder

We have an idea, and we have shown that the market will buy it. But for a product to catch on, it needs to work. It needs to look good, do what it claims to do, and deliver value. It needs to be delivered in a reasonable time, and not bankrupt the company with the cost to build, deliver, and maintain it. And you need to be able to track customers, accept payments, deliver solutions, and provide support. The builder enables all of this, making sure the company has enough structure to succeed but not so much that it gets strangled.

Of course it is possible that two of these roles will be played by the same person. The market maker might be a visionary or a builder. It is rare that the visionary is a builder, although they may think they are.

Does your team have all of these roles? If not, how are you going to plug that gap?

Visionary Image courtesy of AKARAKINGDOMS / FreeDigitalPhotos.net. Market Maker/Builder Images courtesy of digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Santa Barbara Startup Weekend #3 Winners

Congratulations to the Santa Barbara Startup Weekend winners:

First Place
Next Mover

Second Place
Gear Up

Best Physical Product

Most CrowdFundable

Most Hustle
My Custom Cookie

Crowd Favorite
My Parking Spot

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.