I’ve been to 40+ Startup Weekends and I have never once seen an example of someone tricked into “working for free.” This is a big misperception of Startup Weekend.
Which is more compelling to you?
– “Hi. I’m a business person. Here’s my idea for a new app. I need developers and designers to build it for me. Who’s interested?”
– “Hi. I’m a developer. Here’s my idea for a new app. I’m a developer so I can build it. I need a designer to work with me, and a business person to validate the demand for this and create a marketing strategy. Who’s interested?”
Of all the business folks that pitch an idea at a Startup Weekend, maybe 1/4 of them get enough votes to start a team. Of all the developers I’ve seen pitch ideas, around 3/4 get enough votes and start a team.
If you’re a developer with an idea, you can strut in, pitch an idea, lead the team, and kick ass on YOUR terms. If you join a team led by someone else (whether that person is another developer, a designer or a business person should be of no consequence), it’s your responsibility to make sure you join a team of good people that agree to be equitable IF and when your team decides to actually form a company and continue after then weekend.
Statistically speaking, your team will not continue after the weekend anyway. Which means the event is really all about the experience, the fun, the learning, and the hacking.
The way I see it, everyone has the same opportunity at a Startup Weekend. It doesn’t matter which ticket you buy – designer, developer or business. Just like any other event, it’s what you make of it.
Other than that, here are other reasons for developers to attend a Startup Weekend:
- It’s educational
- It’s fun
- You can find a cofounder
- You can meet other developers and designers
- You can test your ideas
- The money you pay for the ticket doesn’t even cover all the food you get during the weekend or the free AWS, Google Cloud and .CO domain credits you get! Also the event prizes are worth more than 2000 EUR for the participants ! This is a great way to learn and to collaborate and test your leadership skills as well.
So now let’s get on my case.
I am a developer myself and attended Startup Weekend Hamburg Gaming last year. After which I got the Startup Weekend fever. The network, the contacts, the fun I had with my fellow developers and designers for the team was really amazing. Not only did I learn how to collaborate and convey my messages to non-technical people as well, but I found a co-founder for my startup who is also now in the team for Startup Weekend Leuven with me!
Generally speaking, we the developers, are the most mission-critical, hardest to find, and most expensive member on a bootstrapped startup team. The competition for developers is fierce. As a result, you are generally pigeonholed into only writing code. Why should a developer do anything other than write code when it’s so hard to find people to write code?
Let’s consider your role as a developer at Startup Weekend. A significant number of people have no idea what they’re doing and they turn to the experienced people for leadership. That’s you. Hackathons are the only events strictly dedicated to idolizing the practice of software-making. In Startup Weekend however, you have a chance to lead a team and you as a developer can decide which way your product looks and feels in the final stages!
Everyone pays to attend. You’re not paying the other group members, so the point about paying is irrelevant. It’s far more likely that as a developer, you’ll walk in and get other people to do free labor on your idea, not the other way around. As a developer, you are the person they turn to to see whether the app or the site or the concept that your team wants to work on, will be doable in a weekend. Everyone in the room knows that and acts accordingly.
Startup Weekend taught me a lot about managing a team, helped me secure much better job opportunities, and introduced me to some of the best developers I know like Kjell Otto and Jan from Germany ! As a result, it forced me to think about bringing Startup Weekend to Leuven the happening student city of Belgium !
The reality is you’ll almost certainly work on a prototype for a weekend and the chances are that your product will lead you into having your own business as a developer – that is a HUGE plus when you combine your technical skills with the management skills you gain from the weekend. Having done it before as a developer, I have no regrets, and I strongly recommend other developers participate.
So see you there !
Lead Organizer, Startup Weekend Leuven