What happens when more than 50 entrepreneurs, developers, designers meet with investors and mentors for more than 50 hours? Honolulu Startup Weekend showed that it doesn’t only help launch innovative startup companies, but also teaches invaluable lessons to all businesses of all shapes and sizes. These lessons are the kind that are either not included in business books, or get lost behind theories.
We always hear that differentiation is the key to success; but what is not being said as often is that all businesses need to differentiate themselves not only from their competitors but also from their substitutes. You know who your competitors are, but do you know what are the substitutes of your product or service? If you can identify your competitors and your substitutes, then you can modify your business and add more revenue channels. Simple but highly effective.
Influential economist Schumpeter’s economic theory, which suggests that any new business model will quickly be subverted and destroyed by consumers and competitors, is the cornerstone of every economics textbook in business schools, but they don’t mention what is yet to come. The startup weekend was the proof of a new wave that is yet to shake business world; creative destruction. In the next five years, the next generation of entrepreneurs will change not only how we perceive value in services, but also the way we access them. Things that seem ordinary may turn into essential services with the help of ubiquitous mobile devices and the Internet. The companies that do well will be the ones that stay ahead of this creative destruction. In other words, jumping on the bandwagon won’t be enough. You will need to run ahead of it and build your own.
Team work is, and ought to be, an essential part of modern business education, but textbooks do not describe the ideal team in practical terms. Startup weekend showed that the most successful teams are those that are diverse and inter-disciplinary. It is really hard to make a decision and stick to it in these types of teams, but the rewards are worth it. If you rely on a specialized team of professionals to run your business, make sure they come from diverse backgrounds.
There has to be a course on persistence in business schools. Startup weekend was a great example of what can be done in a limited time if the people are driven and they persist on what they aim to accomplish. Building something requires persistence. Building a business is similar to running a marathon; it is more about mental stamina than a physical one.
The list of lessons learned from the startup weekend is too long to fit in this blog post. If you have a good business idea, are looking for talent for your business, like to build things, or can mentor young, fresh minds, then you should definitely be a part of the next Startup Weekend in March 2012.