Do Startup Weekends Help Create Startups?

The most recent Garage48 weekend event in Tallinn sparked some healthy discussion around the perceived and actually delivered value of this format towards the commonly accepted goal of creating more young, brave and hungry technology businesses in the country. The devoted fans of the time-constraint, playful and cutely random 48-hour hackathon were publicly questioned if their lack of attention to the big bad real world (business cases, marketing channels and Terms of Service legalese) were not accidentally misleading the youth to think that creating a real company is a joyride, lacking the need of solving the really hard problems.

Following the discussion (including further reading pointers in the end of this post) it felt like a bit more universal of a worry than just this particular event or our particular country. To share these concerns — and furthermore — seek further input from the international scene of startup support programs (and reacting to a random Facebook comment requesting the same) I decided to turn this conversation to English. And as it felt very little value add over Google Translate to start replicating the brightest arguments I decided to do something different.

Let’s try to visualize this conflict.

Visualizing Startup Events VS Startups Themselves

First, I read the the blog posts linked below and comment threads again and took some notes on recurring themes and keywords used.

Based on those I created a subjective set of evaluation scales to judge the Garage48 events’ goals, benefits and strengths against as well as to compare those to the needs of building an actual business. Some of chosen pairs can be grouped (like the focus of event, organization or team and their expected output – and while writing this, I notice that I forgot at least one pair of time constraints out of the list…) and others I kept singular for simplicity. Note that these are not necessarily positive-negative pairs so for illustration purposes I derived the overall notion of “training for the battlefield” from the mission of most startup incubation events.

This is the result:

As a next step I mapped these pairs on a radar graph, ending up with this template (click on any image to enlarge):

To populate the graph I combined the learnings from reading notes with some highly scientific gut feel from my personal experience from both attending Garage48 as well as building a few companies and rated each of the evaluation criteria on the scale of 0..10 (meaning: none..a lot), in most cases keeping the sum of each pair 10.

This is what a typical team participating in a Garage48 weekend event tends to deal with:

Whereas, as raised in passionate counter-commentary reality of a new tech business bootup process looks more like this:

So, the visualization of the gap between the worries of a weekend startup event versus an actual startup is quite radical indeed:

How to Close The Gap?

I am still a firm believer that crazy-fast hackathon events and Garage48 among them have a huge role to play still in their part of the circle: inspiring, boosting and motivating recruits before they enter the real battlefield and have to smell the gunpowder. Because the untrained get usually killed first. I will not dwell deeper on this argument but suggest you read a Quora thread on what Garage48 is doing really well.

At the same time, the Garage48 “training” doesn’t cover everything a budding company will need. And I do agree with Toivo that it could be fatally dangerous for Garage48 to “go against their DNA” and try to expand into a full circle on this graph: for example, including some active financial forecasting classes or setting business model viability gates to their grass-roots ideation would probably get us nowhere in the end.

Garage48 can do a little, bring in a mentor here and clarify some judging criteria there, but there is clear opportunity for other groups, programs and events to come in here. And we know that many of those actually already exist.

So my humble suggestion is that what if we use this same template to map the focus areas and strengths of those programs on the same (or similar) scales to make it easier for an eager, but unexperienced entrepreneur to set their target straight and spend their time where they feel their own personal gaps burning the most.

As an example, this is how a totally artificial and hypothetical business school could look like (further highlighting the unique strenghts of Garage48 BTW):

I am releasing the original quick-hack excel template for above graphs here if you want to play around:

It’s Creative Commons, go crazy, enhance the scales, add lines and play with anything else as much as you want. Would be great if you linked back here / linked to yourself from the comments if you publish any further output though.

If evolved a bit, maybe this could be a birth of a Startup Support Program Fingerprint ™?

UPDATE, 19/03/11: Martin Gorosko was kind enough to submit his take on what Tallinn Technology Park Tehnopol is attempting to do with their two programs: pre-incubation (for about 20 of every 200 incoming ideas) and incubation (where 3-4 projects enter from pre-incubation pool). As you can see, their initial approach to incubees (is that a word?) is a bit more cautious and less intense than Garage48, shifting more towards the “running a real business” side as the ideas mature:

I would love (one can dream, right?) to see how the following programs position themselves:

And maybe I am so way off with this model that it is not worth your time. In which case I’d love to hear the honest critique or improvement suggestions to the model.

Thank you.


Last but not least, these are the orginal posts along with their very good comment threads that sparked this post. You have to be either an Estonian speaker or fond of Google Translate, though.


  • Anonymous

    @seedcamp will definitely submit where we see ourselves. We may even use it for our internal survey w/teams and mentors :-).

    • http://sten.tamkivi.com Sten Tamkivi

      Looking forward to it!

      The self-survey idea is cool to — I guess it would be safer to dry-run the model with a few before harassing the entire broad mentor body though… :)

  • Anonymous

    @seedcamp will definitely submit where we see ourselves. We may even use it for our internal survey w/teams and mentors :-).

  • http://about.me/martinvillig Martin Villig

    Sten, thanks for taking this discussion from Estonian language to English and giving a nice visual graph to ideas that have been difficult to compare so far. I am looking forward to see other incubators/programs mapping themselves on this map.

  • Anonymous

    Hi, I have seen startup teams come out of these events. Maybe there should be a “team” dimension. Great visualization!

    • http://sten.tamkivi.com Sten Tamkivi

      I was covering the Team aspect with the People scales, with the main emphasis of how sustainable it is (one night stand VS long-term commitment).

  • http://twitter.com/tellakvere TELLAKVERE

    Well. No scale for the “client customer”?

    • http://sten.tamkivi.com Sten Tamkivi

      I was pondering about how to include that – what would be the ends of that extra scale be, you reckon?

      I ended up including customers indirectly – in Prototype VS Product (first being a proof of concept the latter something “real” in the hands of users/customers) and Local VS Global Reach (e.g. a proxy of market (customers) being addressed).

  • http://www.facebook.com/jyri.tarkpea Jüri Tarkpea

    One thing that might help is to try to define slightly better whether this event is for starting a new product (defolio/lastehoid) / business (any here?) or doing something cool technologically (cashmuse) or crazy (smashr) that might become a business by pure luck or just doing a 48hr programming / project management étude on any random theme that someone stumbles upon (the rest).

    So I would add another keyword here – *sustainability*. It is just plain sad to see that people gather to work hard on something that will be dead on Monday morning.

    I was really pleasantly surprised that guys of defolio had done some actual development and work on the project which leads me to ask from the team that what is the urge to keep on going (for good example) and ask from all future teams that what will be the urge to keep on going after the event…

    • http://twitter.com/teller Siim Teller

      What drives the continued development of Defol.io is an actual need that “the founder”, aka Tõnu Runnel who proposed the idea, had. That need is still there and Tõnu is not the only designer who has problems managing his client projects, having a decent collaboration/communication review tool for such work etc.

      So even though the weekend event ended the need for a solution stayed, the resolve of at least one person in the team was strong enough to find means to keep the project going.

      What helped was above average time spent before the event thinking about the idea and sketching out a solution. And business development aka thinking about the market, use cases, where the money is and is there enough money, during the event (big thanks to Ahti Heinla, Sten himself and Michael Jackson for pushing us there).

    • http://twitter.com/runnel Tõnu Runnel

      We never went there just to fool around. It was about creating a real product with real business model. Defolio was one of 3 ideas Priit and me had.

      Garge48 worked well as a kick-starter — otherwise we wouldn’t have had the “deadline” to get started and it would most probably still be just an idea.

      The event also gave us great exposure and attached us with some bright minds who are not exactly in the team after the event but are still there to help us, a sort of a council.

      For many others, G48 is just a very intensive and practical OpenCoffee event — therefore a very cool event. Recommend!

    • http://sten.tamkivi.com Sten Tamkivi

      Thanks! Sustainability is covered via the Team/People proxy – is the group likely to stay together or not? Or should it be separate somehow – what would be the ends of the scale?

      On other notes, agree that defol.io is a great example of potential sustainability after Garage48. But disagree that there even is a distinction between “creating a product” and “creating a business”. Without the latter, the former is just a prototype. :)

    • http://sten.tamkivi.com Sten Tamkivi

      Thanks! Sustainability is covered via the Team/People proxy – is the group likely to stay together or not? Or should it be separate somehow – what would be the ends of the scale?

      On other notes, agree that defol.io is a great example of potential sustainability after Garage48. But disagree that there even is a distinction between “creating a product” and “creating a business”. Without the latter, the former is just a prototype. :)

      • http://www.facebook.com/martin.henk Martin Henk

        And without a product the business is just a business plan :)

        Creating a working prototype is the best way to get feedback and see if the “best idea ever” that you had is actually usable and understandable to other people.

        I agree that just having a decent product does not make a great company, but a group of people with a working prototype is a lot closer to it than a group of people with a business plan.

        Look at http://hackfwd.com/ for example. They are looking for a few technically great people with a working prototype. Sound a lot like some of the G48 teams ;)

        • http://sten.tamkivi.com Sten Tamkivi

          Business plan without a product could be called crude oil transit or wholesale consumer goods imports… :)

          But I do agree with you of course on the value of a working prototypes in our tech/internet space for proving concepts, trialling tech, inspiring teams and investors and testing on end users. And if this “tool” is born in a single weekend, it always feels amazing.

        • http://twitter.com/jkaljundi jkaljundi

          Just to comment on HackFwd where I’m a referrer for startups to get on the program: it’s forbidden there to have any business/sales/marketing people to be on the team. Only techies.

          • http://www.toivo.ee Toivo Annus

            And this is bc at early stage you need to have the business-sales-marketing very closely integrated with product and its development and what is possible or how much time some product features take.
            The objective is to have engineers to think and fulfill the early marketing-sales-etc functions with minimal overhead to development. Objective there is not to avoid thinking about market, etc.

          • http://twitter.com/jkaljundi jkaljundi

            Absolutely, my comment did not mean business thinking is not needed. Could not have put it better than you above.

  • http://www.bluemoon.ee/~ahti/ ahtih

    Actually, Sten, I think your chart (with empasis on long term vs one night stand) describes just one way of starting a startup. In these days of Customer Development, iterating and AdWords testing before building the product, a weekend-long Garage48 sprint might well be a good first iteration in the life of a real startup.

    But what is seriously lacking in G48 in that regard is the business-mindedness of founders.

    • http://sten.tamkivi.com Sten Tamkivi

      Having a kickstart from this weekend-sprint – of course, why not, agree (see the same defol.io discussion on this thread).

      On that one-nighter VS marriage scale I was referring to the team actually staying together for the next n sprints to iterate further and take the business to positive ROI or exit.

      So, in a way, a real startup is a zoom out on a timeline of tens or hundreds Garage48 weekends in sequence, if I may? :)

    • http://sten.tamkivi.com Sten Tamkivi

      Having a kickstart from this weekend-sprint – of course, why not, agree (see the same defol.io discussion on this thread).

      On that one-nighter VS marriage scale I was referring to the team actually staying together for the next n sprints to iterate further and take the business to positive ROI or exit.

      So, in a way, a real startup is a zoom out on a timeline of tens or hundreds Garage48 weekends in sequence, if I may? :)

    • http://twitter.com/kaimarkaru Kaimar Karu

      This seems to be a common problem for aspiring startups around the world. Interesting ideas, sounding great on paper, turned into a product/service with no business model nor a chance to attract even non-paying customers without an extensive customer education program for why they can’t live without it. Some of these succeed by chance perhaps, but most will die.

      Something is created, it might look cool, it might even get a mention in Techcrunch or similar, attract 1000+ users who will sign in with one of their social accounts, look around, think “meh”, and leave to never come back.

      The list of buttons one must push to get that user to come back is not that long. Perhaps a half-day workshop covering this aspect could fit into the G48 model and if not turn all projects into billions-making success stories, at least change (improve?) the mindset of all the teams to factor in the real world business requirements.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/minna.takala Minna Takala

    Great post, & visualization, agree with @Tellakvere of adding customer dimension and @R1ku with team … Paying attention to these meaningful stakeholders is very relevant, in addition to investors & community you already had there. It would be interesting to add there other support activities for start-ups and microbusinesses e.g. Hub (Helsinki, London, Nairobi etc. activities… http://helsinki.the-hub.net/public/ and Friendrepreneurs http://friendrepreneur.com/, and RLabs http://www.rlabs.org/ from Cape Town.

    Some support mechanisms – although with very good intentions – unfortunately can be actually more harmful than supportive.

    • http://sten.tamkivi.com Sten Tamkivi

      Thanks – as replied to R1ku, customers are represented via product and reach proxies – any better ideas welcome!

      Re: for some of those other examples, maybe they could fill their own fingerprint charts to compare?

  • http://twitter.com/randorannus Rando Rannus

    Sten, do I understand correctly that Garage48 type of events should have more MBAs and/or experienced businessman/entrepreneurs taking part of it in order to bridge the gap between two worlds?!

    • http://sten.tamkivi.com Sten Tamkivi

      As one option, yes – their participation could drive some of the discussions of teams on business aspects. But on the other hand, let’s be realistic about what can be (and is viable) to be pressed into the mere 48 hours. So I think the business case attention could be more useful in the ideas prep stage before Garage48 (maybe a heavily mentored pre-Garage and a gating of ideas that are mature enough to be taken to main weekend?).

  • http://www.facebook.com/gorosko Martin Gorosko

    Sten, here are the estimated numbers of Tehnopol incubation process. In order to get the best result out of your graph we have to consider our pre-incubation and incubation concepts separately:

    Pre-incubation phase (out of 200 applying ides on average 20 are submitted, the aim is to develop business strategy, team and prototype)
    Play 1, Inspire 4, Proto 7, Familiar 3, Tech 6, Community 5, Local 1, One night 1, Work 7, Results 6, Product 3, Unique 7, Business 4, Investor 2, Global 9, Marriage 6

    Incubation phase (on average 3-4 projects move from pre-incubation to incubation phase per year, the aim is to launch product/service to global markets, make revenue, attract money and experts)
    Play 1, Inspire 2, Proto 3, Familiar 0, Tech 3, Community 3, Local 0, One-night 0, Work 9, Results 9, Product 7, Unique 8, Business 8, Investor 7, Global 9, Marriage 9.

    Looking forward for the completed graph ;)

    • http://sten.tamkivi.com Sten Tamkivi

      Ha, by “opensourcing” the excel sheet I was hoping these graphs will start to appear automagically now… :P

      Thanks for the contribution, let me throw these numbers in.

  • http://twitter.com/marektiits Marek Tiits

    Sten, fully agree! I think MKM start-up program could/should contribute to the filling in these gaps. Talk to Jarmo!

  • http://marcnager.com/ marcnager

    Sten, thanks for putting this together, and a valid point indeed if you assume the purpose of these events is always to launch legitimate startups. I can only speak for Startup Weekend, but I think the real question is not to ask if they create companies out of the events themselves but does the event lead to the creation of more companies eventually.

    Everything must be placed into perspective of it’s goals and purpose in the startup ecosystem. The mission of Startup Weekend is not to create startups, rather our mission is to provide valuable experiential education for entrepreneurs in the hopes that we can increase the odds of success when someone truly does go to launch a startup, be it at our event or after.

    Startup Weekend is the most effective, lowest risk, smallest commitment that we know of for giving people a forum to learn how to ask the right questions and build a team all around real world problems, passions, and interests. They are real ways to experiment and illustrate methodologies and such as LEAN, customer development, mvp, etc.

    Again, while we do hope that there is some random chance of successful companies that emerge (it is over 10%), we hope that we can inspire, educate, and accelerate people and teams that have the passion and drive to launch a sustainable venture. Thus far, over 36% of past attendees report still working on their project 3 months after the weekend. We have a repeat attendance rates in cities that have had more than 2 events over 40%… These are signs of success for us. People stay inspired; they stay engaged and supportive of their community; they continue to spend time educating themselves in a meaningful way. With a prime demographic of people having 9.6 years of professional work experience and a mean age of 32, we know we have real world people trying to solve real world problems, and by all indications, stats, and first hand testimonials, Startupweekend is a powerful, hands-on event that provides the most valuable experience that make them “better” entrepreneurs… Let’s not forget the overall goal and positive benefit of the events – building communities and fostering a culture supportive of sharing ideas, collaboration, and ultimately, more successful individuals, team, and startups.

    Thanks again for putting this together and happy to continue to dig deeper if you would like.

    (sorry for errors, a rather long post typed on an iPad)

  • http://marcnager.com/ marcnager

    Sten, thanks for putting this together, and a valid point indeed if you assume the purpose of these events is always to launch legitimate startups. I can only speak for Startup Weekend, but I think the real question is not to ask if they create companies out of the events themselves but does the event lead to the creation of more companies eventually.

    Everything must be placed into perspective of it’s goals and purpose in the startup ecosystem. The mission of Startup Weekend is not to create startups, rather our mission is to provide valuable experiential education for entrepreneurs in the hopes that we can increase the odds of success when someone truly does go to launch a startup, be it at our event or after.

    Startup Weekend is the most effective, lowest risk, smallest commitment that we know of for giving people a forum to learn how to ask the right questions and build a team all around real world problems, passions, and interests. They are real ways to experiment and illustrate methodologies and such as LEAN, customer development, mvp, etc.

    Again, while we do hope that there is some random chance of successful companies that emerge (it is over 10%), we hope that we can inspire, educate, and accelerate people and teams that have the passion and drive to launch a sustainable venture. Thus far, over 36% of past attendees report still working on their project 3 months after the weekend. We have a repeat attendance rates in cities that have had more than 2 events over 40%… These are signs of success for us. People stay inspired; they stay engaged and supportive of their community; they continue to spend time educating themselves in a meaningful way. With a prime demographic of people having 9.6 years of professional work experience and a mean age of 32, we know we have real world people trying to solve real world problems, and by all indications, stats, and first hand testimonials, Startupweekend is a powerful, hands-on event that provides the most valuable experience that make them “better” entrepreneurs… Let’s not forget the overall goal and positive benefit of the events – building communities and fostering a culture supportive of sharing ideas, collaboration, and ultimately, more successful individuals, team, and startups.

    Thanks again for putting this together and happy to continue to dig deeper if you would like.

    (sorry for errors, a rather long post typed on an iPad)

    • http://sten.tamkivi.com Sten Tamkivi

      Thanks a bunch, Marc, for sharing the factual experiences of “the” StartupWeekend. Note that this discussion was triggered around Garage48.org, an Estonian-born derivative of a similar format and I loosely used “startup weekends” as a generalization of the kind which your event series is definitely a role model for.

      I totally agree with the inspirational, training value these provide to the local communities they happen in. And I hope this softer, indirect contribution to the eventual goal (more actual companies) is well reflected in the fingerprint graphs too. As they also do show that there are some important skills (especially around becoming a viable business producing cash) lacking from the startup weekends formats, that probably need to be covered elsewhere.

      So I was wondering – have you felt that gap yourself with your programs and the graduates around the world? Have you tried to fill it somehow – like diverting most promising teams to other programs later, longer-term involvement of experienced mentors, working with angel/VC communities…? Would be interesting to hear your thoughts.

      Ah, one more thing: you point out the potential misjudgement of results by those who _expect_ all the teams hit the ground running as operational companies after a mere weekend. In the original Estonian scene discussion behind this post, the problems with perception and management of this expectation were also discussed – e.g if you even mention a word “startup” anywhere, that’s the oversimplified interpretation that most of the main stream media will exactly use. So there is probably room for the programs to manage their public image and surrounding expectations more carefully too, for example showing more clearly what part of the startup support ecosystem they _do_ intend to be (and equally – what they do not claim to deliver). Any similar issues / experiences around that?

      Thanks again, Marc.

      • http://marcnager.com/ marcnager

        Love this convo Sten! All things that we try to tackle in certain ways, and a balancing act with most.

        Skill development: One of the biggest initiatives we have to address this has been to require that our supporters/sponsors (who are generally local technology companies) come out and participate along with everyone else. Same strategy for our mentors. The highest transfer of knowledge is happening not in one or two hour mentoring sessions, but when we can get the people with years of specialized experience teaching & sharing when they roll up their sleeves and take ownership of helping to engineer solutions to the problems being addressed over the weekend.

        Support post weekend: At almost every event we partner with groups like co-working spaces, incubators, accelerators, mentoring networks, law firms, etc. to provide further support after the weekend to the “top” teams as decided by the community. These are generally open to everyone, even if you are not a “top” team, but it is an extremely effective way to get exposure and illustrate the value of these support networks and other programs available in every community.

        Branding & Positioning: This is certainly a balancing act for us. The marketing message and fundamental mission of the organization are certainly a bit different for Startup Weekend. On one hand, people wouldn’t attend the event if the “sex appeal” of starting a viable business didn’t exist… on the other hand we do make a real point at our actual events to ensure everyone understands our mission, purpose, and position. This has been a successful strategy for us to draw engagement from folks that would otherwise never be interested in entrepreneurial education activities. It also helps to set the tone for the event.

        All this being said, yes. This is an educational process for everyone in the ecosystem! Ensuring that everyone is playing in the same sandbox continues to be the hardest thing. Not because they don’t want to work together, but often times, they simply are not aware of others’ efforts. Startup Weekend has provided a forum where we actively try to get these groups from all stages of the ecosystem having meaningful discussions… So far, so good, and something we are working on building out even more!

        We should have you come speak & participate at a Startup Weekend if you are interested! I’d love to continue these conversations. As everyone knows, the more of these efforts that exist and the more we collaborate, the more our communities benefit!

  • http://twitter.com/profitpeck Kirsten Peck

    As a StartupBus Miami entrepreneur, we staffed our teams with technology and business people. It’s fun to be in the idea generating phase of a project when there are no limits. The business side has to work with the ideas and find the money. Any type of business has to have a positive bottom line. Since my 3 day adventure to SxSW, I’ve launched a teen incubator to have a place for teens to develop legal businesses. My tech company didn’t fly, but the experience led me to another company that will succeed. http://www.teenenterprisenow.com

  • http://twitter.com/overdrev Michael Jackson

    Hi all.

    Point for me is that these events are fun. Just like taking part around in a company adventure racing team at the weekend won’t lead to any Olympic medals, so taking part in a startup weekend probably won’t create a world leading company. Overnight successes like Skype, Rovio, MySQL weren’t really overnight successes.

    But, there is nothing wrong in promoting entrepreneurship, showing young people that things can be achieved in teams and with group effort, and perhaps giving someone one a spark to get going on something.

    I attend many of these events, I am not expecting to see the ultimate project. I am expecting to see enthusiastic people working hard, and not taking themselves TOO seriously.

    These events shouldn’t take themselves too seriously either.

    /michael

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1308603459 Madis Kaal

    Excellent work, Sten!

  • http://www.toivo.ee Toivo Annus

    A notion to compare startup weekends is noble, but the suggested implementation is pseudoscience.

    You should build comparison model so that it comprehensively covers qualities and quantities important for end reason that you take up the benchmarking. You skip over to scales and arrows without defining the question and therefore your suggested structure is lacking structure. Its illustrated by not pinning down on what are your criteria, calling them differently over the article.

    Radar buildup is derived from a narrow field – you refer to 4 blog-posts which discussed not only one specific weekend program, but one specific weekend in specific location, having unusual theme. Moreover, of 4 posts you refer to, 2 talked almost exclusively of different subject (lack of OpenData concept in Estonia). Your model is likely to get skewed if you build on statistical sample is so small. Its good that the xlsx is published so like-minded people can hammer on it further.

    Comparing weekend-events, incubators, accelerators, business-schools and whatnot at the same time will cause your findings to be stretched quite far and smaller differences between for ex 2 weekend events will be in the size-range of statistical errors as they are so subtle compared to business school running 100x the calendar time and budget. You will walk away with findings between object set (ie schools vs weekends) unless you take a separate look at each set.

    On the step where you choose training-vs-battle pairs – no explanation given on why that approach is reasonable – you build the result into the process – any real-vs-learning comparison later is poised to fan out at their respective direction, unless your scales are in mess.

    Beyond the aforementioned it also makes me rise an eyebrow when I see
    – extending the findings of 1 object to world in large – all regions, industries, educational phases…
    – subjective evaluations of the criteria
    – a little name-dropping and emphasizing authors plentiful experience with no examples
    – liberal use of 360degree graph giving impression of completeness
    – no references, nor attempt to build on prior art. Im not an expert but there got to be some, where I would reach out to the works of Drucker (of what should be on “arrows”) to CMM (as how to rate them) to Spolsky 12 point-test (as a complete evaluation system – albeit no ink-blots – on its field).

    All in all, it looks like a structured system but its really not.

    It was nice to see you point out the subjectivity of some of these points yourself in your post. Its a good start and lets indeed expect something coming out of this, for which I hope to see some of the highlighted issues worked on, rather than blindly producing more charts.

    Suggested readings:
    http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/10/blueprint.html
    http://blog.jedchristiansen.com/2009/09/21/copying-y-combinator-why-and-how/

    • http://sten.tamkivi.com Sten Tamkivi

      Valid critique… if you were reading a graduate thesis on qualitative comparison methods for innovation support ecosystems, rather than a quick-hack visualization of certain blog conversations pulled together in ~2.5 hours.

      Thanks for recognizing both the subjectivity + call for expansion by others!

  • http://www.toivo.ee Toivo Annus

    I also want to share thoughts on how a real startup (vs real abstract startup as used in your example) would map on the suggested radar. Let me bring out the experience at Skype, a project familiar to many readers, some of whom have also seen its inception and first year or two.
    Namely it strikes me that some antagonistic battlefield-vs-training scale pairs would rate beyond max on both ends, at least in my mind (experience of people in former London office might differ):
    – Inspire & Results – the project, people, inside working process was both very inspiring as well as optimized to deliver results from day one, week in and week out.
    – Technology & Business – cutting edge tech when we started it at Y2002, and some of that physical code is said still to be in use, providing competitive advantage now when consumer voip has become commodity. Clear business model with multiple revenue sources and ability to execute and deliver on many of them as well. Beyond SkypeOut the other revenue streams have had little effect on bottom line, but I think company has been CF positive since 3rd year of making service available to public, through some radical ownership and management shifts. And you the latter without plunging into red only do when underlying business case is rock solid.
    – Community & Investor – Skype changed how people spoke over long distance and how telcos and IM companies looked at consumer telephony. The impact is worldwide on every social level. Lovely returns to early angels and participants of 2 rounds of VC funding. Things got iffy for investors beyond 2005 [but hey - not my fault - I was not there anymore :)] where now it seems that even Ebay will come out of this game with some profits.
    I could also argue the same on Proto-Product, FamiliarSafe-UniqueBold, Local-Global pairs, but let me stop with 3 pairs above.

    I would think of how other successful companies would map on this radar, I envision Google, Apple, etc would score the same way very highly on multiple fronts. What would that tell us? Are the criteria in a mess or maybe a very successful company or person is ‘complete’ ie strong on all fronts no matter which criteria you put it on? Or its just an illustration that sampling more data and testing is needed to build a good model? And maybe that the Real Abstract Startup has no chance to be as successful – is it good to have an example like that? ….. Discuss!

    • http://sten.tamkivi.com Sten Tamkivi

      Excellent point – in some exceptional cases the sum of the 2 ratings per scale can be >10. Which could stem either from argumentation of a retrospective case (such as you thinking back at Skype), or – which would be more intriguing – a leading indicator to spot world changers when evaluating a startup?

      That said, when conceiving the scales I did not have a notion in mind that a “full circle” of all 10′s would describe an ideal company in restful state in vacuum. Should it be?

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