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Interview with Marc Nager of Startup Weekend

An interview about Startup Weekend Omaha
Omaha Creative Week: Marc Nager, Dir. of Startup Weekend
Published on September 9, 2010

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With the city in the midst of Omaha Creative Week, we investigated one of the signature events: Startup Weekend Omaha. Startup Weekend is an international non-profit that helps facilitate community events. People come to the 54 hour, weekend long events to pitch ideas, form teams, combine talents, and create startup companies. It’s a chance to meet fellow creatives in an educationally productive environment.

Here are 6 questions with Marc Nager, Director of Startup Weekend.

1. Since the initial weekend in June 2007, Startup Weekend has grown into an international event. How do you think Omaha’s version of Startup Weekend will compare to other versions around the world? What’s the same? What’s different?

That’s a tough question, but the best answer is that every event is unique in the people it draws. Some events have more developers and some have more business people. The average for events is that about 45% of attendees are technical people and 55% are non-tech. That was about true for the last event, with maybe even a little more non-technical people.

Regarding the events, whether it’s Omaha or Seattle or NYC, each pulls people from so many walks of life and different social and professional backgrounds. It is incredibly unique among tech events, especially in that most people don’t know more than, say, one or two other people at the events.

2. The Startup Weekend website claims that “over 36% of the Startup Weekend Startups are still alive after 3 months” and “10% of companies go on to produce revenue or get seed funding.” Do you have any sense of how that compares to companies started by the traditional means?

The best data currently available about angel investing in small companies shows just how challenging founding and financing new ventures can be. In that context, I think those numbers are pretty good. 

3. Do you think most people attend because they want to learn or because they genuinely believe they have a startup worthy idea? What’s the ideal Startup Weekend-er like?

About 1/3 of the people come with an idea they think is a legitimate business idea knowing they need co-founder(s). The remaining 2/3 are intrigued and 100% interested in one day being a part of a startup, whether it is their own or one they start with a co-founder.

4. What are the biggest challenges to creating a successful startup? How does Startup Weekend address these?

The biggest challenge to founding a startup is to actually start. Most people talk about it for years, do research, build elaborate plans, but never actually start making an actual model to help achieve a proof (or non-proof) of concept or receive validation from their peers and/or the market. Startup Weekend is an entire event modeled around just this. It is incredibly powerful, inspiring, and very frequently life changing to experience the ability to start, build, model, and validate an idea in just a weekend.

5. What are Startup Weekend’s all-time greatest success stories? Have there every been copyright problems with sharing good ideas in a public forum?

Everyone measures SW by the actual startups. While they are the result, it is still a random science we wish to one day understand more clearly. Our greatest successes are nearly impossible to track: actually helping prepare individuals to be more likely to build successful companies and connect with others that want to help them become more successful. That said, check out,,,,,,,…. many more.

6. How would you like to see Startup Weekend continue to evolve?

Startup Weekend will continue to evolve by expanding its reach and resources within the ecosystem. Ideally, we would like to offer pre-event bootcamps for things like Rails, Html/CSS/JavaScript, Pitch Clinics, Google apps, how to build and test models rather than plans, etc. The goal is not to re-invent anything already existing in the community, but to partner with those programs already out there and offer new ones that might be useful and valuable. We would also like to play a more active role in helping pair up successful startups and individuals with local mentors, help them apply and prep for incubators, and ultimately we would love to connect startups directly with funding sources when they are far enough along!

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jordyAn writer since 2008, Jordy freely admits he's waiting for his golden parachute "anxiously." He microblogs @jordyclements + macroblogs