Tell us a bit about yourself:
Jason Beck, I’m a member of both the SW Tauranga organizing team and lead organizer for the startup community in Dunedin where I am based. I have an informal background in design; I learnt Photoshop when I was 10 and was featured in a local newspaper article when I was 12 for a project I did in 3ds max (though I don’t do 3d modeling any more). Since then, I have taken on various design projects in my free time, many of them startup related. In addition to personal startup projects, I am currently spearheading Startup Weekend Dunedin 2015, and recently concluded a successful pre-event that featured a stellar lineup of local and international speakers.
When and where did you go to a SW event? What made you decide to go?
My first experience with Startup Weekend was in Dunedin late 2013, when a friend I attended toastmasters with told me about the event. I had no idea what it was or what to expect, but because it sounded pretty cool and because I wanted to get involved in the startup scene, I went along on a whim. It was probably one of the best calls I’ve made since entering University. I was also a participant in the EDU Startup Weekend earlier this year.
Who did you meet there?
I always knew I wanted to be involved with the startup scene, but before I attended my first event, I knew absolutely nobody in the community. Through the process of attending two startup weekends, helping to organize one, and leading the organization committee of another, I have met so many amazing and talented people. Besides the many fellow aspiring entrepreneurs I’ve met, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many influential people ranging from successful entrepreneurs and CEOs, to city councilors and investors.
What did you enjoy most about the weekend?
If you manage to struggle through to Sunday pitch night, the feeling of relief and accomplishment you get during the post event party is the best feeling in the world. Startup Weekends are tough, and there is definitely a certain sense of pride in knowing that you had the mettle to survive it. Having a few cheeky beers definitely adds to the euphoria, but at that point, you would have more than earned it.
What did you learn from/get out of the weekend?
The biggest takeaways are the connections you will acquire and the people you will meet through these events. I cannot emphasize enough how crucial having a robust network of mentors and investors is when you are starting off and trying to get an idea off the ground (networks are crucial for all professions really, but this is especially true for entrepreneurship). If you are on the fence about entrepreneurship, you also get a bitter taste of how difficult this path can be at times; some people (like me) enjoy that kind of stress, but its not for everybody. Its better to find this out after spending one weekend on it, rather than after you’ve quit your full time job and/or sunk a ton of your own savings into doing your own thing.
List 5 reasons why designers should attend SW:
1. The same reason anybody else should attend SW: it’s challenging, rewarding, a break from your everyday reality, and you’ll meet amazing people. Also there’s pizza and beer.
2. If you have an idea that you want to execute, but you don’t have the complete skill-set to do it, SW is a great place to meet a co-founder. If you are amazing and front-end works, but need a back-end guy to help get your idea off the ground, chances are, you’ll meet him/her here.
3. If you don’t necessarily have an idea but want to be part of the creation of something big, you can find an idea that really speaks to you and be a part of it. As one of the founding members of a startup, the designer bears tremendous responsibility for the success of the project, and that is much more rewarding than building 2% of a website for a large corporation.
4. The work of designing and coding (especially freelance work), while rewarding, can often be very solitary an isolating in nature. While I completely understand how relaxing it is to design from home wearing your pijamas and with a hot chocolate in hand, if you want to take on bigger and grander projects, networking and collaboration are inescapable realities.
5. We NEED you. Realize that as a designer, you have a very specific skill-set that many normal people don’t have. The number of non-tech people with ideas ALWAYS outnumbers the number of skilled designers and programmers at these events, so you will be a pretty hot commodity.
Do you have any tips you can offer for this year’s participants?
If this is your first startup weekend, I can assure you that the experience will be both more rewarding and more stressful than you can ever imagine. Saturday afternoons are always the toughest (during my first weekend, half my team quit on me) so be prepared and push through it! Realize that getting a pitch and MVP out in less than 50 hours is in itself pretty absurd, and no matter how dire your situation seems, every other team is likely in the same boat. Bring a stack of business cards for networking; if you don’t have any, go and print some. Also, get a LinkedIn account if you don’t have one yet.