Startup Weekend: Web 2.0’s Woodstock?

Posted on July 8, 2007
Filed Under Web 2.0 Kool Aid |

The hippies had Woodstock. Now it looks like Web 2.0 lovers have their equivalent: Startup Weekend.

Instead of getting great musicians together to play some groovy tunes, seventy Web 2.0 kool aid drinkers are holed up in Boulder, Colorado creating a Web 2.0 startup in “one jam packed weekend.” In their defense, many top musicians were too busy at Live Earth to participate in a Web 2.0 concert, so a gnarly Web 2.0 music festival wasn’t possible this weekend. Startup Weekend was the next best option.

So what did these seventy “founders” decide to create? Per their “marketing team”:

VoSnap is the instant cross platform social collaboration tool that facilitates group decision making quickly and easily. Get consent from your group in minutes on anything from what time the planning meeting should happen, to the best place in town to get sushi. VoSnap lets you ask the question and get the answer instantly, from whomever you chose using your phone, the web or email.

VoSnap leverages the power of community to suggest possibilities for your group decisions as well. Want to meet for coffee, VoSnap will provide optional suggestions based on your region and preferences.

VoSnap was created in 3 days in the hyper-creative, hyper-productive pressure cooker of StartUp Weekend. A group of 70+ high-performance developers, coders, designers, lawyers, and web entrepreneurs gathered above a bike shop in Boulder, Co for a weekend with the express intent of launching a fully functioning startup company by sunrise on Monday.

It looks like somebody at VoSnap has access to bullshitr, the Web 2.0 version of the infamous Web Economy Bullshit Generator. Translatr says the above means: a Web 2.0 polling application.

Maybe I’m just a skeptic, but if this is the best opportunity that exists in Web 2.0 and seventy people decided that this was the “hottest” concept that had been submitted, Web 2.0 is quickly becoming more boring than watching CSPAN reruns on a Friday night.

I don’t need to go into a detailed analysis of why VoSnap seems like a less-than-compelling business opportunity. Anybody with common sense can probably pick out the obvious flaws fairly quickly (online voting and polling services exist in abundance, it doesn’t solve a real pain, the utility is limited if the all the parties don’t respond to the email or SMS, there’s no business model, etc.). What’s more interesting to me is the Startup Weekend event from which VoSnap is born.

Clearly, Startup Weekend is an interesting social experiment. Can you put seventy people in a room and develop a company in a weekend? Outside of Startup Weekend being a social experiment and a fun time for the participants, I think it shows just how frothy Web 2.0 has become.

I don’t personally have a problem with Startup Weekend, but taken in the context of this latest Internet boom, in which many entrepreneurs think that launching a web application gives them a “startup” and some startups receive incredible valuations weeks after launch, Startup Weekend is a reflection of the new irrational exuberance. Many Web 2.0 entrepreneurs aren’t launching services to solve significant problems that aren’t already being addressed; most are launching services that are only slightly differentiated from other services, if at all. The number of copycats and clones continues to increase daily, and while there are a lot of bright entrepreneurs out there, the plethora of venture capital being made available to these startups provides little real incentive to entrepreneurs to develop innovative technologies and business models. Thus most entrepreneurs take the path of least resistance and ride the Web 2.0 gravy train. As a poster named Don Wilson on TechCrunch commented, “70 people to make a polling system. Wow. What a waste of talent.” What a waste indeed.

The idea that a viable “startup” can be built in one weekend sounds like another Web 2.0 myth. I don’t doubt that VoSnap can launch a product successfully, but as I discussed in my previous post, The 5 Myths of Web 2.0, there is a significant difference between products and companies. I argue that building VoSnap the product is much different than building VoSnap the company, and it seems like this distinction is lost on many in the Web 2.0 community. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not exactly a huge fan of a group of MBAs getting together to start a company, spending months on “market research” and writing a business plan that would bring a smile to the face of a Wharton professor. In my opinion, that’s not the ideal genesis of a successful startup either, but it should be noted that most successful companies:

Needless to say, I think VoSnap’s potential to develop into a successful long-term company is limited, and while Startup Weekend in and of itself might be a fun event, the broader implication is that Web 2.0’s Summer of Love is in full swing. We shouldn’t forget that the seasons change; fall and winter will arrive eventually. Those who have stocked up on innovation and viable business models will weather the seasons better, especially if the winter is particularly harsh.

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6 Responses to “Startup Weekend: Web 2.0’s Woodstock?”

  1. Andrew Hyde » Blog Archive » Response to Comments on July 8th, 2007 10:12 am

    […] of my favorites calls us the “Woodstock of Web 2.0.” Awesome, but it sounds like the guy needs a hug. Maybe a little laptop yoga would cheer […]

  2. Jay (living in First Life) on July 8th, 2007 5:51 pm

    Spot on Drama. I honestly get the feeling that too many of today’s Web 2.0 entrepreneurs are not true entrepreneurs. They do it because it’s cool and are in love with what they think it means to be an entrepreneur. Let’s go through a few of those pre-reqs:

    1. Host application on Amazon’s EC2 or S3
    2. Use Ruby on Rails
    3. Drink lots of coffee/organic juice products
    4. Dress “alternative” - tacky blazer with jeans and t-shirt that has weird design or says non-sensical things like “Interesting” on it
    5. Spend 50% of your time coding, 25% going to networking events/love fests like Startup Weekend, and the remainder of the 25% of your time blogging/lifecasting the whole experience
    6. Ensuring that your blog talks about all of your “entrepreneurial experiences” and how you have such “Rockstar engineers”

    Chances are that not even 1% of these guys are “rockstar engineers” nor do more than 1% of them know the slightest thing about building a successful company. Some shmuck at Y Combinator gave them a few thousand dollars and by living 10 to a bedroom in shitty apartments and eating Ramen noodles, they think they’ll make a major breakthrough that will change the world…by creating the next social bookmarking web site.

  3. Adam on July 9th, 2007 9:40 am

    Drama and Jay. Wish you folks had the opportunity to participate in StartupWeekend. You would have been blown away by the quality, depth and breadth that filled our sweaty seathing workspace for 55 hours. VoSnap is so much more than an app. I know you guys will be watching and participating, and for that I will say ‘thanks’ now.

  4. BlogSchmog » Weekend Warriors of IT on July 16th, 2007 4:35 pm

    […] by Drama 2.0 as “Web 2.0’s Woodstock,” the gathering was the brainchild of a brainy child (at […]

  5. Jazz, Woodstock, or Barn Raising? « Birmingham Startup BLOG on September 22nd, 2007 9:24 am

    […] Another blogger describes the effort as a “Web 2.0’s Woodstock”… “Instead of getting great musicians together to play some groovy tunes, seventy Web 2.0 kool aid drinkers are holed up in Boulder, Colorado creating a Web 2.0 startup in ‘one jam packed weekend.’ In their defense, many top musicians were too busy at Live Earth to participate in a Web 2.0 concert, so a gnarly Web 2.0 music festival wasn’t possible this weekend. Startup Weekend was the next best option.”  […]

  6. Latest Web 2.0 Stupidity: Building a Killer Web App In 45 Minutes : The Drama 2.0 Show on February 13th, 2008 1:25 am

    […] Back to reality. This entire exercise is as stupid as the Web 2.0 Woodstock. […]

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