Bringing together a “global network of passionate leaders and entrepreneurs...to inspire, educate, and empower individuals, teams and communities” is what Startup Weekend is all about. Here in Kyiv, one such English-language event is taking place, and it’s attracting women entrepreneurs from all walks.
I’ll Never Stop
I apparently know very little about the world of business; something I am ever aware the longer I sit with the Tatiana Siyanko and Kateryna Dehtar, two Startup Weekend converts and organisers of the first event in Kyiv, focused specifically on women. The weekend itself brings together developers, designers, marketers, product managers and startup enthusiasts to share ideas over a 54-hour period to see whether an idea is viable. And this next weekend is geared all toward the ladies.
According to Startup Weekend stats, less than 7% of venture-backed startups are women-led, something Siyanko and Dehtyar hope to change, or at least affect with this next event planned at Bionica University. Guys don’t take offence – this isn’t about removing you from the equation. Startup Weekend believes “the best teams have diverse and balanced perspectives” and so men are wholly encouraged to join teams. However this next weekend is about connecting and showcasing the talents of women and aspiring female entrepreneurs.
Siyanko, who got involved with startups last year and “fell in love with the concept”, tells me Startup Weekend originated back in Seattle in 2007, and features five to 10 events every weekend “somewhere around the world”. Here in Kyiv she says they hope to attract about 120 participants, where the aim of the weekend is to have an idea and start talking to people about it. “One of the biggest mistakes of young entrepreneurs is that they have the idea, but don’t have a clue as to how to implement it or what their customers think,” she says.
You Got To Never Stop
Here, you can pitch your idea and hook up with a hacker, hustler, and hipster, which in layman’s terms is a programmer, salesperson, and designer, all in one day. From there, the team has the rest of the weekend to make it a reality. Dehtya says this event is focused on women’s issues specifically, with beauty, fashion, kids, education, food, and media taking centre stage. “We will have mentors who have already succeeded in these areas, one of whom is Lera Borodina of Oh My Look (a clothing rental outlet in Kyiv). Her assumptions of the market were quite different from what research showed, and early feedback made the whole model work for her.” Which is where we get into the nitty gritty of the startup culture.
According to Steve Blank, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who the girls call their guru: “You have God and you have the bible, we have Steve Blank and his four steps” – you have to “get out of the building”, meaning go and talk to your customers. This is a highly important part of the startup process, which Siyanko thinks is a major stumbling block for entrepreneurs. She stresses there is too much time spent on the development of an idea rather than getting feedback or “iterating” and evolving from there; an idea she gleaned from Eric Reis, another Silicon Valley entrepreneur and founder of Lean Startup.
According to Dehtyar, investors will be available at the weekend to watch how you think and work, and if they like what they see, they may provide funding. She stresses however that it’s important for all members of the team to be involved in all stages. “I know many startups that have failed due to a poor level of involvement; a strong leader, is not the model for a startup.”
With cash in the billions to be made from bringing a simple idea – such as Dropbox for example, to fruition, both Siyanko and Dehtyar believe that motivations for getting involved can be different. “There are a lot of people who want to be called a startuper and not actually do anything. But really, it’s not about making money. It’s about self-actualisation.”
Which it may well be, the cash earned from which is like the icing on the cake.
Ladies Startup Weekend
Tickets: 300hrv – ladies, 400hrv – guys
Bionic University (Skovorody 2)
Startup Weekend Timetable
Friday – registration, dinner and networking, attendees pitch ideas, teams form and the wheels are set in motion
Saturday – breakfast, teams reunite and continue work, lunch, coaches assist teams, dinner, check-in, continue working
Sunday – breakfast, teams can call for help (if necessary), lunch, coaches ask questions, presentation prep, dinner, final presentations, awards (and possible funding!)
by Lana Nicole