I attended the annual Startup Bootcamp at MIT yesterday. It was the best thing I could possibly have done on the Columbus Day holiday. Kudos to the amazing group of students at StartLabs who put on the show. If you missed it, visit their website and you can watch the recording.
I have been attending the Startup Bootcamp for the past several years since Michael Grinich started it as an undergrad student, and have been fortunate to be among its sponsors. It is always an energizing experience. Tons of raw student talent in the audience listening intently to founder stories from some of the most well known names in the startup land. Founders of DropBox, Stripe, Kayak, HubSpot, Digg, Reddit, A123, Equallogic/DataGravity, FourSquare, Github, Quora etc have all spoken there.
But what is most interesting for me is that they don’t give canned speeches touting their company. Its almost as though they show extra respect to the technical/nerdy/startup audience and provide a real insight into how they built what they sit on. Startup Bootcamp speakers tell the real story of how their startups happened, and what they were like before we learnt about them on TechCrunch or NY Times. Founders may be mission-focused and insanely insightful, but the founding of a company event is usually surrounded by uncertainty, risks, humility, and often unsolicited advice at a time of near poverty. Best startups often don’t have elaborate business plans, or if they do, they are modified overnight as new information validates or refutes assumptions. I love hearing about this early part of the startup journey – when there are no image consultants, adult supervision, or financial backers to help create a story that would sell well. Student entrepreneurs are also, I imagine, most influenced when they can relate to a successful person.
Yesterday’s event was special and I hope you will get to watch at least some of the videos. I loved the practicality of advice from Brett van Zuiden who is still early in building his company, Christine Corbett’s talk from her heart on why she built her company after a personal episode, Paula Long on leading with your strengths (in her case, an engineer founder/CEO), and Leah Busque on taking advice whenever and however you can find it. I happen to be on the Advisory Board of StartLabs and cannot but feel proud of their student leadership that also kept its promise of making sure 50% of the speakers were women. They brought on some powerful women speakers and founders. As a bonus, I also got to see a group of MIT students play Quidditch outside. Only at MIT :).
Congrats, StartLabs. And onwards to your mission of creating the next generation of technical entrepreneurs!