Startup Weekend Shuts Down Eight-City Startup Foundation Project
Startup Weekend, the Seattle-based nonprofit that runs an international network of hackathon events, is shutting down its effort to create a sister organization called the Startup Foundation. That project, first reported by Xconomy back in June, aimed to create a more permanent presence in individual cities that could help stimulate the entrepreneurial community.
When I talked with Startup Weekend CEO Marc Nager and technical chief Franck Nouyrigat in the summer, they envisioned the Startup Foundation as a central office in each city that could tie together the often-fragmented entrepreneurial networks and seek sponsors and supporters for community-building projects, acting like a kind of chamber of commerce for startups.
The pilot project kicked off in July in eight cities: Seattle, Boston, Detroit, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York, Des Moines, IA, and Sao Paulo, Brazil.
But the Startup Foundation couldn’t find enough support to remain self-sustaining, and didn’t last through the end of 2011. I first caught wind of the project’s shuttering via this post at Silicon Prairie News, a Midwest tech news company that hosted the Des Moines, IA version of the Startup Foundation.
That doesn’t mean the ideas behind the Startup Foundation are petering out, however. As Silicon Prairie’s Geoff Wood wrote, and Nager confirms in an interview with me, some parts of the Startup Foundation mission are being folded back into the overall Startup Weekend organization.
The nonprofit has been tinkering with different ways to spread its brand beyond more than just a weekend, including a project known as Startup Weekend Next and some pre-Startup Weekend training events, some of which are tied to Google’s recent corporate sponsorship.
“It served as basically a great little R&D vehicle for us,” Nager says. “We’re going to continue all of that stuff. It was just becoming a little harder for us to figure out how to continue it outside of Startup Weekend—and did it need to be?”
I wondered what became of the people Startup Weekend had tapped to run the Startup Foundation cities, since at the time of the rollout Nager said the participants were so jazzed up by the idea that they were willing to quit their jobs and tackle the foundation full-time.
That includes Seattle’s Jennifer Cabala, listed as the Startup Foundation co-founder, who had been working as the marketing chief for Startup Weekend in Seattle before the foundation effort got under way—a post that is now filled by Joey Pomerenke.
Nager says that, with the exception of Boston and Des Moines, all of the former foundation people are still affiliated with Startup Weekend in some capacity in their cities. Cabala declined to comment on her next steps when reached via email.
“It was definitely posed as a pilot program. Everybody was kind of on the same page from the beginning,” he says. “It was nothing too shocking.”
In the future, Nager says, Startup Weekend plans to grow in a slower fashion by bringing people on as employees of the larger nonprofit once there’s clearly enough capacity and financial support to make the gig a self-sustaining position.
“We will essentially bring you onto our core team—you can have benefits, you have everything else, as long as we’re making more than one dollar and one cent to support everything we’re doing in your city,” he says.