Startup Weekend Expands Global Operations with New Foreign Offices

6/19/12Follow @curtwoodward

Startup Weekend has grown into a global network of entrepreneurs and mentors who flock to its 54-hour company-creating events. And despite that worldwide footprint, the nonprofit organization’s efforts have all been tied back to its hometown of Seattle—until now.

Startup Weekend now says it’s now opening its first official foreign branch offices, part of a larger strategy to build more permanent bases around the globe. The first two offices will be in Mexico City and London, run by on-the-ground Startup Weekend employees.

Those two locations have slightly different strategic benefits, Startup Weekend CEO Marc Nager says. In Europe, Startup Weekend has found strong interest in its events—it’s already had a London-based staffer, Deborah Rippol, who has served as European coordinator. Rippol will now run the London headquarters, which will be located on Google’s new London campus, where Startup Weekend events will also be hosted. (Google previously inked a global sponsorship deal with Startup Weekend).

Mexico City allows Startup Weekend to serve the Latin American market, but also offers the benefits of being relatively close to the main Seattle headquarters. That will help the nonprofit work closely with its two Mexico City staffers as the organization hones its playbook for opening new regional offices.

The big-picture plan is to find enough sponsorship dollars to make the local headquarters self-sustaining branches of the main organization. Once the model is in place and working, Startup Weekend can look at opening more regional offices in places around the world where interest is strong, Nager says.

“We’re more in fundraising mode right now, and as soon as we can get some other big partners on board, we’re going to be able to look at India and Brazil and China and the Middle East and Africa,” he says. “For the first time, we’re really taking a step back and a really intentional stab at how we’re going to approach the growth.”

Startup Weekend is regularly looking for ways to extend its reach beyond the base of entrepreneurship hackathons. The organization can tout some real success stories, with companies like Zaarly, Launchrock, and Look.io being formed at a Startup Weekend event. Other ventures, like the Startup Foundation, have faded from its lineup of official ventures. At one point, the nonprofit even looked seriously into starting an incubator space in Seattle.

Central to a lot of these ideas is the question of how Startup Weekend can extend the service it provides after the crash-entrepreneurship weekend has ended. But it’s a good problem to have, with a global network of participants and supporters—the organization is now on pace to host more than 500 weekend events this year, with more than half of them outside the U.S.

“Our challenge is, how do we cultivate that to be a long-term network, and a really sustainable one?” Nager says. “And I think that’s been one of the beautiful things about Startup Weekend. It’s this entry point into the ecosystem. It doesn’t matter if you’re entering it as a young gun right out of college or a CEO.”

Curt Woodward is a senior editor for Xconomy based in Boston. Email: cwoodward@xconomy.com Follow @curtwoodward

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