Many accountants we speak with are running events for business owners, providing sponsorship for business conferences and getting involved in general business mentoring opportunities. Hot off the press from the recent Christchurch Startup Weekend I spoke with several organisers, mentors and judges about their motivation behind supporting the entrepreneurial ecosystem. ‘Startup Weekends’ give you 54 caffeine-fuelled hours to turn an idea into a business, and are proving hugely popular globally. Key tools are an actionable blueprint the Lean Canvas, combined with the simple (yet effective) workflow visualisation tool the Kanban Board. It’s quite inspiring to see a business concept systematically evolve through this process in such a condensed timeframe.
Startup Weekends also manage to attract a huge pool of experienced entrepreneurs and business leaders as mentors. Why do highly successful business people donate their time and get involved with business mentoring?
Judith Cambridge, CA and on the judging panel puts it like this: “It’s simple, for me this digital age is creating huge opportunities for NZ. I love growing and inspiring entrepreneurs to find these opportunities which will help our economy grow. As a business we are focused on growth, technology, start-ups, education for cloud (along with tourism, dairy, trades, investment, retail etc etc) - its easy to have alignment!” Anna Guenther, PledgeMe founder and mentor adds “I’m excited to see people thinking about startups. The more people thinking this way, the better.”
The big picture
As co-founder of global SaaS search company SLI Systems, Geoff Brash has been involved with a successful company IPO and knows the journey well. Now Programme Director in Christchurch for digital accelerator Lightning Lab, what motivates him to donate his time to Startup weekend? “It’s real fun! It has to be something you absolutely enjoy. You can enjoy the growth achievements of people you’ve worked with, look at what they’ve achieved and know you’ve helped in some way. We’re giving someone the opportunity to learn quickly and use their talent and drive. It’s efficient, low risk and you get a taste for the journey”. Geoff agrees with Ben Reid, Memia: “I have a long term goal of more successful, bigger, faster, better tech sector here. Startup Weekend is the onramp; a key investment in encouraging people into a career in entrepreneurship. You can learn skills not taught in traditional education”.
Networking, networking, networking
Some mentors are motivated by the support they received starting off in business ventures. Sam Ragnarsson, now a consultant with Effectus says: “I was lucky in my work environment and I always had mentors - I wanted to give that back. I’m also involved with Business Mentor NZ as I know how important it can be to have someone guide you through. I want the startup community to grow - and it’s fun!” Others wish they’d received more support. Lenz Gschwendtner, serial entrepreneur gives his time because “I never had a lot of mentors building my own companies - I would have loved a network to tap into. Startup Weekend HAS a network so you can short circuit that learning”.
Advice on HOW to be an entrepreneur is everywhere you look, but there’s nothing quite like going through the process yourself. To jump in and develop an idea into a business, even over a weekend with a random group of strangers, gives you a taste of the trials and tribulations of developing a business. As Daniel Wallace from Trimble puts it, “I like being around people who are motivated and help them push through the barrier. The region needs people to grow and develop their skillsets; to FUEL their fire rather than extinguish it! It’s fun, rewarding and motivating - it’s awesome to see people doing this”.
If you want to network with likeminded individuals who share the idea that a ‘good time’ equates to a caffeine fuelled, sleep deprived entrepreneurial adventure then get involved! There are many ways to support SMB's and help help them grow and be successful.