The team from Startup Weekend Columbia 2014

How Columbia’s Startup Weekend Has Changed My Life

In a few weeks, I’ll be returning to Missouri to participate in my 4th Columbia Startup Weekend event (it will be #6 overall). Looking back on things, it sounds kind of crazy to me as I didn’t really want to go to the first one. I hadn’t heard of it, and it sounded like working on the weekend. Thankfully, Bryan Helmig (one of the Zapier founders) convinced me to go. I still didn’t take it seriously, and worked with Rob Stretch to build Drunk Detective, an app that catalogues a partygoer’s late night adventures. Drunk Detective never went anywhere (although I think we had the most entertaining presentation that year), but the event opened my eyes to whole new scene.

A few months later, I attended a Startup Weekend in St Louis. I still ended up working on a fun project, but the event’s atmosphere was much different. Many of the people I talked to were looking for employees (not partners). If anything, it made me realize how special the Columbia was, where everyone was incredibly open and welcoming to ideas and feedback.

My second event in Columbia found me working with Jordan Carlisle on Project Olympia, a strength training program aimed at helping coaches build stronger athletes. We worked on it for several months after the weekend. Jordan moved back to Arkansas, and decided that the startup scene there was lacking and so he brought Startup Weekend to Northwest Arkansas (event #4 for me). My interest in Project Olympia eventually trailed off and we parted ways, but Jordan is still going strong (the project is now known as Strengthen).

(I missed the third Columbia Startup Weekend because I was getting engaged in Hawaii – sorry, I have to have priorities)

Last year I went to Columbia’s Startup Weekend with the expectation of finding a cool project to work on for the weekend, but when Jabbok pitched the idea for EquipmentShare on Friday night I was all-in. We continued to work on the project and at Wade Foster’s suggestion applied to Y Combinator. When we were accepted into the program, we all left the safety of our current jobs and jumped in.

If I hadn’t gone to that first event, it’s very likely that I would not be where I am today. I don’t live in Missouri any more, but I’m coming back for Startup Weekend because the event is just that awesome. 

I would advise anyone who is interested in startups (or even just looking for an interesting weekend) to come out for the event. Give it your all, stay up late, and make something cool. It’s true that most projects don’t live longer than the weekend, but that doesn’t mean you leave the weekend empty handed. It’s a great place to work on your passion project, or to find someone else and help breathe life into an idea. You’ll meet loads of interesting people, and you might be surprised at where you end up.