I wrote this in response to organizers promoting the event in the spirit of SW and sending out an 11th hour legal form that was quite the opposite, without running it by the community or anyone at SW. It was disrespectful to everyone attending the weekend, and SW took steps to make sure it would never happen again (and it has not). No names have been mentioned in this post, I am not going after anyone personally. It was a series of unfortunate events, and instead of covering it up I was as transparent and honest as I could be.
I would describe myself as someone who goes to a lot of events, someone that participates in a lot of group (tech and non tech). Some events are amazing, some forgettable and some just rock you to the core. SWT was one of the latter, and not for all the good reasons.
Some of you, even my close friends, didn’t know about the weekend. Shortly after arriving, some major red flags were raised, and if you didn’t follow my twitter, you didn’t hear about them until now (when things go bad, you want to learn as much as you can without broadcasting to the world why you are learning so much!). I would like to document what went on, what went really well and what didn’t. At the end of the weekend I was extremely disappointed, but equally happy. The core of my biggest fears came roaring to the forefront, seemingly trying to kill this idea that I am extremely passionate about. I learned more in the first three hours of SWT than I did in a month and a half planning and organizing for SWs around the globe.
What worked: The weekend attracted some amazing people. There was a core group of people there that got it, were brilliant and refreshing. You could see the passion in their eyes. The model has promise and people ‘got it.’ Although I really wanted to, no mutinies occurred. The discussions away from the product were remarkable.
What didn’t work: Putting any part of the organization or incorporation in the hands of a local hand. In this case, greed took over and the organizers decided that it would ‘only make sense’ to reward their hard work with a substantial part of the company, without telling me or any other of the founders until the day before the event. They also decided a 20% share of the company was awarded to the person who came up with the company idea that everyone was going to make. I was told that VC’s regularly invested in ideas for 1-3 million and my concerns for only saving 15% of the company for future development was without merit. An inexperienced business team was assembled to act as managers, holding closed door meetings and took great pride in watching others do instead of getting their hands dirty as well. The spirit of what the weekend wasn’t followed. If the concept of the weekend is an experiment, than what happened last weekend was an experiment in how to fragment a community- to destroy an idea.
I can’t be all negative, The barrier to entry for this idea is high, this weekend is a really hard thing to pull off. If the intentions of the organizers was pure, I couldn’t complain a bit. Unfortunately, I was hosed, and that is hard to stomach.
What I am doing to make sure this never happens again: I asked a group of people who were at SW Boulder (and at other future cities) what they thought the spirit of the weekend was. The conclusion from those conversations is to form a ‘Bill of Rights’ to protect any founder of a future weekend from dishonest organizers. A rough draft is available here (.pdf). I would love your feedback. Also, facilitation will be by myself or someone trained by SW, making sure of the quality of the event on a firsthand basis.
So what is the future of SW? Very bright, we learned what we did wrong and it couldn’t have happened at a better time, at the beginning of the fall season. Every weekend is going to be better because of the failures of Toronto.
Now, who is ready for NYC?