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?






19 responses to “Toronto”

  1. Erica Avatar

    This weekend convinced me that Creatives need to be led by other Creatives – and not by “Project Managers” or Business Development folks.

    I’d like to cite Jim Coudal of Coudal Partners who said at SXSWi in 2006 that Creatives are learning that they can do it themselves. They can run full scale businesses without the suit and tie folks.

    I also learned how quickly people can bond and create authentic relationship. Thanks to you, Joe, Steve and several of the Toronto folks for showing me the time of my life.

    Where else can you get stuck on an island with a clothing optional beach in the rain?

  2. Ryan Avatar

    Wow Andrew. Sounds like quite a weekend! The Bill of Rights is a great idea.
    I’d be interested in hearing more specifically what you think the difference was between Boulder and Toronto? Perhaps it was the altitude :).
    Let’s talk sometime when you come up for air.

  3. Jeff Clark Avatar


    The BoR was probably a good idea, and the direction it’s headed in is definitely good.

    Toronto sounded rough (even the Tweets sounded rough), but I’m still pretty excited about Boston’s weekend next month. Maybe it’ll be a LOT smoother!

  4. Micah Baldwin Avatar

    It seems that in any group there needs to be boundaries, understandings, and clear goals/direction. And a bat. I really think that one of the reasons Boulder went so well was because we all had the attitude that we were part of something larger. Sounds like the organizers in Toronto wanted to be the party and let everyone else just participate.

    Plus, now you know that neither model ended with a launched project at the end of 56+ hours…

  5. Lance Weatherby Avatar

    Sorry to hear that Toronto did not turn out the way you expected. The BoR is a great idea. When you have a chance to reflect a bit more I think they can be laid out in a more positive way.

    I also must say that the wholesale statement that “Putting any part of the organization or incorporation in the hands of a local hand” might be a bit of an over reaction. You can’t do this without local leadership.

    What you need is honest local leadership with pure motives. Part of the way to ensure that happens is transparency. I don’t think it is my place to put the capital structure out in the wild, but if you were to do so (as well as the BoR and other important info), and post it on each city blog you might prevent the problem in the future.

    Its all about communication and putting great people in a position to do amazing things.

  6. Andrew Avatar

    @Lance Weatherby I agree with you on the local organization, but I can’t put some things, such as legal forms, in someone else’s control. Overreaction? Yes.

    I agree with you about local leadership, it has been amazing seeing the Atlanta weekend and others just explode. My biggest fear is having a bad weekends leadership effect other organizers weekends and standing in their communities.

  7. Rory Avatar

    I hope Startup ATL isn’t like this.

  8. alpha Avatar

    Hey read similar on Steve’s blog. Interested in how this type of thing might work down under.

  9. […] Hyde, the founder of the Startup Weekend concept, was the first to bring this up.  Seems like Andrew got a bit of a surprise about his role, the equity structure, and how the […]

  10. Andrew Avatar

    @xxxx great points and I am glad everything was worked out at the end of the weekend.

    I did not call you dishonest. I feel there was some major miscommunication between the organizing team and the founders, that many people took as dishonest, but I don’t think for a second your intentions were malevolent or dishonest. The question was, what can we do to make sure the weekends never fall into the hands of ‘dishonest’ organizers (not calling you dishonest at all). If I organize these weekends, I need to make sure the structure is set up to protect from the chance someone wants to use this concept as a form of free labor or tricking people into building a product for them.

    The bigger point is- what if the intentions of the organizers were drastically different than the reason why most people signed up? I have received 15 emails from people who signed up for the weekend that were greatly disappointed in the 11th hour legal forms and organizing. So I had the option, do I just let everything pass or do I be open and transparent on what happened, and take action on how to make sure the trust is held for future weekends.

  11. […] Andrew Hide: showing disappointment at the way things were organized, feeling that the spirit of the even was trampled. […]

  12. Stefan Schedereit Avatar
    Stefan Schedereit

    As one of the participants of SW Toronto I am certainly suprised to find out that we were supposed to be working for you and according to your expectations. To that end I found your lack of participation and poor attitude disruptive to the overall spirit of OUR weekend. Like it or not you were there to PARTICIPATE as our guest. Despite your lack of effort, regardless of your ‘structure’ fears, you shall still receive shares for your time spent.

  13. Andrew Avatar

    @Stefan Schedereit

    Startup Weekend is my company… I wasn’t there to be a guest, I was there to make sure it was a success. Once I found out what was pulled, I focused my efforts on future weekends, and to provide what I could to all the participants.

    I didn’t sign in for shares when I wasn’t working on the product, so fear not.

  14. […] Startup Weekend Toronto – growing pains. […]

  15. […] a not so happy note… I see that there’s still some fallout from the comments made by Andrew Hyde about the Toronto Startup Weekend and the comments that followed. I was […]

  16. […] I have spoken by phone or email to several sources involved with Startup Weekend Toronto. What emerges is a picture of Hyde walking in to an already well-organised group and indicating that he wanted to lead the project. This did not go down very well and Hyde spent the rest of the weekend largely uninvolved, say my sources. In fact, he did more than that, he later attacked the organisers. […]

  17. wholesale clothing Avatar

    Andrew. you have an nice weekend! lol

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