To many people, Phoenix Startup Week 2015 appeared out of thin air. There are similar perceptions of many successful startups in the business world. In reality, there are hardworking, dedicated teams hustling behind the scenes from conception to launch and then: poof, the magic happens.
The story behind Phoenix Startup Week doesn’t have a multi-year long backstory. It’s more like a three-to-four month story—we had little idea of what we were doing (or what would eventually develop). To say we dove in uncertain into isn’t to discredit the amount of work that was put into the event; we just had no idea it would turn into one of the biggest entrepreneurial events the Valley had ever seen.
I personally was roped into the initial planning by my then-CEO, Zach Ferres, with the promise of, well, not much. “There’s this event happening that I think you could help out with,” was the pitch, if I’m not mistaken. This seems eerily familiar to the beginning phases of any startup, if you were to talk to any founder or co-founder. It’s one of those, “it just sort of happened,” stories.
So here’s how Phoenix Startup Week’s story is really just a startup’s story in disguise, and will continue to be as it grows, evolves, iterates and thrives.
Step 1: Find your team. It’s been proven time and time again that the team is the foundation for success of any startup. After Evo Terra took on the challenge of Startup Week from UP Global, he knew he needed to put together a team of rockstars to make it happen. Terra, who is now traveling the world, brought together key individuals last fall to create something awesome. What that awesome would turn into? At the time, no one knew.
Step 2: Figure out your ‘why’. Who is Phoenix? What do we want to see come out of Startup Week? Why do we want to work with this UP Global organization? For a community that had traditionally been incredibly segmented, which in reality was only a short year and a half ago, these were hard questions to address on behalf of an entire metropolitan area.
Step 3: Identify how you want to be represented. I remember one of the first meetings I attended for Startup Week we discussed how exactly it would look for Phoenix compared to the flagship event in Denver. Would we have one central location? How would we categorize content? What would our brand look like? We needed to figure out how we would take the framework of a previous event and make it ours—something we could be proud of.
Step 4: Organize the details. Once we understood what we wanted to achieve, we set out to plan the many, many fine details. Jonathan Cottrell, now known as the leader of all things #yesphx, took charge of this incredibly complex and widespread effort. After a number of 20+ receipt emails and team meetings, we mostly knew what we were getting into. As we got closer and closer to the week of the event, a number of hurdles popped up, but we figured it out, in true MVP fashion.
Step 5: Time to launch. The morning of February 23rd could only be compared to the first day of school; excitement, anticipation and a little bit of anxiety. This was an entirely new event being introduced to the Phoenix community, and hey, it could have totally flopped. After months of energy and planning, the team that had come together to bring this event across the finish line has given it their all, and had fingers crossed that would do the trick. I’m proud to say the week exceeded expectations, too. We had 2,500 attendees and a level of energy and collaboration never before seen in the Phoenix startup community.
Step 6: Evaluate how it went. No matter how awesome any product launch or event is, there are always opportunities for growth and improvement. Given that we went into the first-ever Phoenix Startup Week essentially with a blindfold, we immediately identified pain points where we could improve the experience for volunteers, planners, speakers and attendees.
Step 7: Time to iterate. Yes, there was a team crazy enough to immediately jump onboard to help plan round two of Phoenix Startup Week. I feel honored to share the task of planning the largest recurring entrepreneurial event in the Phoenix Area with such a stellar team. This includes Jonathan Cottrell, the Community Lead, Andrew Knochel, the Venue Lead, Beth Cochran, the Marketing Lead, Kunal Laroia, the Sponsorship and Volunteer Lead, Matt Simpson, the Jack of all Trades, and lastly myself, the Programming Lead.
Step 8: Yeah, this is awesome. One of the important milestones we encourage at Hopscratch is celebrating success when celebration is due. Given the year-long volunteer commitment that comes along with planning Startup Week, I like to think that each of our planning meetings (frequently found at Lux around happy hour) is an opportunity to celebrate our hard work. Because honestly, what better time to celebrate than the present?
Step 9: Handoff the reigns, repeat for years to come. We understand that to continue to develop and grow Phoenix Startup Week, we need to have new, fresh perspectives and people leading the charge.
Moral of the story, Phoenix Startup Week 2016 is going to be epic, and luckily, you don’t have to just take my word for it. Take a look at the community supporting the movement and you’ll know this week-long event is bound for greatness.