Hey gang, Zack Pennington here. I’ll be facilitating the #SWLou5 this September. I’m excited to meet all the new participants and I’m looking forward to the familiar faces from Startup Weekends past. I’ve been involved in several Startup Weekend events, as a participant, organizer, and facilitator. I’ve seen first hand how SW can transform people. I recently reached out to Joel Thompson, a participant in #SWLou3 to ask about his experience with Startup Weekend, coming from the perspective of a 9-5 employee at a large corporation who has been bitten by the entrepreneurship bug. Here is our interview below.
Zack: “Joel, tell us a little about yourself and what you do for a living?”
Joel: “I’m Joel Thompson, and I lead a department at Humana that writes all of our procedural “how to” content for our internal service functions like customer service and claims payment. We’re currently in the process of broadening that scope to include external users of self-service content also.”
Zack: “What were your expectations before participating in Startup Weekend?”
Joel: “A Humana colleague and I were already exploring a startup concept as part of coursework for the Technology Entrepreneurship free online course taught out of Stanford. We saw Startup Weekend as a great opportunity to devote focused attention to the idea, get feedback on it, ideally partner with some software developers, and broaden our network within Louisville’s entrepreneurial community. I think we succeeded on all those goals.”
Zack: “What was your experience like at Startup Weekend?”
Joel: “I had a blast at Startup Weekend. First it was thrilling to get enough votes to be selected as a team to compete after the initial pitch round. On the spur of the moment I also broke from my partner to pitch a separate idea — my adrenaline was rushing — just for the experience of doing so. It didn’t get enough votes but I was OK with that. For our initial idea, we were fortunate to partner with two software developers who turned out to be a good match for us in demeanor and skillset. The weekend went by so fast, it seemed like a blur. Looking back on it, there were definitely a couple things I think we could do differently. One would be to have paid closer attention to the schedule outline we received in advance. Another would have been for my buddy and I to have more clearly defined our roles in advance. Who’d pitch? Who’d go where for customer discovery? And so on. But all in all, we really enjoyed ourselves and learned from some great feedback. All of the advisers and judges were so supportive.”
Zack: “How has your perspective changed since participating in Startup Weekend?”
Joel: “For me, Startup Weekend cemented the understanding that customer discovery is the name of the game. You have to keep angling to learn more and more from customers until you know you have product-market fit. I think my team and I apply this concept well within the corporate world by putting in place a strong focus on getting as much internal-customer feedback as possible.”
If you’ve always wondered what it would be like to try something new, do your own thing, and create something awesome with a room full of strangers, join us September 19th-September 21st. Click here to sign up for Startup Weekend Louisville #5.