Aaron Eden and Dr. Dave

Dr. Dave:          So, hello, Aaron. Thank you for hooking up for another session or for your session with the KnolShare with Dr. Dave podcast. How are you doing today?

Aaron Eden:      It’s been great. Just another Monday even though it’s Tuesday.

Dr. Dave:          Yeah. Just another Monday everyday somewhere. So let’s talk about, we’re going to talk about the Startup Weekend that you’re planning for in the Phoenix. And so, as you’re planning that, this statewide thing, what is this event all about anyway? What is the Startup Weekend? What does it mean? What’s the purpose? Why don’t you give us some insights about this program that you’re doing.

Aaron Eden:      Whoops. Startup Weekend has been around for years. I don’t know how many years but years, probably at least 10, I guess. And it’s a global event really intended to ignite local entrepreneurial ecosystem. So getting entrepreneurs connected together, even if they don’t have a lot of experience, but they’re considering maybe starting a business, whatever the case may be. But really trying to get those entrepreneurs connected with each other and launching new businesses. Take that to Startup Weekend Arizona, what we’re really trying to do in that case is taking it up to a whole another level by having it being fully virtual across the State of Arizona. Number one, of course, connecting entrepreneurs and hopefully helping them launch successful businesses. But then one of the key opportunity areas that we see with entrepreneurs across the state is really diving deep with their customers and making sure that they’re solving real problems for real customers.

Aaron Eden:      I can speak as a technologist, we love building stuff, and we love driving in those ways. And so really it’s important to know that we’re building stuff that customers actually need and care about and solves a problem for them. So what’s different about this Startup Weekend, we’re going to focus 100% over the course of this weekend on market research and understanding customers, and interviewing customers, and observing customers, and applying that to the business model and doing that with mentors. So it’s an exciting opportunity for our state.

Dr. Dave:          That’s really cool, man. So this is really an ecosystem for people who are starting a business. Starting up some type of entrepreneurial venture, is really what we’re doing. And we’re bringing everyone together and you’re doing it in a virtual way as opposed to people coming together physically, otherwise we’ll have to have mask and so on and so forth, right?

Aaron Eden:      Yeah. We’re only a month away and we’ve got regional representative… We’re trying to have regional representatives from every County in the state. So that it really is an Arizona thing, not a Tucson thing, but an Arizona thing. And we’ll see. Similarly on the mentoring side, make sure we’ve got mentors from all over the place. So lots of diversity.

Dr. Dave:          Nice. So how long have you been involved with the Startup Weekends? Not just the Arizona one, but in general, how long have you been involved?

Aaron Eden:      Man, eight years, nine years, something like that.

Dr. Dave:          Nine years?

Aaron Eden:      I helped with the co-founding of Startup Tucson. We actually co-founded Startup Tucson during a Startup Weekend.

Dr. Dave:          Nice.

Aaron Eden:      So it’s a good example in that you pretty much could bring anything to a Startup Weekend and drive it forward, connecting with the right people. I also, aside from engaging with Startup Weekend from the early stages, when I was with my previous company Moves The Needle, we actually, on behalf of Startup Weekend, ran a bunch of Startup Weekends for corporate customers to help to run those, not only with entrepreneurs, but in the corporate settings as well. So yeah, the TechStars is the company that currently owns and run Startup Weekends, or I don’t know, maybe runs is the wrong way. They enable it.

Dr. Dave:          Make it work, make it happen. Right?

Aaron Eden:      Yeah. And I think they acquired Up Global probably four years ago or something like that. Up Global was the nonprofit that originally created Startup Weekend.

Dr. Dave:          Nice. So what is the requirement to really participate in a Startup Weekend? What does that look like? Do you have to sign up somewhere, give some blood, pay a fee? What’s the requirements?

Aaron Eden:      Blood is good. I like that. Especially in these COVID days. Oh my God. No. So, azstartupweekend.org is the website where folks can sign up, and like I said, we’re focused on solving real problems for real people. And so what you need to bring in in order to come and participate is your whole self and some insights about pain points or things that you’re seeing out in the world that we should go after solving. So it’s not about bringing your cool technology idea or some amazing wild solution you have to a problem, it’s really saying, “No, I’ve actually seen this problem with these people all over the place and I think that if we were able to come up with something to solve that problem they would love it.” So come with your pain points, come with the problems you’re seeing in the world so that we as an Arizona community can engage around those top problems and work on solving them together over the course of that weekend.

Dr. Dave:          So that sounds like fun. So what would the participants get from participating in a Startup Weekend? I mean, gifts, money? Startups need money, right? You can’t run a startup without money. So what are they going to get in the process?

Aaron Eden:      So a couple of key things are really important in this case. So number one, the relationships that you gain out of these events are super powerful. So even if the idea you’re working on over the course of that weekend doesn’t pan out, if it turns out that people didn’t really have that pain point and it’s not worth solving, the relationships you develop working with these folks in a startup environment over the course of the weekend, you’ll forge some really strong relationships with folks. So that’s number one. The relationships you get with your team members, the relationships that you’ll get with your mentors over the course of that weekend, I think are really valuable.

Aaron Eden:      The second thing that I’d call out is in this case, because we’re focused on understanding customers and doing the market research and those kinds of things, you’re also going to acquire some new skills. So you’re going to leave better armed with tools to help you with understanding customer pain points and doing that type of research, which is not only beneficial for launching startups, but beneficial in the corporate context, beneficial for dealing with family issues, beneficial for going after community opportunities. Whatever those skills of really understanding your customers are, can be applied in many different parts of your life. So there’s some goodness for you on the longterm there.

Dr. Dave:          There’s some broad reaching aspects of doing customer discovery in the process. Good. So tell me, share a story with us about one or more participants that have benefited from a Startup Weekend, right? You’ve been around it for eight years. What does that look like? I would love to hear a story. Tell me a story, Aaron.

Aaron Eden:      Question. I should have been leading with stories anyway. Let me think here. I should’ve been prepared with one. None are coming to mind at the moment. One second. So I already told you about Startup Tucson being formed out of a Startup Weekend.

Dr. Dave:          Yeah. That’s a story, go there. I mean, I know what Startup Tucson is so maybe if you want to share that story.

Aaron Eden:      Yeah. So Startup Tucson is a nonprofit here in Tucson that’s focused on supporting entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship and developing the ecosystem. And so there were a group of us that were all engaged around a collaborative workspace called Gangplank. And so, that’s how Dave and I got connected.

Dr. Dave:          Sure, that’s where we met.

Aaron Eden:      Through Gangplank. Yeah. So, one of the teams that went through the Startup Weekend was focused on, “Hey, we think that there should be some sort of organization here in Tucson to take the reins around this.” And so probably five or six of us worked on it over the course of the weekend, went off, interviewed entrepreneurs and kept hearing from entrepreneurs that, “Hey, I really would love some help with my startup, but I don’t know where to go. Just guide me. Help me figure out where to go and who to connect with,” and those kinds of things. And really that was the beginning for it.

Aaron Eden:      Our team did not win the competition so we pitched to the judges at the end and some of the local ecosystem leaders at that point, liked some of the other ideas a little better, but it’s all good. So, eight years later, Startup Tucson is still hoping and still doing amazing things in our ecosystem, helping entrepreneurs to be successful. And so I’ve also seen one of the corporate gigs that I did, one of the teams was working for a large telecom company and had this idea that they could put more of their cellular receivers and sell more phone lines basically by putting cell phone receivers and GPS tracking in pet callers. That was an idea that they started during a Startup Weekend and now has actually grown into a pretty significant sized business doing safety tracking and things like that for pets.

Aaron Eden:      So lots of situations like that. And I think the comment that I made about Gangplank and how Dave and I met and how the team that started Startup Tucson during that Startup Weekend, we all still engage really consistently, and those kinds of things I think really showcases that the primary value isn’t necessarily the business ideas that come out of it, I think it really is the relationships with the people that you form. And if we can deepen those connections, deepen that connectivity across the Arizona ecosystem, then all of us are in a better position as a result of it.

Dr. Dave:          Yeah. Because I learned about Gangplank from, I was living in Southern California. I came to Phoenix Chandler and went to a conference there and then we were super excited about Gangplank. So I mean, you could tell it’s rich, right?

Aaron Eden:      Totally.

Dr. Dave:          Where can people go to find more information? We want to sign up, we want to get involved, where can people go? Are you looking for just participants? Are you looking for volunteers, sponsors? Where can people go and gather some information?

Aaron Eden:      All three of those. So it’s going to take a big group of volunteers to run this event in a fully digital manner. Because just the people wrangling is totally different. You can’t see them. Like, did they go disappear for lunch and they’re just not near their computer or what? And it’s just totally… It’s a whole another ball game. So, we’ve mapped out that we need probably a team of about 60 to be able to run this event. Our belief is that we can get probably in the neighborhood of 1,000, 1,000 entrepreneurs to engage across Arizona. That’s our hope with this. Is really touch all the areas, getting entrepreneurs engaged. So definitely participants. And then finally on the sponsorship side of things, I think there’s still probably two or three sponsorship… I can’t even say it. Slots left if folks want to participate in that perspective. I’d say, it’s best to have people that are highly engaged in volunteering and helping out but certainly if you can’t do that and you can provide some funding, then we would love that too.

Dr. Dave:          Good. So in terms of, what messages do you want to share with potential participants? What do you want to get people pumped up about so they could jump in and participate, bring some good ideas to the table that potentially could last? Like Startup Weekend and the story of Gangplank? What do you want them to do or you want them to share? What do you want to share with them?

Aaron Eden:      I think for entrepreneurs, the opportunity in this situation, the world is in utter chaos right now between political issues, regardless of which side of the aisle you’re on with COVID and with economic difficulties and all of these things, right? Like the world has just been turned upside down in the last year. And so these skills of really listening and hearing, what are the pain points that people are experiencing now that I should be focused on? That core skill and that core ability will help you get through any sort of situation of uncertainty. And so I think not only is it powerful for entrepreneurs to grow through this program, but for us to go after some really big and important problems that are occurring in Arizona right now and do that together. Because that’s the only way we’re going to get through this crap is if we get through it together. So just the, to drive some impact together across Arizona.

Dr. Dave:          Yeah. You said over the last year, could you imagine it has only been about four months and it seems like it’s been over a year. So you could just tell the level of disruption it has been across the country or across the globe period. [crosstalk 00:15:35] So, Aaron… God, hard stuff. Well, you know what, thank you. But tell me again, one more time, where do we go to sign up? One more time just so we don’t miss that.

Aaron Eden:      azstartupweekend.org.

Dr. Dave:          Okay. azstartupweekend.org.

Aaron Eden:      You can always email me, or text me, or Facebook me, or Twitter me or whatever. It’s all good. I’m on all the social networks so it’s easy to find me in that.

Dr. Dave:          Do we get that information on azstartupweekend.org or do you want to… You could send it to me and I’ll just… Or you could tell it, you could share it with the audience now and I could also put it on-

Aaron Eden:      I’m Aaron Eden everywhere.

Dr. Dave:          You’re Aaron Eden everywhere?

Aaron Eden:      I’ve upset all of the other Aaron Edens I always have the account first.

Dr. Dave:          Wow. Disrupter.

Aaron Eden:      I’ve spoken with some about it.

Dr. Dave:          Huh?

Aaron Eden:      I said I’ve spoken with all the other Aaron Edens about it. Thanks a bunch, Dave. I’m excited for this event, as well as thank you for the opportunity to share with your following.

Dr. Dave:          Oh, well, thank you for agreeing to do this. So yeah, we’ll talk soon.

Aaron Eden:      Cool.

Sponsors & Summary

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