Business Matters: Nashville Startup Weekend

nsw_logoThis past weekend marked my second year attending Nashville Startup weekend, the caffeine-charged weekend-long blitz that brings together Nashville entrepreneurial types from technology, marketing, business development, law, etc., who pair off into teams and try to launch a business over the weekend.

This year, however, could not have been more different from last year, so I thought I’d share my biggest lesson learned.

Rewind to 2008.

Last year, I voted on pitches and joined a group based entirely on how impressed I was with the person who pitched it. The group leader I joined up with had helped plan the event and runs a successful web development firm specializing in interactive strategies here in town.

In short, I chose leadership. Sure, I liked the idea, but that was secondary.

The result? I had a great weekend and got to know a great group of creative and talented individuals in Nashville. What’s more, the group leader and one other group member took the foundation we laid that weekend and eventually launched a location-based iPhone app that was featured on TechCrunch just this past month.

Fast forward to this year.

This past weekend, I again sat in an auditorium at Vanderbilt University and assessed pitches. My criteria was simple: “Does this idea sound like a fun way to spend a weekend?”

The result? Again, I had a great weekend and worked with some amazingly talented folks. In all honesty, the idea behind the business sounded more appealing to me. Unfortunately, that idea unraveled within a day.

The group split into two. Some members joined up with other teams. And I, for one, sidled up to a developer from another group and got a free Symfony tutorial.

So what did I learn?

(Other than some cool front end development, that is?)

Ideas matter, but having someone in place with a clear vision of what they want to accomplish and how to accomplish it, matters more.

It’s great how well events such as these actually do mimic the real world. It doesn’t matter how good the idea is. If you don’t have the proper leadership team with a vision of how to execute, you’re not going to get too far.

Maybe not even a whole weekend.