SWG is thrilled to have Wessel Kooyman coming over from Paris to be our Startup Weekend facilitator. In advance of him coming to the weekend, I got to ask him a few questions:
Q: How many Startup Weekends have you attended? What makes you keep coming back?
Honestly, I’ve never been an attendee at a SW. I used to be a mentor at a startup accelerator program and they also organized SW, so they automatically made me a mentor. And I loved it! It was different from mentoring the startups in the accelerator, because people are at a much earlier stage in their discovery process, so helping them was a delight! I spent most of the weekend there, including the Friday and Sunday presentations, and I helped the teams practice their pitch on Sunday afternoons, and the organizers ended up having me run the stage on Sunday. So I was addicted! After that, I joined the organizing team, of course. Since then, I’ve co-organized in Paris 6 times, and I go to some cities as jury member and mentor, as well as a facilitator, as is the case in Glasgow.
Q: Tell us a bit about your own startup journey.
I’m a Web Developer by background and moved to San Francisco in 1998. What a crazy time that was! I started freelancing almost immediately and suddenly had tons of startup clients, who didn’t want me to develop but to help them with their business plans to submit to the VC’s in Silicon Valley. I ended up going with them to pitch in front of the VC’s very often, so i became very familiar with the process and the challenges that startups have. After the dot com crash, I started a web development company called Cole Street (that was my San Francisco address at the time!), and I’ve been an entrepreneur ever since. I don’t consider Cole Street a startup, of course, but we have numerous startup clients in Europe because we know how to work with them, and I do a lot of consulting for startup business planning and fundraising.
Q: SWG13 is the first Startup Weekend to use the theme of Sustainability/Cleantech. How do you see the tech industry’s role in a global sustainable future?
I think getting to a sustainable future is 99% a technology play. And look at what new green technologies we’re developing at breakneck speed! Especially now that we’re reaching the point where it’s becoming competitive with traditional energy, I think we’re going to see dramatic changes in the next 5 years.
Q: What is one key piece of advice you would give to SW attendees to be successful?
The same advice I always give: get fully immersed in the process! Pick the best idea, of course, but don’t be disappointed if your idea is not selected, and remember, it’s all about execution, and learning what it’s like to be an entrepreneur. SW gives you the best possible way to experience entrepreneurship, with mentors we bring in, likeminded people to collaborate with, and the fun of building something in 54 hours!
Q: What excites you about the tech startup scene in Paris?
The Paris tech scene is different from anywhere else, because the developers themselves here are extremely motivated to come up with their own products, not just following what the “biz people” are dictating. So we see a lot of great technologies evolving, that make awesome products, but aren’t managed to death by MBA people. And the developer talent pool is very deep here – people underestimate that all the time. One great example is a startup called Algolia, who i mentored from their earliest days. They are two amazing developers, who built a great search technology. Now they are a great hit, they raised money, and are getting lots of traction. Really a beautiful story of tech success.