The 3DS Global Roundup happened in Austin, TX and Porto, Portugal. This blog post recaps the Austin side of the story.
Seven years of university entrepreneurship is a long time to go without a family reunion. The 2015 3DS Global Roundup was our first attempt at getting an amazing community of dreamers and doers in the same place.
The Global Roundup was a departure from our standard program, which focuses on students transitioning from the idea stage to proof of concept. The Global Roundup, on the other hand, was meant to gather people who have previously been involved with 3DS. A total of 300 people descended upon Austin, Texas and Porto, Portugal for the first ever 3DS Global Roundup. Students, administrators, alumni and faculty came from the universities of Edinburgh, Virginia, Nebraska, William & Mary, Cornell, Queen Mary, Texas A&M, and many more.
3DSers have a way of turning dreams into tangible, problem-solving realities, and brilliance happens when they come together.
In addition to some fantastic meetups, the Global Roundup included insightful and interactive panels, experiential workshops, and great discussions. 3 Day Startup helps students navigate crucial early principles of entrepreneurship, such as team formation, problem solving, fast iterations and pitching fundamentals. There is only so much, however, that we can pack into 72 hours. One of the most important values of the Global Roundup was a platform to jump into the critical “next step” topics that students often face after 3DS. These include applying to accelerators, finding investors, building an MVP and launching a crowdfunding campaign.
Saturday’s investor lunch allowed many young entrepreneurs a one on one interaction with angel and VC investors, which is a hard-to-find encounter for most student entrepreneurs. This event was partly an occasion for investors to learn of new ventures, and partly for young entrepreneurs to get experience of one on one interactions with an investor.
Immediately following the investor lunch was our MVP workshop. 3DS encourages participants to strip their concepts down to the minimum viable product, but many have questions about what exactly that is. Is a certain feature minimal or excessive? How far can something be stripped down and still be viable?
The general consensus from our panel was that you need almost nothing to build an MVP. Many entrepreneurs believe that large budgets and technical expertise are needed to create a prototype. On the contrary, even with access to such resources, a startup in its infancy is better served to build a prototype on almost nothing. The only thing required is that it solves a problem, and a customer is willing to pay to have the problem solved.
Saturday’s penultimate event was a fireside chat between 3DS CEO Cam Houser and Michael Girdley, a venture capitalist and entrepreneur. Michael shined the light onto exactly how investors think, and what is needed to get into a top accelerator.
Regarding the latter, Michael laid out 3 categories of accelerators. There are the upper crust, such as Y Combinator, Tech Stars and others, which are highly competitive and regularly crank out game changing companies. Just below the top accelerators are a mid tier: good accelerators that invest, but might not have hit any huge successes yet.
At the bottom, according to Michael, is a category of accelerators that invest no capital in startups they accept, yet still take equity, and often haven’t helped any startups launch. Michael sees this bottom category as one to avoided at all costs.
Saturday night wrapped up with “3DS University of Awesome,” a 3 Day Startup parody dedicated to pitching the worst conceivable ideas for companies, with a trophy dedicated to the worst of the worst. We would tell you who won, but we’re afraid someone would steal their idea.
Day 3 was dedicated to understanding the essentials of launching a crowdfunding campaign, design thinking, and how to land on your feet if your startup fails.
The day began, however, with a history of the organization, presented by Cam Houser. This was a tribute to people and places that have impacted 3DS over the first 8 years, as well as interesting little tidbits, such as how Texas A&M always wins football games that take place during a 3DS. A&M staff have since become superstitious about planning a 3DS on a weekend that does not overlap with football.
The crowdfunding panel offered an alternative to angel investors, accelerators and/or rich parents. Dana Callender and Nico Gendron gave a rundown on how to launch a successful crowdfunding campaign. “90% of the work, from filming a quality video to finding your funders, is done before you ever log onto kickstarter or indiegogo,” said Dana, who has been involved with launching campaigns that succeeded, as well as some that fell short.
The design thinking workshop, led by Professor Andy Zimbroff of University of Nebraska and Nina Ho of University of Texas, offered a hands-on exercise on human-centered design. Participants were paired up, then designed a wallet based on empathy-centered discussions about the needs of their partners. The wallets were as varied as the people: no two were alike.
The empathy component of human-centered design is essential, in that we remove our assumptions and experience from the process in an attempt to see things more fully from the user’s experience.
The purpose of the Global Roundup was to bring the collective imagination, intellect and creativity of the 3 Day Startup network together. The startup experience is, in many ways, the story about a founder’s ability to connect to, empathize with, and inspire those around them. Talks by successful founders often end up as tales of strong-willed individuals who persevere through challenges to turn fiction into reality. Lost in these stories is the essential role of the network, of all the people with whom the founder toiled to launch their company. The Global Roundup was meant to bring these people together. And as the world grows smaller, an ability to make connections throughout the world is increasingly necessary. Every year, stories are becoming more common about serendipitous and fruitful encounters between 3DS participants, even when continents separate them. One year from today, these stories will be more common still.