Monday, 30 July 2012

Europe’s Hope Entrepreneurs

While its politicians dither, startups can take up the mantle of Europe’s economic future.

The news out of Europe only seems to get worse. Each government bond auction and economic data release piles on the bad news, exacerbated by a series of summits that overpromise and under-deliver. Meanwhile, the policy debate is stuck between those who blame government profligacy and those who point to underlying structural problems that plague European economies. These problems include rigid labor markets, dramatic trade imbalances among countries, and, in many places, stagnant industrial production.

Hope, however, springs eternal, and Europe might look for so-called “green shoots” in an organization called Startup Weekend. Over the past few years, this American nonprofit has quietly but quickly overtaken the continent.

Startup Weekend is almost exactly what it sounds like: A 54-hour event during which people compete to form teams and test ideas. On Friday night, attendees take turns making one-minute pitches to the group; following that, teams come together as people choose which ideas they would like to help develop. For the next two days, the teams work as rapidly as they can to build preliminary products, test them in the market (usually by surveys or basic demos), and figure out if they have something viable. On Sunday night, the teams pitch their product to a panel of judges.

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