So, Startup Weekend Redmond happened last weekend. It was hosted by BizSpark on Microsoft’s campus, and heavily branded that way. 14 out of the 15 startups were built using Microsoft technologies  likely because of the $5,000 prize from BizSpark[/edit]. Guess who won the popular vote! The only team that DIDN’T build using Microsoft. They built an iPhone app, a Palm Pre app, and I believe a web app using something other than ASP or Azure. (correct me if I’m wrong) Apparently that team was
disqualified not eligible for the prize money from BizSpark because of that and the prize was given instead to the #2 team. More info can be found on the TechFlash report about Startup Weekend Redmond.
Microsoft/BizSpark got a lot of bad press as a result. Clint Nelson, one of the guys behind of the national Startup Weekend organization posted a blog entry called Sticking Up for the Big Guy. You might want to read that since what follows is basically my response to that article.
Startup Weekend is a great concept. It’s a great community building event where people in the same city interested in the same thing (namely building a startup) get together for a weekend and work together. You get to meet new people, and get to know people better that you’ve already met. But, the fact of the matter is most teams formed at Startup Weekend don’t continue working together on the startup after the weekend is over. So, saying that “we launched 15 startups that otherwise would not exist” is kind of a misnomer. It’s not about the startups that are launched that weekend. It’s about the connections made between the people. Hopefully those people will continue the conversation and partner to form their own startups later.
It’s great that Microsoft wants to support the startup community via BizSpark, but I feel that Microsoft is being disingenuous by only giving an award to a startup that uses Microsoft’s technology at Startup Weekend.
If they want to have their own BizSpark Weekend or whatever, that’s fine. They can run it themselves. They have enough money, they have enough people, they have a big enough marketing budget. Microsoft doesn’t need Startup Weekend to run their own event that is similar that is restricted to building on the Microsoft stack.
“Bizspark is absolutely being crucified for giving us the community exactly what we asked for.” Really? You asked them to disqualify anyone not using Microsoft technology?
In the future, please keep prize money out of Startup Weekend. kthxbye