Thoughts on Milan Startup Weekend and why programmers should know some strategy

Last weekend I participated in Milan Startup Weekend and overall it was a really nice experience and a great initiavive. If startup weekend is coming to your city you should go. You will meet lots of like-minded people and although the entire thing was in Italian most people spoke English so don’t be shy if your Italian is not perfect you can still attend.

The idea about startup weekend is not so much work on existing startups as actually showing a real demo that has been made in about 48 hours. This means that the main focus will be on web technologies and rightfully programmers and designers are in highest demand where us with business degree were helping out in terms of strategy, market sizing and marketing ideas.

I really like the concept and I was working on someone’s idea of a social Q & A site for shopping, which I really like. It’s still a work in progress but you can see the site here. Overall, there was a very nice and helpful atmosphere the entire weekend and between working on projects there were guest speakers (Massimo Sgrelli, Raffaele Mauro and Alberto D’Ottavi were most interesting in my opinion).

Since time is the main restraint on building something, many of the ideas will be pretty small features and applications but I like the idea of finishing something managable than start out with some big and time-consuming vision that is unlikely to be realized. It has already been explained that it is becoming cheaper to start web companies and here is an excellent explanation of how disruptive cloud computing is for startups.

However, as the barriers to entry has been significantly lowered  a useful  concept taught in business school today is called the resource-based view comes into mind. The quintessential part of strategy is to create sustainable competitve advantages, and sustainable means that you still kick ass after someone repeatedly tries to copy you, however in order for companies to create these advantages they must do things in ways that competitors cannot easily copy. As anybody can now launch a startup in 48 hours and take advantage of the same tools and technologies (Twitter, Get satisfaction, Amazon web services etc.) the competition shifts to being the best at acquring users and build some a brand as quickkly and effectively as possible. Strategic partnerships e.g. with key suppliers or distribution channels (e.g Groupon if they partner with Yahoo) and finding ways to increase switching costs for users become critical.

Aalthough this is not something that should be the main concern at an event like Startup Weekend it is something that anybody who is thinking about starting a company should spend time on thinking about. If you can launch a live demo in 48 hours so can anybody else and from then on it’s game on about who is able to convince users that they should use your site and not any of your competitiors.

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Posted: oktober 24th, 2010
Categories: Italy, startups
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