John Sechrest – Official Startup Weekend Facilitator at SWBlacksburg


Joining us at Startup Weekend Blacksburg is John Sechrest. He is a global facilitator for Startup Weekend, a co-organizer for Lean Startup Seattle and is the founder of the Seattle Angel Conference. He will be helping both teams and organizers at Startup Weekend Blacksburg to ensure a successful event!

What is your background in relation to startups?
My initial path into startups was when the Internet Service Provider I set up, a training program for students and public, lost its home at the University. I was thrust into running a business privately. After running that business for several years and then selling it for a profit, I spent some time working with a company that needed to spin out products into new companies. After looking at the ecosystem, I saw that there was very little infrastructure to support the creation and growth of startups. This lead me to start working on the pathway from “Idea to Revenue”, which lead to several projects and eventually to becoming the Economic Development Director of Corvallis Oregon.

As the ED, I founded the Willamette Angel Conference, Created the SWOT Business Facilitation program, worked as a Board member of the local Business incubator, and brought many support programs to the area for startups. As a part of my research into startups, I connected with Startup Weekend very early on and was one of the initial advisory board members for Startup Weekend.

I have gone on to found the Seattle Angel Conference, organize the Lean Startup Seattle Meetup and work on workshops for startups in the Seattle area. I am currently working with Founder Training Center to provide online facilitation for startups.

I see startups as a core engine of the next economy. By growing new , healthy startups with new foundations, communities have the opportunity to set the stage for adapting to the rapid changes that we see in the economy.

Why are you excited for Startup Weekend in Blacksburg?
Startup Weekend is a great way to open the door to entrepreneurship. It provides a fast way to move people from discussion into action. That action can have dramatic impact. Blacksburg has an intriguing academic opportunity, but the local economy does not capture as much value out of the academic innovation as it might. By bringing together different parts of the community with the idea of creating new businesses, you create the opportunity for a spark that will start something very significant. I see Startup Weekend as a core piece of the process of developing a robust startup ecosystem. Blacksburg has many of the components already in place. Perhaps Startup weekend can open the conversation up for new collaborations and new opportunities.

What are some success stories you have?
Startup Weekend has plenty of success stories, including Zaarly, Memolane, Foodspotting, Friend Mosaic, Freak’n Genius, and Giant Thinkwell.

Which do you think is most important: the right market, the right product, or the right team?
I think that the team is fundamental. You can have a great product and a bad team and it will go nowhere. But you can have a great team and a mediocre product and do very well.

Startup weekend provides an easy , low cost way to test out teams.

What should you do if you fail?
You do a retrospective, figure out the sharp rocks and hard spots, refactor the information into you ideas and then restart the process and do it again.

As Mark Twain said: “Good decisions come from Experience. And experience comes from bad decisions”