One of the biggest motivators for mentors to give up their precious time over the course of a weekend is a genuine desire to pay it forward. Almost all of the mentors mentioned at some point over the weekend how much mentoring they themselves had received. As I noted before, some of the mentors are Startup Weekend Alums who feel a particularly strong attachment to this intense lean-thinking weekend structure because it helped them launch their own startups: Kevin Adler (Alumn.us), Liam Don (ClassDojo), & Justin Su (GoalBook).
The other amazing mentors–Randy Weiner, Corey Reid (Mastery Connect), Scott Rutherford (UserVoice), David Straus (Kno), Eli Luberoff (Desmos), Lorraine Akemann (Moms With Apps), Ush Patel (Bright Star Apps), Dan Carroll (West Denver Prep), Ashar-Hashmat Khan (Agnitis), David Bill (Urban School of San Francisco), and Alan Loule (ImagineK12)—gave generously of their time and expertise as well.
Networking is one obvious reason mentors participate but certainly not the only one. I’d also argue that the connecting that happens among mentors is deeper and more authentic than most networking opportunities. Helping others brings out the best in people. The conversations naturally focus around best practices, and we all learn from each other. It helps to know that other entrepreneurs have or are facing similar challenges, to share lessons learned, to provide sanity checks.
There’s also an energy that pervades these weekends—it’s incredible that a large group spends 54 hours creating solutions that will improve education, while learning how to start a business. For some mentors it’s almost a nostalgia to return to their own early startup days that appeals to them. These events also serve to recharge. I know I’m returning home with renewed commitment and verve, though I’ll probably need a day or two to catch up on some sleep before I’m in full mode!
The teacher part of me loved seeing how much learning took place this weekend—in education terms the experience is truly differentiated. People come in at various levels of expertise and readiness and they all experienced growth—what more could a teacher ask?