Other parts: part 1
Out of the train I walked the beautiful narrow streets of the old European town to the Hotel Venezzia, facing the biggest square of Trento, Piazza Duomo. It was a favor from TechPeaks to offer me this hotel as a temporary lodging till the end of the month, when the apartments would be available.
The surprise was at the reception, where I found that the room was not a single one, but for two persons. As I learned later, a second roommate was to arrive in some days: not really exciting, but I can handle that.
On the next day I met the TechPeakers — a mix of awesome people from all over the world: Nepal to Jamaica, US to Ukraine. A widest range of characters, backgrounds, hacking/business/marketing/cello playing expertise, and ..names. This was a big challenge for me to memorize all the names, almost impossible at first days. Bianca shares her "secret" technique of memorizing people's names, by the way. Highly recommended.
There are a dozen of Russian-speaking TechPeakers, and it is sometimes tempting to switch from English to Russian and thus limit the circle of conversation, but I got used to speak only English whenever there's any non-Russia&CIS person around.
What's it all about? TechPeaks calls themselves a "people accelerator". And that's different from startup incubator, a hackathon, seed accelerator or whatever else titles you can come up with these keywords.
People — meaning the primary value is in the people, skills, and more, teams they form.
Everyone joined with some strong technical or business background. There are teams and individuals, almost each with some bright ideas for a startup. Techpeaks is the medium, the eco-system where people's talents and ideas are to flourish and give birth to some great business projects.
They provided full support, accommodation, facilities, mentors, connections, opportunities, stipend and multiple chances to win the €25k grant. Some would say this is too much, they're spoiling us, the participants!
TechPeaks brought some amazing speakers on board to share their expertise and technologies. For instance, Amazon and SoftLayer offered a very special sweet bite of their clouds to TechPeakers. Mentors disclosed their secret recipes and got deep into the projects in 1-on-1 sessions with TechPeakers.
One of the important skills I learned here was the way to validate an idea. I missed the Lean Startup Machine classes awaiting for my visa, but Melissa was very kind to introduce the methodology to the latecomers.
Several "bright" ideas that I brought in to launch a "next google" out of each, turned to be irrelevant to what people actually need, and some need pivoting to get to a better direction. Simone from MeTweet has posted about the difficulty of giving up on your (baby) idea and switching to another. Absolutely necessary skill.
The whole gathering reminds me of a pan with a soup: hot boiling, mixing, recombining. A chemical mixture full of free radicals.
Once every two weeks, on Tuesdays, there is a pitching session. Teams present their ideas to the jury, that decides whether the team is valid for the €25k grant.
Only 2 teams out of 10 pitching, won the grant during the first session. Next session there were only 4.
After each session teams that did not get the grant either fall apart, or seek for a new idea. Everyone is wondering around looking for new ideas, opportunities, "pains" that people might have - to solve those.
At the same time there are meetings with research labs of the local university, which are the source of inspiration.
<to be continued>