This is the story of iWeekend from my perspective. It all started in November 2007. I had proposed this new event on my blog and just announced on the 2nd of November that we will be organizing the first event within 4 weeks. On the 6th of November, I announced the name: iWeekend. On the 12th of November, we launched our first website. By the 19th of November, we were a team of 5 organizers. People were registering on the website without knowing the venue. Just one week before the event, we finalized the venue and on the 30th of November 2007, the first iWeekend kicked off in Barcelona. Such was the excitement and passion we had created in the tech community that Microsoft and Sun Microsystems decided to sponsor just 3 days before the first iWeekend.
For me, it was all an excuse to get started myself as a tech entrepreneur. I even presented my idea in the first iWeekend but it didn’t even progress to the second round (there were 3 rounds of voting). However, this event that I had organized got great reviews. Even the idea that we worked upon in that first iWeekend was successful – AdLemons is also celebrating its 6th anniversary.
In 2008, iWeekend was constituted as a nonprofit organization and we organized 3 more events in Spain. By the end of the year, it was clear to me that I had to work on this full time or else people won’t be able to scale it up. 2009 was my first year working full time on this and we organized 13 events in total, 9 of them during the same weekend, thanks to the sponsorship of BBVA. We organized our first international event in Russia and my colleague Claudio Cossio took the event to his home country, Mexico.
In 2010, I took iWeekend to my home country, India. Our first events were in IIM Bangalore and IIM Ahmedabad – two of the most demanding business schools in the world (their rate of admission is less than 1% while the figure for Stanford is about 7% and for Harvard is 12%). That same year, my friend and colleague Olof Nordenstam took iWeekend to the capital of China where he had just moved. iWeekend was growing well and we ended the year with 16 events.
It was in 2011 that the economic crisis began to show. All the funds dried up in Spain and resources became hard to come by. But I kept pushing because I was building up a compelling long-term vision and still learning a lot. 2012 was even worse – while our American rivals had achieved funding and were scaling up, iWeekend almost came to a halt. We only did 10 events last year. I thought we should focus iWeekend on the big problem of unemployment in Spain and in December last year, launched a proposal to stimulate the Spanish economy which was very well received. This year started with a lot of activity and we got this new format tested in 5 Spanish cities several times. Again we couldn’t scale up any further because the funding never came. We are finishing this year with 20 events.
So this is what it looks like in numbers:
2007 – 1 iW in Spain. Total 1 event
2008 – 3 iW in Spain. Total 3 events
2009 – 11 in Spain, 1 in Mexico, 1 in Russia. Total 13
2010 – 8 in Spain, 3 in India, 4 in Mexico, 1 in China. Total 16
2011 – 7 in Spain, 2 in India, 2 in Mexico, 2 in China. Total 13
2012 – 6 in Spain, 2 in India, 2 in China. Total 10
2013 – 17 in Spain, 3 in India. Total 20
Total : 76 events in 6 years (each iWeekend takes about 2-3 months to organize)
Organizers and collaborators: 250+
Ideas presented: 1100+
Projects developed: 200+
Success stories: 30+
The numbers aren’t big compared to other initiatives that have scaled up globally but what’s interesting is the story behind these numbers. All this has been achieved with very few resources and in the middle of the worst recession in Spain, iWeekend’s home country.
When I think of the people who have made an important contribution to iWeekend, many names come to my mind – from Javier Martin and Bermi Ferrer in the initial stages to Vicente Muñoz Almagro and Esteban Rodrigo (who, along with his team, has organized 6 iWeekends this year in Valencia). My sincere thanks to one and all – the organizers of iWeekend who made every event possible, to the larger community who supported and participated in our events and last but not least, to our friends and families for their continued support and faith. Those would be too many names to mention here.
Over the last few years, we have made almost every possible mistake we could make. As the founder and a responsible CEO, I personally take the blame for all that has gone wrong – for what could have been but hasn’t been. iWeekend has absorbed my life for the last 6 years, made me officially bankrupt and after all this value and impact created, the organization is still not sustainable. Entrepreneurship is hard but without sufficient resources, it is infinitely harder. And in such circumstances, the most difficult thing to manage has been my own psychology. Thank goodness we have Ben Horowitz to explain the torture: Managing your own psychology is the most difficult CEO skill.
At first, I thought it was just me. I went inward to search for answers and meaning. But I slowly realized that it was also the ecosystem. As entrepreneurship boomed around the world, in Spain it was embraced by politicians as the way out of the crisis. Everyone jumped in to support the entrepreneurs. Even the government and established institutions started their own initiatives in support of entrepreneurs with total disregard for the ecosystem. The result is a lot of duplicity, misallocation of resources that could be spent more wisely and a lot of people simply ‘riding the wave.’
What does it take for a passionate, persistent and innovative social entrepreneur to build a sustainable organization in Spain and Europe?
Until the Spanish government and big companies do not enable and empower their most innovative entrepreneurs, creating an environment where integrity, talent and innovation are rewarded, the future of this country does not look very bright.
As for iWeekend, the story continues. To survive and become a brand that is built to last, it will have to make its own ideas happen..
Success is fickle but thankfully, creativity is a gift.