If the phrases “startup accelerator,” “barcamp,” and “foobar” (not to be confused with “fubar”) have little meaning to you, you’re in good company here because until a month or so ago these words were mysteries to me, too. They mostly still are.
They all have to do with a group of people getting together for an unconference in which the participants are the whole show. No keynote speaker and not much structure, but lots of interaction between the attendees, lots of networking, and lots of freedom.
The freedom is epitomized by the two feet rule: “Any time you find yourself in any situation where you are neither learning nor contributing, use your two feet and move to some place more to your liking.” Even if that place is outside the unconference environment altogether.
In the early days (circa 2005), unconferences were generally about hackers getting together to do what they do best, hack. Since then there have been unconferences in hundreds, if not thousands, of cities about subjects as varied as health, art, writing, entrepreneurship, fill-in-the-blank.
What with the freedom and the growing eclecticism of these events, perhaps someday we will come to look at the world as one gigantic unconference. But why be small-thinking about it, how about looking at the universe as one really gigantic mega-tera-google unconference.
Of all the un’s out there, the one I am going to be most familiar with very soon is the Startup Accelerator. This Saturday I will be attending an unconference for entrepreneurs, budding entrepreneurs, and not-yet entrepreneurs, in Appleton, WI. Not only will I be attending but I plan to lead a session on meditation.
Mark Huber, the mainspring behind the SA and its unconferences (number 7 is upcoming), suggested that a meditation session could serve as a recharging station for all the entrepreneurial types present. In one of those coincidences that seem to guide us on our paths, at least now and then, another friend, Dave Brethauer emailed a link to an article in USA Today. The paper reported that entrepreneurs tend to meditate or pray more than the general population.
It could be that praying and meditating are acts of desperation for folks in the risky, stressful, long-hours business of entrepreneurship. Or, it could be that the calming stillness of either practice enables the subconscious to bubble up a whole lot of creativity. Whatever the reasons, this information was a tipping point for me, and I’ve decided to enter the den of entrepreneurs with no more protection than an om or two.
The only concern I have around the event is that the principles of an unconference support folks interacting, talking, sharing, and I’m going to ask them to sit still, shut up, and breathe.
If nothing else the experience should prove to be interesting. Who knows, maybe we’ll all discover that the universe is one humongous unconference.
No doubt I’ll have more to say about this sometime after the weekend.