Andrew Hyde of Boulder, Colorado has an impressive list of accomplishments: founder of three startups (two failed, one sold), marathon runner, Ironman competitor, renowned blogger, published author, and host of TEDxBoulder. His greatest achievement, however, is a contribution to the ever-growing Boulder tech community and entrepreneurs around the world. Hyde has simplified the trying process of entrepreneurship by helping entrepreneurs discover if their prototype or idea will flop or flourish in significantly less time than traditional methods.
Hyde founded Startup Weekend, a 54-hour weekend event, during which groups of developers, business managers, startup enthusiasts, marketing gurus, graphic artists and more, pitch ideas for new startup companies, form teams surrounding those ideas, and work to develop a working prototype by Sunday evening.
“It’s all about the idea of coming up with a viable product and testing it quickly,” said Hyde. “Teaching someone how to do that in a day, versus two years of their life, is incredibly valuable.”
His work has been featured in the New York Times, NBC World News, Washington Post, Boston Globe, Daily Mail, and Yahoo!, but his success within the Boulder tech startup scene didn’t start out glitch-free. Post graduation from college, armed with the prestigious moniker, first in his class, Hyde chose to move to Boulder by throwing a dart at a map. With a degree in New Media and Computer Graphics from Johnson and Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island, one would think there wouldn’t be many obstacles that would stand between Hyde and tech startup stardom. But there was one big hurdle—finding a job. “There were no jobs in my field, there were no jobs anywhere,” said Hyde. He was bussing tables before he caught his first break.
“I was in some web development studio, waiting to speak with the receptionist to ask for a job. She hung up the phone and said ‘I can’t believe someone would think we would build them a website for $500.’ I thought, ‘wait, someone would pay $500 to build them a website?’.”
This chance encounter led Hyde to begin his first entrepreneurial adventure. He began building and marketing simple websites at a fraction of the cost of mainstream website developers, however despite his fluency in the language of computer technology, Hyde realized his real talent wasn’t programming or development, it was networking.
“I realized I was the one always connecting people,” said Hyde. “‘Hire this person; this developer could help you with this.’ I thought to myself, why don’t we culturally collaborate on projects like this? Why do we talk about what we want to do, but don’t actually do the work? I became an accidental entrepreneur.”
At the first Startup Weekend, 82 entrepreneurs convened above Boulder’s University Bicycles bike shop and did not leave until they had created a viable business model from the concept that was introduced at the beginning of the weekend. “On Friday we met as strangers, on Sunday we left having created a business together. Now, eight or nine years later, people have co-founded companies together having met at that first event. It’s how I’ve met people like Brad Feld and David Cohen, the co-founders of Techstars, the #1 ranked startup accelerator in the world. It was really the first-ever startup event for the Boulder tech scene.”
Hyde explains that today, Boulder is one of the top five tech centers in the country, if not the world, that people look at when they’re considering relocating; however Boulder was not always the tech mecca it is today. “In the past nobody ever moved here to be a part of the Boulder tech scene,” said Hyde. “Now, people know Boulder. I’ve been to 75 countries, and everyone I meet around the world asks where I’m from. When I say Colorado, they say, ‘Boulder?’”
Startup Weekend has gained international recognition. It is in 161 countries, has over 193,000 alumni community members, and has held more than 2,900 events to date.
“We just had Startup Weekend in Bhutan, Cuba, and Mongolia,” said Hyde. “I think entrepreneurship is a universal language. Everyone’s been exposed to it, everyone has aspirations to be bigger and better—it’s a concept that works everywhere.”
Few other cities are churning out new and innovative companies at the same rate as Boulder. “You walk down the street and see entrepreneurs collaborating and being helpful toward one another,” said Hyde. “Boulder has a unique flavor; a mix of environmental consciousness, entrepreneurial spirit, and worldwide thinking. Boulder is full of people that love what they do personally and professionally.”
Few can argue Boulder is not a city of entrepreneurs. “I think it relates from how we were founded as miners, to how we’ve developed,” said Hyde. “Boulder shouldn’t be an international start-up scene, but it is. We average an IPO every year, which is insane. There’s nowhere per capita that’s near that.”
Hyde, who sold Startup Weekend to a non-profit, is continuing to maintain his status as a thought leader through new projects. He recently returned from a two-year trip around the globe with only 15 items in his possession, and wrote a book about it. Most recently, Hyde is gearing up to host TEDxBoulder for the sixth year.
The talks this year are themed, Rules and Renegades, and are devoted to ideas worth spreading. With the founding of Startup Weekend and Startup Week, and serving as host to TedxBoulder, Boulder Ignite, and Boulder Startup Week, Hyde has fostered the spread of thousands of ideas in Boulder and around the world.
I asked Hyde, is there a limit to the influx of startups the Boulder community can support? “You’ve seen the entire Colorado startup scene explode in the last couple years. There is much needed class A office space, so you’ve seen the spread to Denver, Colorado Springs—even the mountains. Aspen has an accelerator, Telluride has one. Colorado is truly an entrepreneur’s state.”
Whatever your passion, and however big or small the project, Hyde encourages entrepreneurs to take action, despite the risks. “Entrepreneurship offers the highest highs, and the lowest lows,” said Hyde. “There’s huge responsibility in owning a business, and you can never fully understand it until you are in the entrepreneur’s shoes.”