3 Day Startup – An analysis of Ass Kicking

Last weekend (2 to 4th of November) I was at 3 Day Startup Lisbon, an event that has been making the rounds around the globe and was brought to Lisbon (Porto and Coimbra had already had one) by the folks from the Entrepreneurs Break and TEC- Técnica Entrepreneurship Club. It was a hot & sexy weekend for entrepreneurship in Lisbon, with at least another event directly competing with 3DS Lisbon.

I’ll make very clear that I’m no expert on the matter, but from what I’ve seen, the general atmosphere at 3DS Lisbon was second to none. From what we know of previous other entrepreneurship bootcamps, courses, seminars, conferences and masterclasses, 3DS Lisbon got some very real enthusiasm from its participants. The end, especially, was beautiful, with people saying goodbye and just sticking around and extending the weekend as much as possible.
In other events this is not always the case, or at least not in the same proportion.

Now, why all of this? Why the enthusiasm? Why people that are used to these things still told us 3DS kicked more ass than others? What is the recipe?
What follows is my interpretation:

1 – 3DS Lisbon is an experience, not a course.

3 Day Startup lasts three days, helps create multidisciplinary teams and strives to result in some prototypes. There are no lectures, reading materials or even a curriculum. 3DS will not teach the same thing to everybody, but will create good conditions for good work to sprout.

People who sign up for 3DS are not doing it to pad their CVs with “Entrepreneurship” as a skill. Of course they can do that, but I think that is not their main goal with 3DS. Actually, most people I asked said they signed up to meet people, not necessarily to start the next challenge of their lives. Surely seeds were planted, though.

2 – 3DS caters to an informal audience

This is a fortunate match, 3DS and Entrepreneurs Break, known for their non-bullshit attitude and even slightly defiant attitude towards giant egos and entrepreneurial cliques. 3DS is exceedingly flat and there are no formalities holding people back. Hell, we had DJs and wine and not just for the last day.

Being informal leads to a relaxed atmosphere, with no wasted energy in politics and ass-kissing. This, in turn, creates openness to discuss things that could otherwise slip under the radar. Also, and this is important: it encourages everybody to participate. At some more formal situations it is common to see more extroverted or accomplished people taking a lead (this is to be expected and does move things forward) and shy people having little opportunity to participate. Not at 3DS, I felt.

3 – 3DS is compressed in time

3DS only has a starting and a finishing date. And in three days, there are no other scheduled moments. You are expected to manage your work and while you have to upload pitch decks at two determined moments, you are free to do as you want. If you have read “the makers schedule” Here, you will understand the value of this. Furthermore, group dynamics go under some stretching with people that had never seen each other working really hard to achieve something. People were quick to notice not just the skills but also the quirks and personal traits that come up at 2am.

All of this makes for a wider spectrum of emotions, not so available on “9 to 5” classes. 3 Days in a row are better than 5 separated ones, I feel.

Summing up:

It all depends on what you want to achieve with the events you create and participate in, but for the positioning of the Entrepreneurs Break, 3DS is a great recipe. Keep it short, agile, intense and loose and people will rise to the occasion, partner in unlikely ways and build the foundations for real greatness.