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How Giving Someone the Bird Sparks a Wave of Innovation, and Community — #SWBayMega

Asking a consumer to love you first is a horrible way to build a business. Disclaimer: I wanted to write this blog post because I wanted to publish @Demo’s photo of Dave McClure flipping off someone in the crowd.

It’s a good thing your mother wasn’t at Startup Weekend Mega. There was a lot of cussing and flipping the bird. Dave McClure, founder of 500 Startups, came to the stage at Microsoft’s Silicon Valley Headquarters, flipped off a room of three hundred people and goaded them into flipping him off in waves of glorious feigned indignation.

Photo courtesy of the folks at DEMO 2012

It sounds like a horrible way to start off the nation’s largest Startup Weekend, to offend so many people, and so righteously. But one of the nation’s most notorious founders of a fund kicked it off just the way you would not want your mother to see it. He cussed at us and extended the longest finger in glorious indignation, in a symbolic sendup of the entrepreneur spirit

The result was a culture mini-hub, and I’ve never seen anything like it up close. People from all walks of life working on apps, games and robots that will revolutionize and create communities. McClure’s injection of the profane was much needed and it gave a healthy kick in the pants to this Pop-up Incubator hosted by the Microsoft BizSpark team, where I start work on Monday.

Products Fix Problems and People Make Products

Michael Hittle, a web marketing professional, came to Startup Weekend to build an app that allows consumers to order their food with out having to wait on a waiter. Not finding a full team to work with him, he shifted to working on an app that helps Project Managers “gamify” project management to keep teams on deadlines.

He said the main takeaway he had from McClure was to embrace challenge. “Get out there and do something and see what happens. Don’t be afraid. Upset people. The more you can shake things up [the better],” says Hittle.

Darwin built an app that tests other apps and makes them work better. They got finished with a smartphone ready beta with 23 hours to go

The least wallflower among us will end up forming great relationships this way, with customers, team members, and with their own product.

A great relationship works through problems, and actually can thrive on solving them.  If you think about it, most people are problem carrying baggage handlers, and if you can stay focused on helping them solve things, you can not only create a connection to them, but you can build them something they are going to love.

The Revolution Will Be Relationships

My takeaway was that the future is in relationships, but you have to head out into the world with a little bit of the profane.

You can’t just swallow what the world is giving you.

Apps will help us build communities. Communities will help us build apps. Communities and people depend so much on technology and apps because the world is freaking hard. It’s not easy

Having a circle of friends and partners you can rely on helps, though. Those communities are nothing but relationships that were formed out of a desire to make things easier.

And when you have these partnerships, you really can’t be stopped.

Michelle Lao is a designer who moved to Silicon Valley to find a job. She said in her startup pitch that she was just a designer with an idea to gamify common everyday tasks so that people can get stuff done. Not 24 hours later, she had a team of seven and growing, complete with Microsoft mentors and designers, developers and two guys who gave up their own startup ideas to help her – Hittle (who I talked about above) and Jonathan Fung.

The app has become an agile project management app that gamified project management to help team members and team leaders provide incentives to keep teams on tasks.

Honestly, nothing creates culture like teams coming together to solve a common problem. These robotics engineers, data people, developers and business minds are different kinds of people. Some of them flew from as far as Hawaii and Alabama, and they represent a demographic of creative minds and rebels who are depending less and less on what messages they see in media to define their role in life. They are making it happen.

They are giving a big middle finger to passive consumption of product, problems and half-baked solutions. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from today’s interactions, it’s that these are people devoted not to just solving one single problem. They are devoted to creating solutions for any problem, as long as it speaks to their existence on the planet.