My Story of Startup Weekend “DAO”

A DAO before DAOs

Li Jiang
3 min readSep 8, 2021

In 2013–2014, my friend Mike and I created a startup documentary called Ympact, now with three million views.

This is a small snippet of my story:

We met at a Startup Weekend. At that same Startup Weekend, I met a few of my best friends in life. What makes it special is the intense 3-day experience of building something together.

The Startup Weekend that started it all

Later, Mike and I spent around $10,000 each out of pocket to start Ympact to travel to 7 major startup hubs and filming/editing the documentary. We never made anything from it other than the recognition.

Startup Weekends are 100% community run 3-day hackathons from Friday night to Sunday night.

There have been more than 7,000 Startup Weekends, done by 19,000 volunteers. They’ve held Startup Weekends in 150 countries and 428,000 people have participated in them.

None of the 19,000 people who ever organized a startup weekend was ever paid. At the time when I was organizing in 2014, each attendee actually had to pay $100 just to be able to join.

I became one of those 19,000 volunteers — for a different Startup Weekend And at this Startup Weekend that I organized, I met Sydney Lai, who later became a core member of many Ethereum communities including MetaCartel.

Brett, Sydney and I organizing a Startup Weekend

There are enough passionate people in the world who would spend 6+ weeks to plan a Startup Weekend: you need to find the venue, find sponsors, do marketing, and tackle all of the event logistics like attendee management, judging, food, etc.

What Startup Weekend doesn’t have was incentives or pay of any kind. It was a purely traditional non-profit organization.

What it does have though is a very organized playbook that lets any volunteer pick up and start organizing a Startup Weekend event.

In fact, it was fully permissionless.

There was a central core team, but no one from the central team needed to approve a Startup Weekend event.

Startup Weekend got sold to Techstars later on, but back in 2013–2014 when I was organizing, they had even less structure and resources that you see on their website. All they told you was “here’s the general format, go organize.”

Why does this work? Because their core mission was to get people together to try startup ideas. And that’s what people wanted — a sense of community, potential co-founders, and building together.

This mission attracted some of the most amazing people I have ever met. The person who organized the first one I attended was this amazing person named Mandela who has since gone on to become a force in the startup world.

Left to right: Me, Mike, Mandela and other community organizers

What Startup Weekend also did not have was a platform for people to continue building on Startup Weekend. Imagine if they did and all those 19,000 organizers can keep building. Even still, I’m sure at least 1,000 if not more startups were created because of Startup Weekend either directly or down the line.

There are those 19,000 people in the world who would do all the work of organizing a Startup Weekend expecting and getting no compensation because they want to be part of the startup ecosystem and community.

There are just as many if not more people now interested in blockchain. Our goal is to use our resources to give this group of people more resources to go beyond and do even more now in the blockchain context. Here’s to the next 10,000 builders!