Marc Nager: The story of a discrete Unicorn founder / CEO.

Have you ever thought about what it would feel like to be part of the founding team of a high growth venture like Facebook or Starbucks? Now, imagine building something so big, then ‘exiting’ by giving it away to its community without asking for anything in exchange. Well, this is what Marc Nager just did today. It is an important story to know and share, as it should inspire CEOs and Founders of great organizations around the world to build the only thing that really matters: IMPACT.


Every story has its heroes, and today, I’d like to tell you about Marc Nager. Marc grew up in California, in a ski town named Mammoth Lakes.

I did not known Marc at that time, but thanks to Google I have found this photo of him (Go Huskies!) doing what he loved already back then in 1999: Working with a great team (in this case Football)

Fast forward a decade, and Marc ended up with a job in Seattle. 2008 was a tough year, and like many others had to look for other options. He met Clint and Ashley: one would become his co-founder the other will become his wife. None of this would have been possible without Craigslist (another great company, with an under-recognized impact!) but that’s another story (Adam Stelle can also testify :)

Silicon Valley … In Seattle

The famous Startup Weekend HQ (at 510 Lakeside ave in Seattle, staring left to right, Clint Nelsen, Ashley Nager and Marc Nager)

I won’t go into too much detail about the amazing Startup Weekend story (you can get our book on amazon or go on wikipedia), TL;DR: it involves thousands of amazing people. These were great years of pure pleasure, working hard from early till late with only one goal: Scaling Startup Weekend to its full potential!

High growth Unicorn … But as a non-profit.

Marc (center) and the new equivalent of Alphabet for Startup Weekend (Up Global) at the NASDAQ Closing ceremony

Being a CEO is hard, and being the CEO of a non-profit / community-driven organization is harder. Why? because you don’t ultimately control anything: all you can do is lead and inspire. And this is precisely what Marc is amazing at. So many times we would face impossible challenges, and every time you would see a positive Marc stepping in and calmly saying things will be all right. I’ve learned two things from Marc’s management style: Always trust your team and never stop moving forward. I remember a time when Marc was stuck in his bed un-diagnosed with a bacterial infection. He would still work and stay positive — we all knew he was hurt but that did not stop him. That kind of stubbornness is rare but that’s what it takes to grow, growing is painful as Ben Horowitz explains it, in the Hard things about hard things.

Under Marc’s leadership, we grew SW and it’s community by more than 10,000% in 7 years! That kind of growth would get anyone excited in Silicon Valley. There is a lesson here: our society pretends to focus on impact and growth, but truthfully the focus is on good old $. Today I’d like to celebrate the impact enforced by his leadership.

Marc, like any CEO, had to make hard choices. The hardest one came last year, when Startup Weekend began to face the limitations of its non-profit model. He made what was, truly, a selfless decision by choosing to join forces with TechStars to offer the community a home and, more importantly, a sustainable future.

Giving back to the startup weekend community, one last time…

Today Marc announced that he has ’passed the beaker’ one last time, closing this amazing entrepreneurial story. Why is no one talking about it? Because he just wanted to share it with few people in the Startup Weekend community. None of Startup Weekend’s success would have been possible without the help of thousands of volunteers, and that’s who Marc wanted to share his departure with.

But at least for today I’d like to celebrate the leaders around the world that Marc symbolizes: The ones that rather work and get sh*t done rather of the ones seeking spotlights. Marc does not like to talk about himself. I hope he will forgive me for writing these few lines. But as we celebrate success in the startup community, so should we celebrate Startup Weekend. Here is the text Marc shared with the community:

Back to the Entrepreneurial Journey… In Telluride.

Joining TechStarts as an EIR and leading Telluride Venture Accelerator is just the beginning for Marc, and I can’t wait to see the impact he will build there. Also, stay tuned for more amazing success stories from Techstars and Startup Weekend — we’re a wonderful growing family, and if you read this post, and still have never been to a Startup Weekend, don’t wait and attend the closest one ASAP!

To build an everlasting impact, never forget to trust yourself; but more importantly trust and empower your community. These are the lessons I’ve learned from Marc Nager, a great founder, CEO and now Startup Weekend Legend! (Also I highly encourage you to go to Telluride! Flying there tomorrow… this will soon be one of the hottest Startup Ecosystem in the nation #staytuned)

— Special Thanks to Adam Stelle for his Frenglish to American English help!