Since 2015, Nonagon wanted to establish international partnerships that allow it to support not only the dynamics of the Park itself, but also the companies in the Park and their internationalization efforts acquisition of strategic partnerships, access to other sources of knowledge and assert themselves in new markets.
The Startup Weekend Azores Project, in partnership with the University of Dartmounth (UMass) and Teckstars, is an example of this.
Startup Weekend is a global movement in which potential entrepreneurs have the opportunity to learn the basics of creating Start-ups and launch successful businesses, with the support of experienced professionals. Startup Weekend events can be found in any country - from Mongolia to South Africa, through Canada and Brazil, among others. A Startup Weekend brings together people with business ideas, preferably from different and complementary areas in a 54-hours marathon that runs from Friday to Sunday, where ideas are worked out and concretizing them in business models with the help of experienced professionals in several areas.
In 2019, Nonagon held the 4th edition of this project in S. Miguel.
From this movement successful businesses have been born, for example, Easy Taxy, Zapier, Rover, Haiku Deck, Hydrate, GiftStarter, Swipes, BeardBrand, Foodspotting and Thimble. We believe therefore, that the initiative may contribute, as in other regions, to the development of the entrepreneurial ecosystem, as well as to the generation of jobs and wealth in the Region.
The winning team of the competition is provided with a Learning Tour, which is organized by the team of mentors and professors from the University of Dartmounth who participates in Startup Weekend Azores.
For a week, the winning team of the 2018 edition, PlayAzores, was confronted with innovative projects in different areas of knowledge. PlayAzores had the opportunity to visit a self-sustaining farm and at the same time a community learning laboratory. The team also visited in the agri-food area, two breweries with two different business models: one familiar and the other with scale, as well as a gastronomic incubator. In terms of business support infrastructures, they visited co-work spaces, cultural cooperatives and also the entrepreneurship and innovation center of UMass and resident companies.
As part of the Learning Tour, the winning team also met successful emigrant entrepreneurs, such as Fernando Benevides from Portugália Marketplace and Tony Soares from Inner Bay Café. A visit was also made to a sewing and confectionery factory owned by the family Merrow for 7 generations, which is in a moment of consolidation of its innovation and repositioning strategy in the market segment where it operates. This initiative made it possible for these young people to explore an ecosystem of different innovation, signal new business models, empower mentors and possible concrete business partners.
During this visit, we had contact with some startups, established companies and companies in a growth process. We were also given the opportunity to meet entrepreneurs, teachers and professionals in their respective areas, which gave us a little insight into the business opportunities we can have, if we have the right tools and people to guide us. All the visits were enriching, but I have to highlight some that marked me a lot on this learning tour:
Round The Bend Farm - for the contact we had with nature in its pure state;
Merrow Manufacturing LLC - due to the owner's entrepreneurial spirit, he “ignited us” with his desire to do better and create opportunities;
South Coast Entrepreneurs Collaborative - although we saw very little of the conversation, we could see two entrepreneurs sharing their experience and giving us tools to succeed;
CIC Boston - for the magnificent work environment and all the support given to startups that are there;
Harpoon Brewery - for the fantastic guided tour they gave us at their factory.
We return home with the tools and contacts necessary to be able to do a good job and also evolve as people and professionals.
A Dream of Travel
I confess that a trip to the USA was never at the top of my list of priorities, at least not until that November 18th, when in the Nonagon amphitheater it was heard “the winning team of Startup Weekend Azores 2018 is Play Azores!”. I did not create high expectations. I simply let myself be carried away by the moments. And what moments! What better end to a trip to America than a real lesson on the American Dream? And deceive anyone who thinks that the American Dream is served only in its more traditional way. There is also but not only!
The Traditional Dream.
The one who took millions to a land where life would be better and with more opportunities. Many Azoreans set off towards Uncle Sam's lands with that purpose. We met Mr. Fernando Benevides, who told us his life story. From the dream that started as a continuum at the University of the Azores and remains alive today in its Portugalia Marketplace. A story with a lot of determination and a lot of calculated risk, which would be useless without your enormous business skills.
Only within reach of those whose vision is much greater than Man. What appeared to be a traditional sewing machine company, revealed in its 8th generation of the family a unique approach to business. Some call them lunatics! Wearables are the company's big bet, but the Merrow brothers don't stop there. His dream includes transforming the block where the company is located in a sharing space for the local community. And speaking of community…
A Dream of Community.
Round the Bend Farm's dream. As they claim they are a living laboratory that cultivates, educates and trains people of all ages.
We were able to test it with our own eyes! The atmosphere that is breathed in this farm is of remarkable courage. They test, validate and teach more sustainable ways of building, cultivating, creating or even relating.
Dream the Future.
A future where vocation is a necessary condition for us to be happy. That is the motto of the technical school Diman, a high school where teachers and students have one thing in common. That little sparkle in your eyes only within reach of those who take pleasure in what they do every day. A simple and logical system for organizing courses and classes, and an investment in technology and human resources to make you blush with shame. The most beautiful collection of 3D printers I've ever seen! There was much more to say about this trip and about all the dreamers we met. Americans' patriotism is admirable. I speak of love for your flag, your heritage, your people. That was the real learning of this trip. The passion that Americans put into everything they do. It is this feeling that makes the difference! The difference between the mediocre and the magnificent.
This learning tour, lasting 5 days and destined for the city of Boston and its surroundings, was simply magnificent, for the simple fact that it provided us with a vision of a reality totally different from what we are used to. For a project that is evolving this learning tour was something that enabled the acquisition of new ideas and the adaptation of existing ideas to a different reality.
It was possible to make several contacts that we will certainly use in the future, we had contact with several professors from UMass, which will facilitate or open many ways.
It was an incredibly enriching experience for the simple fact that this learning tour didn't cover specific areas, but also related areas, in addition, it also provided us with constant contact with great people who managed to build incredible businesses!
Throughout the week, we visited several companies directly related to the area or indirectly related. On the second day, the visit to Round The Bend Farm, a self-sustaining farm, simply magnificent. On the fourth day, visiting Merrow Manufacturing LLC, the owner provided us with a guided tour telling the various ideas he had for the future of the company. On the last day, the visit to Boston, to CIC Boston, incubator with immense quality and very pleasant space!
We were very intrigued by a possible incubation at CIC Boston, as this incubator has all the necessary conditions to make a company grow.
In conclusion, this learning tour was incredible, it was possible to make a lot of contacts, discover a different reality and meet brilliant people, it will obviously be an experience to remember.
This was in fact a unique experience where the possibility of knowing and experiencing a context of entrepreneurial or simply entrepreneurial development in a reality like that of the United States and in such a close way, brings us a wide range of unique examples, justifications and knowledge.
The range of on-site contacts and their diversity has in general proved to be of great interest. I can highlight CIC - Boston, a co-work space where the advantages of the dimensions and intense dynamics of the development of a business idea and the advantage of the proximity of other companies in their acceleration were realized. On the other hand, a refreshing project like Round the Bend Farm, is a good example of the important investment that is education and sustainability for your community and for the future of our generations.
This “tour” revealed the importance of perceiving and knowing the markets in which we operate and for us the opportunity for contact bridges to enable participation and access to a global market that in many cases is impossible to reproduce in our local context. And in my view the great importance for the education and contextualized formation of a community for the local economic development even if from there it can be reached and affirmed a more global space.
The fact that Nonagon, through UMass, enables an experience at this level is undoubtedly a bigger contribution to the creation of new routes and opportunities to take on this development in the particular context of the Azores islands.