What we learned having startups work in a Moroccan surf town for a month


In March 2015, we had four Europeans startups work and live together in a seaside house in a Moroccan surf village. Needless to say we learned a lot during this experiment. Here are the takeaways and what we decided to do with them.

 
 

When we opened the door of The Blue House on March, 2nd, we defined our Month-long program as an hybrid program somewhere between an accelerator, and a coworking space “whose goal was to accelerate startups’ growth by helping them enhance their work routine and vision rather than their business skills.”

Concretely it meant hosting a batch of startups from all around the world in a great house with a full cleaning and cooking service, activities to share their knowledge and help each other, and dinners with inspiring guests.

 
Barbecue night with ex-lawyer Sally Clarke, and former Atlassian (Hipchat) developer Dick Wiggers

Barbecue night with ex-lawyer Sally Clarke, and former Atlassian (Hipchat) developer Dick Wiggers

 

Participants had the chance to chat with an Australian corporate lawyer turned yogi, a hippy-sleeping-underneath-the-Eiffel-Towel turned Accel-backed entrepreneur, and a successful Moroccan entrepreneur to name a few. The teams also frequently met to share their advancement and their goals, and see how they could help each other.

 
During a weekly review 

During a weekly review 

 

Lunches and dinners on the rooftop were must-joined moments during which they chatted about the latest articles they’ve read or a passion they have, while eating the healthy meals our Moroccan cook prepared.

Participants also take time to do some surfing, sight-seeing or shopping at the souk. Believe me, there’s nothing like desperately trying to stand on a board to bring people together.

 
A victorious bunch

A victorious bunch

 

And, it worked exactly as we hoped it would.

Maria Richardsson and her team came to work on Nordic Design Collective’s global expansion strategy. They finally found the time and the space to think about how to share the mission and the value of their design market place, and think about the long term. But they also came up with unexpected realizations:

We worked more than usual but felt more relaxed. I realized our level of stress is not related to the amount of hours we work.

For Achille Pinson from EdTech startup Everlearn, the goal was to come up with a new direction for his upcoming third fundraising. It was also a great occasion to push the reset button. "When you grow a startup, you tend to have a terrible lifestyle," he explained, "Taghazout is the perfect place to go back to a healthy lifestyle."

Hugo Lepetit came with a different goal. Having left the startup he cofounded, Blackbird now Jam, he came to think about what he wanted to do next. And the settings worked well for him:

The sound of the waves and the discussion we’re having is helping to chill down and take step back.

It was truly amazing to see our vision come to life and how much the startup evolved in a month. Still we’ve found ways to make it better.

 
That view...

That view...

 

We realized that, because we had an amazing rooftop, and a great cook, people spent more time than we expected in the house, which means that we need a bigger house. So we decided to move to the next village to get a bigger house with a garden. This village is not on the seaside but has great view of the sea and is only 5 minutes driving distance from the charming village of Taghazout and its cafes. We’ll share pictures of the new location in a couple of days.

We also realized that because we took care of everything, participants were not loosing time settling in, and that because they were living, surfing, and eating together, they felt closer and shared faster than we imagined. This means that they don’t need to stay an entire month to get all the benefits of working in a surf town and of sharing with great entrepreneurs. So we decided to switch to two-weeks sessions with the option for booking multiple terms.

 
Spicer's cofounder Hélène Telliez hard at work

Spicer's cofounder Hélène Telliez hard at work

 

Of course this meant we had to change of name. And that’s when it hit me. A lot of people have been comparing us to an artist residence for startups. So I grabbed for the fifth volume of my encyclopedia, and here’s what it read

“Artist-in-residence programs  exist to invite artists, academicians, curators, and all manner of creative people for a time and space away from their usual environment and obligations. They provide a time of reflection, research, presentation and/or production. They also allow an individual to explore his/her practice within another community; meeting new people, using new materials, experiencing life in a new location.”

Sounds familiar, doesn't it? So here it is:

Our Month-Long Program is now our 
Startups-in-residence program.

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We'll be running the program twice in May before taking a break to get ready for our official launch in September. You have until Sunday, 12th of April to apply!

 
 

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