I was intrigued by the concept of Startup Weekend over the last year, Could you really build a startup in 52 hours? Could you bring what started out as a shower thought through to assembling a team and building it out. That didn’t sound possible, too many unknowns. What idea?, Who would be on the team?, what happens when conflict or issues arise?
With that in mind, finally the timing worked in my favour to actually participate in Startup Weekend. My role was that of a mentor, helping to guide newly formed startups through the journey of bringing their idea to life over a weekend.
For those that are considering attending, just do it, you will undoubtedly benefit from the experience. Here are 4 areas that will help you get the most out of the weekend.
1. Pitch Clearly & Loudly
This seems obvious, but there are a number of times you may end up communicating your idea on stage to others. The key one being the initial pitch with lots of others, half the attendees may end up pitching their idea to gain votes on the opening night. Great ideas can get lost purely because they can’t be heard. Hold the mic to your chin and speak outwards. Simple advice but it will help your idea be understood.
If your idea garners enough votes, you will then pitch quickly again, but this time requesting team members. Again speak clearly about what skill-sets you compliment your idea. Finally you will pitch on the big stage at the end of the event. This time you are showcasing how your idea has come to life. Having practised your pitch numerous times, you will communicate clearly and loudly to a wider audience for whom this may be the first time they’ve heard your idea.
2. Organise & Plan for Focus
Having assembled your team, take the time to get to know one another. What their background is, where their interests lie, what role they can play in the team. This will give you a better sense of what can realistically be achieved. Ideally you want to demo something, and understanding what can be built within that short time span is important. In order to being that idea to MVP, you will need validation from potential customers – getting that insight back to the team to agree on what direction, features and product development.
The trick here is that you may need to work on overlapping areas at the same time, communicating regularly with your team makes this easier. This can be in the form of regular standup meetings or similar to keep focus something. A good idea is to start developing your slide deck early, even using that as the basis to keep notes. You will have a maximum of 5 minutes to pitch, so developing this early and keeping it focused will increase your chance of winning. You will want to familiarise yourself with Ed from Clearpreso advise on pitching.
3. Make Connections
There are a wide range of clever people throughout the weekend, make it your business to introduce yourself. Their network can become your network, and that could include established startups, VC’s, sources of funding, incubation managers, talent spotters and other influential people.
Personally I met with a range of clever folk who I would love the opportunity to work with at some stage. It sounds strange, but expanding your network outside of people similar to yourself is probably the greatest aspect to Startup Weekend and many previous attendees have commented on how this has been a rewarding experience for them.
4. Pushing Your Comfort Zone
A common theme over the weekend was the perspective changing aspect it brought to many attendees, especially those who have that startup itch but are working in a different capacity right now. There are so many amazing aspects to pushing your comfort zone a little that you feel massively empowered by that change and the opportunity that presents.
Going a little outside your comfort zone, you will find that it wasn’t such a big deal in the first place. Just by attending your are pushing yourself, but you can go further – do things you normally wouldn’t.
The Next One?
As a first timer, I was massively impressed with the whole weekend. The organisation to make such a large event run so smoothly is down to the incredible hard work from the team, sponsors and volunteers.
Photo credit: Day In Life of Storytelling Photography