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Sarvnaz Taherian is a doctoral candidate in Psychology at the University of Auckland. Her area of research is in systems training and usability, as well as conceptual modelling of assistive technology adoption and adherence. She is also the usability researcher at Thought-Wired – a company that is developing a tech-assistive solution for people with severe physical impairments that’s controlled by the electrical activity of the brain. 

I’m currently part of a social enterprise accelerator programme called “The Launchpad” by Akina Foundation, and our mentors highly recommended that we attend Start-up Weekend. I was hesitant but decided to sign up anyway. I spent the whole of last week complaining about how I was going to miss out on a weekend- but by golly, it was well worth it.

Start-up weekend basically swallows you up whole and spits you out into a hyper-focussed, high intensity dimension of functioning and thinking. It enabled me to explore topics and mind frames that I can’t access in everyday life.  For others that I spoke to, it enabled them to reignite lost passions and to get a taste of what is involved in developing business ideas and the highs and lows of entrepreneurship.

The first night, and half of the second day, my team members and I were on an absolute high. We were heads down bottoms up into our business validation, feeling pretty good about ourselves. Little did we know that what we were experiencing was actually the “peak of inflated expectations”. There were massive holes in our business model. We couldn’t validate half of our model, and the business was going to leave us broke. We couldn’t figure out how to pivot and this sent us plummeting into the “trough of disillusion”. The mentors were incredibly helpful, and through Socratic questioning, they helped us come up with other ways of validating our business model and creative avenues to fund the business.

We didn’t quite make it over the trough of disillusion but it was still a really great experience. I learned a lot, made some new friends and ate lots of delicious food! I would recommend startup weekend to anyone who wants to step out of their comfort zone, people who are thinking about starting their own business, and those who would like to test alternative ways of thinking/working.


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Jenny Xu