The first Start Up Weekend Women in Hamburg is now over. It might have changed the way we think, it might have helped us meeting the right people, it might have empowered us or something totally different. Since this is a very personal experience I asked Marina, one of the participants and team member of the winning team, comate.me to share with us how she experienced the Start Up Weekend Women in first person. I got a pretty long reply, which I believe could help future participants to have an insight about what really happens at a Start Up Weekend.
Thanks Marina and congratulations to your team.
I recently got back from a trip where I did lots of surfing and I feel like attending a startup weekend is kind of like standing on a surfboard for the first time: You either get hooked and want to go again and again or you simply say: “check, moving on, it’s too much work”. Well, I am definitely the former type of person and this was not my last start-up weekend, that’s for sure!
The funny thing is I almost did not go because I was super exhausted and annoyed after a crazy fight with my roommate on Friday. What a difference that would have made.
As mentioned, I am a complete startup weekend newbie, I was familiar with the concept but was not quite sure what to expect. Are there going to be any good ideas? Will I find a team that fits? And are we going to be able to come up with something remotely presentable?
The answers are: yes, yes and YES!
Friday evening was dedicated to some intro, networking and obviously the pitches. Some of the ideas I thought were simply amazing, some not so much. After the planned 30 pitches were over our wonderful host Ümit managed to talk three more girls into going up and spontaneously pitching their idea. So I am watching this girl Laura, very charmingly pitch an idea for a platform that is supposed to find the perfect roommate for everyone, and think to myself (remembering my own roommate issues): this is awesome, I need to be part of this.
The next 30 mins were spent teaming up. You don’t have much time to discuss and figure out what everyone is good at. Therefore I went with my gut feeling from before and joined Laura’s team. We ended up being 8 people from very diverse backgrounds: Developers, Mathematicians, Maritime Technology students, Designers, Marketeers. You name it – we got it. Working with such a big group can be exhausting at times but at the same time means that you get a lot of different angles on certain problems, which was definitely a plus.
By the time we started working it was around 11 PM, which gave us 41 hours until the final pitch and all we had so far was the idea. That meant: work, work and more work with very little sleep in between. You need to define your product, your target group, get feedback, figure out how to ever make money with the product and how to put it out there. On top of that you are preferably supposed to build a prototype and then squeeze all the information into a 3 minute presentation. Sounded pretty impossible to me at 11PM Friday night, to be honest.
Thankfully we had lots of help from different mentors, most of them experienced entrepreneurs, who jumped in with critical questions where needed or suggested things we had not thought about before. And somehow by the time we were supposed to present on Sunday afternoon, we actually had a great concept and a very cool presentation in my opinion. Thanks to our designers Caro and Dennis for building such beautiful mock-ups and putting all the information together so neatly.
When it was time to pitch (Laura and me presented) I was actually pretty nervous. However, everything went fairly smoothly, Laura naturally got the crowed hyped up, I managed to get through the 3 minute Q&A without any major mess-ups and the feedback afterwards was simply overwhelming. When we sat back down I was pretty positive we would win something. Turns out both Jury and Crowd agreed, since we received first the crowd- and then even the overall prize. We were ecstatic.
The rest of the night was dedicated to lots of congratulations, more networking and finally some well-deserved Gin and Tonics before I finally went home sometime early Monday morning to get my much needed sleep.
Things I take away after the weekend:
-When selecting the idea and your team, go with your gut. You won’t really know if it is going to work out before you actually get to work anyway.
–Use the opportunity to network! Organizers, mentors, judges, fellow participants. I made so many valuable contacts, I would never have made had I not participated.
-Working with people you don’t know can be a challenge. Clarify expectations and put down team rules in the very beginning.
–No pain, no gain. Criticism from mentors and tension in the team are part of the experience and show that everyone is very passionate. Work through the downs and get back on track.
-Most importantly: Even during stressful situations, try to keep the fun in it. “Shake it off” if you need to – we did a few times!
I know this has been said a lot of times on Sunday, but I feel like it can’t be said enough: thank you so much to all the wonderful organizers! You made everything seem so effortless, were always approachable and simply a pleasure to be around. I am glad there are people out there like you guys who put in lots of time, sweat and tears to make sure events like these happen!
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