I first attended Startup Weekend in November 2014, following a suggestion from a friend and previous winner. As an enthusiastic computer science student I had attended numerous hackathons in the past and was immediately struck by the difference in atmosphere. In contrast the highly competitive, 24 hour, energy drink fuelled coding binges I was so used to I found myself immersed in 48 hours of collaboration and positivity.
Startup Weekend attracts a diverse crowd of individuals from a large range of backgrounds, and by the speed at which ideas progressed the advantages of this diversity quickly became apparent. Being from a largely technical background I had little experience of concept validation or customer interaction but the amount I was able to learn about these topics with the help of my teammates was immense.
However, Startup Weekend has proven to be more than just a learning experience for me. I was used to developing software to solve problems that were of interest to me, but following the weekend I had gained insight into how I could apply my skills to produce something meaningful. This inspired me to attend my second Startup Weekend in June 2015 that my team and I won.
Perhaps the best aspect of the weekend is that winning is only one of many indications of success.
Interaction with the coaches as well as the public had not only provided the basis for significant improvement in the concept, but had inspired in us confidence of the real world value in what we had developed.
Events following the weekend moved quickly, and through the contacts we had obtained over the course of the weekend we found ourselves negotiating for the opportunity to be the official provider of mobile applications for Tramlines festival. This provided an entirely different experience, actively seeking out opportunity for our fledgling business. We were successful and over the course of 3 weeks in the run up to the festival we produced mobile applications for iOS and Android that were downloaded almost 3000 times. The enthusiasm we had from our experience at Startup Weekend was vital as we had to dedicate many sleepless nights to development, but the sense of achievement that resulted was incredible.
I think what I managed to achieve in the 3 weeks from the start of Startup Weekend to the start of Tramlines with a team of people I had never met before really is a good example of what the weekend and entrepreneurship generally is about. Working with people you’ve never met before is a very effective way of developing ideas and products to solve problems for people you have never met, and I can’t recommend it enough.
My two Startup Weekends have given me opportunities that would not have otherwise arisen, useful contacts and through my experience following the event an invaluable demonstration of how I can apply my skills (something I have exploited fully whilst applying for graduate schemes). Whether you are at university or not, if you have an interest in gaining experience and progressing your abilities whilst trying to improve the world around you, Startup Weekend is certainly one of the best and most enjoyable ways to get started.