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What if I don’t have an idea to pitch – can I still come to Startup Weekend?

Emphatically YES!!!

Some people have dozens of ideas for businesses and products, others don’t really have any (or so they think… but we’ll get to that). But many times the “Idea Person” isn’t the “Get It Done Person”. Also, not every idea is a good idea. Someone on the team needs to be the person who codes out the prototype… who get’s out of the building and elicits feedback from potential customers… who figures out how much it really is going to cost to build, market and sell the product. That person can be you!

How do you find an idea to pitch? Easy… look around you! There are dozens of pain points people deal with every day… hundreds of inconveniences. Each of those “problems” is a potential business idea waiting to be launched. So, over the next several weeks, pay close attention to the world around you. What problem can you solve with a better… or faster… or cheaper solution?

What happens if my project doesn’t get voted to be worked on during Startup Weekend?

Let’s back up for a moment and explain how a pitch gets voted to be worked on during Startup Weekend. On Friday night, we will start with some interesting talks and an opportunity to break the ice with your fellow Weekenders. Then, we will move into the Pitch Fire session.

During Pitch Fire, anyone can pitch an idea to the crowd and not everyone has to pitch. Those who choose to pitch have 60 seconds to do so – no slides, no props – just you and your passion for the idea (we will post what makes a good pitch at a later date). Once everyone who wants to pitch has done so, the organizers will allow a big block of time for the crowd to mix and network to hear more about the ideas that were pitched. All participants will get three votes to use. They can use them all on one project or split them among several projects. As the networking session goes on, the organizers will begin eliminating those projects that are not receiving enough votes. Typically, by the end of the voting session, there will be 10-15 projects that will move into the weekend.

So, what if your project doesn’t get selected? First… don’t fret and don’t be discouraged!

Second, walk around and speak to your fellow attendees and find a project that interests you. Join a team where you can be excited by the idea being worked on and you know your skills can help the team be successful. Trust us, you’ll find one or two teams worth joining!

Lastly, keep pitching the idea! Find out why people weren’t interested. Was it the idea or the pitch that didn’t make the cut? Maybe you just didn’t get your message across clearly enough. Is there someone in the crowd that was torn between your project and another project that simply had to pick one? There has been more than one company that has been born out of a failed Startup Weekend pitch.

What if I am not a tech person or business person?

A Startup Weekend team needs all sorts of people to be successful. Personalities and skill sets come together during the weekend to compliment each other and get the project launched.

Maybe you’re the Developer who can blast out lines of code in their sleep? Or maybe you’re the Designer who can make fonts sing an aria with the stroke of a brush? How about the Business expert who can make Excel spreadsheet perform feats of wonder with the click of a mouse? Perhaps you are the Maker who can make MacGyver look like an amatuer just using a box of paperclips and a roll of duct tape. Any and all of these roles are useful to a Startup Weekend team!

Can I bring my current startup idea to Startup Weekend to get it further developed?

This gets treated on a case by case basis, but generally speaking, if the idea has only been marginally explored and developed, you can pitch it at startup weekend. However, if you have a beta version released or you are already making revenue on the product, then the answer is “No!”

The core purpose of Startup Weekend is to bring a new idea to life in a new company… NOT to get free consulting work out of people so you can move ahead with your idea. The best advice we can give is to check in with your Startup Weekend organizers. They can evaluate how far along you idea has been developed and if it can or should be pitched during the weekend. Also, if you do pitch the idea, make sure your team is aware of how far along in development it has come before the event. Honesty and openness is the best policy.

 What if I pitch my idea and someone steals it? Can I get my team to sign a nondisclosure agreement (NDA)?

The standing practice of Startup Weekend is that NDA’s are not allowed at Startup Weekend events. There are a couple of basic pieces of logic that go behind that policy:

First, there is a vast canyon between idea and execution. Your initial idea is probably not going to survive its first contact with customers. In fact, you are probably going to make several iterations on that idea before you ever take it to market. And… there are a ton of things to get done before an idea gets to market. Many ideas die on the vine before ever seeing a storefront. If it were so easy to steal an idea from a 0ne-minute pitch, then maybe that idea isn’t all that novel to begin with.

Second, if you are that concerned about someone stealing your idea, you probably shouldn’t be sharing it. However, we’d bet that by sharing your idea at a Startup Weekend, you will get invaluable input that will help shape the final version of the product and that you will get a lot of help in getting that never ending to do list done. You might even find a cofounder or two who are as passionate about the idea as you are.

So, it is entirely up to you on how you share your idea at Startup Weekend, but there will be no NDA’s.

I want to expose my kids to entrepreneurship – can they attend Startup Weekend?

We have seen pre-teen and teenage kids at Startup Weekend. We’ve even see them pitch to the crowd and get their projects voted into the weekend. So, YES, please feel free to bring you kids to Startup Weekend as a means to learn about entrepreneurship.

With that said, please use some common sense in making this decision. We highly encourage a parent or guardian to attend with any child 16 years old or younger. For older teens, parents can send them alone at their discretion, but we expect them to act like adults and work hard like adults.



Max Harris