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I am excited to announce that I am a mentor for this years Startup Weekend Auckland, happening 12th June, and beany.biz is also sponsoring the event. Startup Weekends are 54 hour long events where developers, designers, marketers, product managers and startup enthusiasts come together to share ideas, form teams, build products, and launch startups!

I had the great privilege of judging last years Startup Weekend Auckland, after having been invited to act as a mentor two years ago. Having been involved with 12 startups over the last 20 years, I know the startup phase from the practical business perspective. However, nothing quite prepares you for your first startup weekend where all the energy, research and product build associated with a new business happens – but over one crazy busy weekend with people you may have never met before!

The buzz is very addictive, and one definitely enters into a crazy and exhilarating world with startups, but to be clear, everyone who helps with one of these weekends, from the food preparation to the final judges, all do so on a voluntary basis.

The  Startup Weekend Process

So what can you expect when you enter a startup weekend?  On Friday evening, about 80 participants meet up with the mentors and organisers for a quick drink and chat before the pitches begin – any participant can get up and pitch and usually 20 to 30 people do.  After the pitches, teams form around the best 12 ideas.  Teams self select depending on which idea they like – the less popular ideas don’t get a team and fall by the wayside!

Then it’s into the process of refining the idea and starting to understand the process and tools that are available to the teams.  The idea behind startup weekends is not just to potentially start a business which goes on after the competition, but to teach the skills and framework to develop your company.

Mentors are available to offer advice, develop the team’s understanding of the lean canvas methodology and generally offer support, information and, on occasion, act as arbitrators.  The mentors are chosen from a diverse background so there’s a range of help available from accountants, lawyers, entrepreneurs, marketers and pitch coaches. I hope to provide real value to participants with my extensive experience in startup and small business accounting.

Every event is different and every team has a unique flavour – there’s no right, or wrong, way to do this.  At one event, I watched 5 developers get together – traditionally not a good idea as you should be aiming for a combination of developer, designer and business manager.  They then spent two days arguing about every aspect, team members left, returned and left again.  There was high drama at every moment and no product in sight on Sunday morning but miraculously at the last minute they found their product, market and pitch – and won the event!

This is an amazing opportunity to learn the ‘how to’ of entrepreneurship in a structured way with a team of experienced supporters – but it’s not for the faint-hearted.

Jenny Xu