This article was written by Dane Alexander.
Last weekend I attended my first startup weekend in Sydney, Australia. I joined a great team, we won with a new messaging service, HatchChat!
HatchChat is a new messaging app that allows you to send videos to friends that are “locked” in the recipient’s inbox until a countdown completes. Think of the anticipation you used to feel pre-Christmas at seeing your presents under a tree – HatchChat is bringing that to messaging.
Below are my 6 steps on how to win Startup Weekend…and have fun doing it!
1) Start meeting people as soon as you arrive
Get a head start on the weekend by meeting people as soon as you arrive. It’s a great opportunity to chat with interesting people and it also allows you to see what ideas you like and who you click with.
Prior to the initial pitch, the majority of our team members had already met and exchanged ideas over the intro-beers. Don’t worry everyone is as nervous as you!
I’d recommend no matter how weak your idea is – get up and pitch. Pitching is a great way to let people know you are invested in the weekend and are ready to make something exciting happen.
During your pitch make sure you introduce yourself, let people know about your problem / solution and finally who you need to turn your idea into a reality.
In the end, I was the only person who voted for my idea – no big deal. I’m glad I got up and gave it a shot. It gave me something fun to chat with people during the selection phase.
3) Voting – hustle votes or join a team
Post pitching, people pin their ideas around the room and form teams around those ideas.
If you are set on your idea, make sure you begin hustling support. Seek out the people you need and convince them of the merits of your idea. You’re pitch only lasts a minute so the selection phase gives you more time to let people know the merits of your idea and the problem it is solving.
If you’re joining a team, make sure you believe in the idea and more importantly make sure you click with the team. Be honest about your skill set and sell your self accordingly. Everyone comes to a Startup Weekend to learn.
4) Validate your idea
There is a heavy focus on validating your idea. We used a wide variety of methods including face to face interviews, phone interviews, online surveys, facebook and Launchrock. A number of competitors had even made pre-sales of their product prior to presenting on Sunday night!
If people don’t love your idea, don’t be afraid to take their feedback, pivot and begin validating a slightly new idea.
We got a head start on other teams and began validating on Friday night.
5) Seek the help of mentors
The quality of the mentors over the weekend is amazing. All mentors had launched successful businesses and with some even coming out of previous startup weekends.
Seek out the mentors and gather their feedback and opinions on your idea.
6) Begin preparing your pitch early
The weekend comes down to a five minute pitch with three minutes of questions from a judging panel. Make sure you begin preparing your pitch early, we began on Saturday afternoon.
On the advice of the mentors we kept our pitch short – seven slides! The areas we covered included: problem, solution, snapshot of the product, validation, monetisation options and steps to scalability.
The pitch formats varied with some having multiple speakers and video. We kept to a single member presenting with multiple members answering questions.
Startup weekend is a great opportunity to meet interesting and exciting people from a diverse set of backgrounds. It was fantastic to win but more importantly it was great to see I wasn’t the only one out there trying to get ideas off the ground and do new and challenging things.