Prize List Announced: Motivated Yet?

It’s official folks.  The prizes for this year’s Lehigh Valley Startup Weekend have been finalized and we wanted to give you all some motivation heading into the weekend. The prizes being offered are exceptional and, if effectively leveraged by the winners, could substantially advance their endeavor and prepare their for taking the next steps in their startup’s journey.

Here’s the breakdown:

Baker Institute for Entrepreneurship, Creativity & Innovation – Entrepreneurial Education

11 E. Packer Avenue, Bethlehem, PA 18015
Lisa Getzler-Linn  |  lig4@lehigh.edu  |  (610) 758-4620

1st, 2nd, 3rd Place

  • Three (3) seats in the Venture Series Program to be split up as team sees fit (3 in one class / 1 in three classes). (visit their website HERE)

  • Work with a designated senior capstone team of 7 students from Lehigh’s Integrated Business & Engineering Honors Program. The program runs from January 2015 through December 2015.  There is no charge to participate and all the work product is owned by the start-up finalist, not the students or Lehigh University.

  • Value: $2700

Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeast Pennsylvania – Venture Idol

116 Research Drive, Bethlehem, PA 18015
Wayne Barz  | wbarz@nep.benfranklin.org  |  (610) 758-5421

1st Place

  • Two team representatives will attend Ben Franklin Venture Idol on Thursday, Nov 21st for the chance to present. (visit their website HERE)

  • Affiliate Membership at Ben Franklin TechVentures business incubator (visit their website HERE)

  • Value: $1,025

RLB Certified Public Accountants

702 Hamilton Street, Suite 200, Allentown, PA 18101
Jeff Berdhal  |  jberdahl@rlbaccountants.com  |  (610) 434-7700

1st Place

  • Four (4) hours tax and accounting consulting relating to startup of your enterprise.

  • Value: $1,000

2nd Place

  • Three (3) hours tax and accounting consulting relating to startup of your enterprise.

  • Value: $900

3rd Place

  • Two (2) hours tax and accounting consulting relating to startup of your enterprise.

  • Value: $700

Fitzpatrick Lentz & Bubba Attorneys at Law

4001 Schoolhouse Lane, Center Valley, PA 18034
Megan Beste  | mbeste@flblaw.com  |  (610) 797-9000 ext 252

1st Place

  • Three (3) one-hour consultations to discuss intellectual property issues related to the business.

  • Non-Disclosure Agreement and Intellectual Property Assignment forms tailored to the business.

  • Value: $1,170

2nd Place

  • One (1) hour consultation to discuss intellectual property issues related to the business.

  • Non-Disclosure Agreement and Intellectual Property Assignment forms tailored to the business.

  • Value: $665

3rd Place

  • One (1) hour consultation to discuss intellectual property issues related to the business.

  • Non-Disclosure Agreement or Intellectual Property Assignment forms tailored to the business.

  • Value: $405

AEDC – Coworking space provided at the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center

905 Harrison Street, Allentown, PA 18103
Anthony Durante  |  adurante@allentownedc.com  |  (610) 435-8890

1st, 2nd, 3rd Place

  • Shared desk space membership for up to two (2) team members for one (1) year.

  • Value: $600

MTS Ventures – Design Consulting & Prototyping

905 Harrison Street, Suite 136, Allentown, PA 18103
Matthew Sommerfield  |  Matt@mtsventures.com  |  (610) 351-3483

1st Place

  • Four (4) hours of consulting/machine time (materials not included)

  • Value: $580

2nd, 3rd Place

  • Two (2) hours of consulting/machine time (materials not included)

  • Value: $290

A Quick Note Concerning Prize Allocation: It is up to the winning teams to divvy up the prizes as they see fit and it is also up to the individual to follow up with the sponsors. Prizes may be claimed within one (1) year of the event at the discretion of the prize provider.




Startup Weekend Final Presentations: How to Impress the Judges

Winning at Startup Weekend means lots of things. It means learning more than you ever thought you could learn in a weekend. It means meeting more interesting people than you ever thought you’d meet in your lifetime. It means starting something and changing your life.

It also means ranking as the best team as voted on by the judges.

Here is a rundown of what the judges consider. Bear in mind that there is no rubric for judging, and your best bet is to make as much progress in each of these areas as possible. Be careful not to put all of your eggs into one basket: don’t make beautiful mockups without validating your idea and don’t build features before you’ve built your core functionality.

Here’s what the judges are looking for:

Have you validated your idea and core value proposition with your target customer or market?

You came in with a smashing pitch, rallied a great team, and built some cool stuff. But does anyone care? Have you surveyed your Startup Weekend attendees and all of your Facebook friends? Have you interviewed anyone and found anyone who will use your product? If you have, you’ve validated your idea and will win bonus points in the eyes of your judges.

Have you figured out the revenue streams that turn the product into a business? 

If the judges were investors, they’d want to know how their investment will turn into cold hard cash. If you can have cash in hand at the end of the weekend from a paying customer, even better.

Does it work? 

Focus your efforts over the weekend on building a functional minimum viable product. Once you’ve validated your idea with customers and built the first iteration of your product, it’s time to begin the cycle again by getting real feedback from real customers on the functionality and usability. Judges are looking for a baseline level of core functionality that can be used to get customer feedback for the next iteration.

How does it look?

Don’t go for pretty, go for usability. Design an interface that encourages people to sign up, pay for, and use your product. But don’t spend too much time on the details. Minimum viable product applies to functionality and design. You’re going to test everything and continue to improve the usability later on.

How do you and your team work together?

Remember: startups get funded when investors believe in the capability and perseverance of the founding team. Demonstrate that you’ve done your homework, that you can execute, and that you know what you’re doing.

 

A few basics on the final presentations for Startup Weekend:

How much time do I have to pitch?

You are allowed to pitch for a maximum of 5 minutes. There is no extra time for showing a demo, if you want to do that, fit it within the 5 minutes of your presentation.

Can I use my own laptop?

You must! Additionally, it’s mandatory that you attend the pitch practice (3PM) to check that your device works properly.

How much time will there be for the judges’ to ask their questions and for you to answer them?

Three minutes.

 

It’s also worth reading this great piece from the winner of Startup Weekend San Jose. Teaser:

1) We were the only team without any working product that presented to the judges.
2) We won first place.
3) Six months after the pitch, our service launched at one of most well known retail hardware store chains in San Francisco and is now used for 100% of their rentals.




From Lean Startup to Minimum Viable Product to Traction: A Rundown of Startup Weekend Concepts and Lingo

Startup Weekends attract a wide range of participants, including innovators and inventors who may be unfamiliar with the “lean startup” approach to creating a business that SW advocates. Boston EDU Startup Weekend shared this great primer that will give you a grounding in the concepts and language you’ll see at Startup Weekend Lehigh Valley. We’ll also be sharing some definitive readings as the Weekend approaches.

Lean startup modelEric Reis turned his blog  into a recently published book, The Lean Startup, which was #2 on the New York Times Bestsellers list. (Inc. Magazine featured a condensed version of Reis’s book  if you want further reading. Essentially, Reis developed a business model that encourages startups to find out as quickly as possible whether or not the business idea/product/service is viable. The path to achieving this learning is to create a rough version of your product that goes into a cycle of testing, iterating, testing, iterating, testing, and iterating until the product is viable. An important part of this process is early and frequentcustomer validation.  The lean startup model came out of a concept in manufacturing where small batches are created so that there is minimal loss of time and money if the market isn’t interested in that version of the product. The same lean process works well applied to technology too. When creating a web-based tool or an app, you can create a mockup to garner feedback without building the actual product or feature, for example.  (I love Balsamiq for this!)

Minimally viable product or MVP: This is not the same as a prototype! In the Lean Startup model, the goal is to create and test the smallest piece of a business to see if there’s a market for it. Reis defines the MVP as “that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.”  Essentially, you’re looking for the minimum set of features needed to learn from your early adopters because you want to learn early what users want and don’t want. It limits spending time and energy on products that no one really wants. Most teams try to develop a minimally viable product during a startup weekend, not the whole business. It looks great to judges if you’re able to validate your idea/product during the weekend.   You may be asking, but how do I do that?

Customer validation or validated learning: There are a number of ways to learn about your customers and what they like and don’t like about your product/service. There’s also a big difference between what someone might say they like and what they’re willing to buy or do. The best validation is showing that customers/users will in fact want your product/service and be willing to pay for it.

You first want to see if there’s any interest. For example, if you already have a free product but are curious if people would pay for some additional features, you could add a button to your site that advertises the new version (which you haven’t built yet!). If a number of users click the button, then you have begun validating that customers are interested. If no one clicks, then all you’ve wasted is the time to develop the concept—you haven’t spent excessive money and time on something no one wants.

During a Startup Weekend, you’re likely to focus on establishing general interest in your product or service, and if you’re lucky, getting some users to act. There’s not a lot of time to build significant traction. One way to establish initial interest is to create a landing page.

Landing page: To test the viability of an idea, a single webpage is sometimes created to see if anyone will sign up for the product/service.  There are several pre-built free pages out there. I’ve used and liked KickoffLabs and LaunchRockOoomf creates landing pages for mobile devices. What’s great about these programs is that they provide data: how many times the page was visited, how many visitors were unique, how many actually signed up. (There are some great programs with more bells and whistles for when your business grows and you need to track more complex user actions. At LessonCast (www.lessoncast.org), we use MailChimp (mailchimp.com)).

Here’s an example: I joined the team TeenStarter (TeenStarter.com) at Startup Weekend EDU in Seattle . The concept for this youth-only site was to provide both advice on creating a business (how to pitch, how to develop an idea, how to market) and to provide a platform for students to pitch their ideas to get seed funding (micro-financing for teens). Our hypothesis was that a student would post a video pitch and then use social media to send it out to his or her network. Friends of friends might also contribute, until the student received the money he or she needed to launch a business or community project.

Here are the steps we took to validate the concept that weekend:

  1. We created a landing page and used social media to blast to contacts of everyone on the team. (KickoffLabs showed 73 unique views and 17 users signed up.)
  2. Again using social media, our team sent out a request for any teenagers who had an idea to pitch. (One 13-year-old relative of a team member uploaded a video late Saturday night!)
  3. Once we had the site minimally functional, we posted the teenager’s video pitch and at uploaded a PayPal donate button. (Our featured teenager needed $60; $40 was raised before final pitches on Sunday night. She had the rest the next day!)

For a Startup Weekend, this exercise demonstrated a good conversion rate, and was a fairly solid proof of concept!

Conversion rate: It’s one thing to get users to your site; it’s quite another thing altogether to get them to act/buy/participate. For example, if you send out an email directing folks to a landing page, the first conversion rate will be how many viewers actually click on the link to that landing page. Then the next level of concept validation is how many of these users actually sign up. It’s possible to have more levels of increased engagement beyond this, of course. Each increased level of engagement provides more validated learning about what customers will do. In the Teenstarter example, one measure of a conversation rate would be that out of 73 people who viewed the landing page, 17 actually signed up by providing their emails.

There are other ways to validate what your customers like: interviews are often used

Interviews: Interviews are a great way to gather information during and after a Startup Weekend. Just because you are an educator does not mean that you should assume that you know what all educators will want—still take the time to get feedback from other teachers and administrators. Other participants, organizers and mentors can help you get in contact with people outside your own educator circle. Asking educators on other teams is one good method to gather some immediate input. Showing two or three versions of a product works well to provide you with specific feedback about features.

Mockups: Remember that you do not have to create a full product to get feedback. A mockup can provide the same information with much less time investment. I learned how to use Balsamiq (free trial period!) at one Startup Weekend—it’s great for creating a design of a website or iPhone app.

Traction: Once you’ve validated your concept, you next want to build traction, something that’s unlikely to occur during a Startup Weekend because of the condensed timetable but definitely an area of focus as you move your business forward. Traction means building a set of early adopters and being able to get those adopters to do something. For example, if you’re building a community-based site, then your traction would be connected to how many users are interacting on your site. If you’re selling a product to schools, how many schools have signed? If you’re interested in investors, then they will be interested in your traction.

When you’re at Startup Weekend, learn as much as you can from other participants and mentors about other effective ways to develop your concept into a viable business!




Some Notes on the "Pitch-Fire" Format

One of the things that may be new our Startup Weekend participants, even some of those who are entrepreneurial veterans, is the pace of the Friday night Pitch Fire session. All you have is 60 seconds, a mic, your voice and you passion.

Startup Weekend operations manager Adam Stelle and the good folk at Startup Weekend Indy provide a great explanation of the Pitch Fire:

Pitches

Pitches on Friday night be in a “pitch-fire” format, which means you will have just 60 seconds to get the audience interested in your idea. You will have no slides or props – just a microphone and a smile. You won’t have time to go over features, so just focus on the core of the idea and make your enthusiasm contagious. Here is the format for pitches that we recommend:

  • Who are you and what is your background? (5-10 Seconds)
  • What is the problem that you product is solving? Or, begin with a story (10-20 Seconds)
  • Explain the product and how it solves the problem (10-20 seconds)
  • Who do you need on your team (a developer, marketing, designer?) (5-10 seconds)
  • Finally, make up a name for your startup so the facilitator can give it a title

Voting & Forming Teams

After pitches, you will have more time to mingle.  If you pitched an idea, this is your time to start recruiting others that are interested in your idea. If you did not pitch, or if you are having trouble finding others to join your team, use this time to seek out those that pitched other ideas that you found interesting.

Next, the crowd votes on their favorite pitches. This is a simply a way to encourage quick team forming. This is by no means an exclusive process and if you pitch an idea and it is not voted as one of the top ideas, you are more than welcome to work on it if you find some other people who want to work on the idea with you. From there we will form teams and these are the startup ideas that will be worked on over the weekend.




Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About Startup Weekend

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.




So I Have This Idea…

How many times have you heard someone say this?  They tell you about an amazing idea that they have and you can see the possibilities.  You start talking about it with them, just spitballing.  You look at your watch and a few hours have passed and that initial idea has been shaped and molded into something entirely new and just as exciting.

But what happens next?

All too often, great and revolutionary ideas never come to fruition.  There could be any number of reasons for this but often you’ll hear that life intervened or that they just had absolutely no knowledge or means to move the idea forward.

Well, this is what Startup Weekend is all about.  It’s about providing a venue for people with ideas to explore the potential of their ideas in a vibrant and unselfishly collaborative environment.  People who attend the weekend all share one thing in common – they love to explore new ideas and new possibilities.

And attendees come from all walks of life.  Some are serial entrepreneurs with an established track record for success.  Some just love the energy of the weekend and give freely of their time and expertise.  Some are looking for a new project to pursue. Some just come with an idea, not knowing what to expect.

During the inaugural 2012 Lehigh Valley Startup Weekend, the winning team was headed up by a woman with a vision for making technology in the classroom more efficient and relevant.  She just came with the idea.  She was an educator who identified a problem and wanted to do something about it.  She had no idea what to expect but she pitched her idea to the room on the first night of the weekend.  Her idea lit the imaginative fires of a few software developers and business professionals, passionate about her idea and eager to explore its potential.

They worked tirelessly for the remainder of the weekend, collaborating smoothly and picking the brains of the coaches in attendance.  By the end of the weekend, they had successfully built the proof of concept for an application that would allow for streamlined communication between teacher and student, facilitating more timely feedback on tests and homework assignments.

That woman with the idea was Rita Chesterton, co-founder of Skaffl, a startup regarded as one of the top education ventures in the country.  Since winning Lehigh Valley Startup Weeknd, Skaffl has gone on to become a Ben Franklin Technology PArtners Company, a 2013 TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco Battlefield Contender, and joined the LearnLaunchX Winter 2014 Accelerator Program. (For more info on Skaffl, click HERE.)

Rita’s experience at Startup Weekend exemplifies the spirit of the event.  It demonstrates just how important it is to present your ideas to the world with the hope of finding motivated people to travel with on a journey of discovery.  Rita came into the weekend with an idea and left with a winning concept, dedicated team, and the support of a community behind her.

And it all started here.  In the Lehigh Valley.  At Startup Weekend.

With the words, “So I have this idea…”




The Top Five Reasons why Veterans Interested in Entrepreneurship Should Attend Lehigh Valley Startup Weekend.

***Reposted from www.combatveteranswithptsd.org/blog with author’s permission***

For those of you who don’t know, my passion for entrepreneurship was born at the inaugural Lehigh Valley Startup Weekend in 2012.  It ignited a passion that still motivates me today.  It motivated me to pursue social entrepreneurship and to found my nonprofit.

One of the things that I have noticed, though, is how few veterans I run into at these events – and that really confused me.  According to the SBA, approximately 40% of returning veterans would prefer to start their own business or ‘not work for anyone but themselves’.  Veterans who start businesses are twice as likely to grow a successful business when compared to those who have never served.

So why do so few veterans participate in Startup Weekend?  I have my theories, but they’re not substantiated by any research and fact.  Instead of focusing on why veterans don’t attend, I thought I’d present my top five reasons why our local veterans SHOULD attend.

So Here Goes…


1. Startup Weekend is a Great Way to Test Entrepreneurship Waters

I know there are a lot of veterans who consider starting their own business or have great ideas but never test the waters because they are too risk averse or don’t know if an idea is value-added and marketable.  Startup Weekend is an opportunity to test ideas and test the waters, with no strings attached.  You get to learn about the culture, the energy, and can discover whether entrepreneurship is something that kindles the creative fire inside you.  At the end of the weekend, even if your team wins the competition, you can walk away if you find that the environment doesn’t work for you.  The only thing that is asked of you is that you focus and dedicate your time for one weekend.  Where you take it from there is completely up to you.  The worst that can happen is you find out, one way or the other, whether entrepreneurship is right for you.

2. The Positive Environment Helps Transitioning Veterans Connect with Like-Minded Professionals

Startup Weekend has an amazing energy.  A very talented pool of people get together for a weekend to generously offer up their talent to develop new applications, manufacture revolutionary new products, and more.  It provides a natural feeling of camaraderie that will feel very familiar to veterans.  This makes Startup Weekend an ideal environment for veterans transitioning out of the military.  It’s non-threatening and everyone appreciates what you can contribute, regardless of your level of experience.  Not only that, participants break out into small teams of competent people to work on separate projects and depend heavily on each other to work autonomously on their portions of the work.  Talk about an ideal setting to soften the cultural blow for veterans just transitioning back into civilian life.  Additionally, veterans will meet like-minded people that they can relate to and share their passion with, making it that much easier to overcome the cultural divide between military and civilian life, allowing civilians and veterans to better understand the value inherent in their respective backgrounds.

3. Companies Are Starting to Recognize that Startup Weekend is a Treasure Trove of Hidden Talent

Very early on, organizers recognized that getting local companies and highly visible large enterprises (think Google and Coke, for example) had a vital role to play in supporting and sponsoring Startup Weekend.  Successful local entrepreneurs were enlisted to be mentors and judges for the events.  What those sponsors, mentors and judges discovered in short order was the inordinate amount of hidden and grossly underemployed talent attending these events.  Over time, Startup Weekend has become not only an event celebrating the entrepreneur in all of us but a hotbed for hiring talent.  I’ll extend it a step further and tell my story.  In early 2012, I attended a hackathon organized by a local teach group called LV Tech.  It was there that I was first exposed to the generous and lively spirit common at other entrepreneurial events.  While there, I started talking to a guy that I quickly found out was a fellow vet.  He spoke very highly of hackathons and especially Startup Weekend.  After the event, we kept in touch and that fall, I attended the inaugural Lehigh Valley Startup Weekend.  It was an amazing experience and our team came in third. The team that won later became one of the most promising startups in the educational space, by the way.  Well, over the course of that event, I’d proven myself to be adaptable, reliable and motivated.  I made connections there that I still maintain to this day.  Time passed and the guy who had introduced me to Startup Weekend back in 2012 reached out to me earlier this year.  He had started a business.  He had a need for someone with proven writing skills and the ability to learn quickly on the fly to help with technical writing.  What started as a trial run for ten hours a week quickly morphed into a full-time transition.  He brought me on as his first W-2 employee just a few months later and I am now the Capture Manager for the company.  He saw my potential –  a potential in the intangibles that never get seen when large companies are screening thousands of resumes.  And it all started with an innocuous conversation and a Startup Weekend.

4. Veterans Provide Skills and Valuable Lessons Learned Stemming from Military Service

Veterans have a very valuable set of ‘soft skills’ that have been ingrained in them as a result of their military service.  Among these skills are adaptability, autonomy, teamwork, professionalism, decision making, and laser-like focus on task and mission.  These skills are a value added proposition for any team or company and especially valuable in the accelerated setting at Startup Weekend.  I have yet to run into a team that hasn’t found working with veterans extremely rewarding and productive.  Many have come to realize this and have openly lamented the limited participation of veterans at these events.

5. Veterans in Attendance Help to Break the Stigma Surrounding PTSD

The stigma surrounding PTSD affects all returning veterans.  About five years ago, there was a concerted effort to dramatically increase the awareness of the prevalence of PTSD in veterans returning home – approximately one in five veterans of the current conflicts is returning home with some degree of PTSD.  This was done very irresponsibly.  They succeeded in raising awareness but never followed up with educating people on how PTSD impacted our veteran community.  As a result, the prevailing stereotypes about PTSD that dated back to the Vietnam War are what the uneducated ended up believing.  The stigma has become so strong that they have actually given this PTSD-specific stigma a name – ‘The Rambo Effect’.  As a result of the increased awareness, this stigma now negatively impacts the lives of all returning veterans.  Employers don’t want to hire young veterans because they fear that they may be introducing a destabilizing element into their workforce.  All of the positive qualities I spoke of in the previous point are either forgotten or summarily ignored as a result of this stigma.  Veterans, with and without PTSD that attend these types of events, demonstrate the positive qualities that employers used to highly value.  By just being themselves veterans can prove just how wrong the prevailing stereotypes are – without ever even mentioning PTSD.

So There You Have It…

Veterans have a lot to offer.  I hope that the reasons I have listed above are motivation for more veterans in the Lehigh Valley to attend this year’s event.  Lehigh Valley Startup Weekend takes place this November 14th – 16th.  As one on the organizers, and a fellow veteran, I’d love to see you out there.  For more information please visit their website.
I’d love to hear feedback from anyone reading this. If anyone has any questions or comments, don’t hesitate to reach out to me!



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