5 Minutes To Glory (Dominating The Final Presentation)

At the end of Startup Weekend, your team is expected to present for 5 minutes in front of a panel of experienced local entrepreneurs. Your 5 minute presentation should include both a demonstration of your MVP Prototype AND a brief overview of your business strategy (i.e. all of the thinking you put into your startup).

Every time I organize or facilitate a Startup Weekend I receive tons of questions about what a good final presentation looks like. So here’s a little guidance:



There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of example final presentations on YouTube from Startup Weekends around the world. You might have to adjust search terms to find the ones in English, but they are a great reference point.

A few of my favorites are below.

SW EDU Seattle – Lighthouse – Geo-location tracking for special needs children

Great job painting a picture of the problem, very impressive demo

SW Omaha – SimplyFi – Simplifying wifi expansion and management

Overall great energy and enthusiasm, great job knowing the flow, good articulation of the problem being solved.

SW Saratoga – Aqua – Improving sanitation and reducing water consumption in developing markets

Great example of a rudimentary prototype which is NOT digital! Keep in mind not every startup is an app.

SW San Francisco – Words with Bears – Language learning thorough motion via MSFT Kinect

Great demo, great job painting a picture of the opportunity and white space in the market, also a pretty funny name.

This slide deck from fellow Startup Weekend community member Nick Stevens has some very practical guidance on what to include in your presentation:



This 5 minute time limit will be STRICTLY MAINTAINED and you will be clapped off-stage at the end of the time.

In that 5 minutes, you will have to:

1) Demo your MVP Prototype

2) Consider many questions that the judges are interested in:

– What research was conducted to validate the problem & solution?
– Who is the target audience?
– How will the company acquire new customers?
– Who is the competition?
– How does the company differentiate itself?
– How will the company make money?
– Why was the product designed the way it was?
– How user-friendly & aesthetically pleasing is the product?
– What does a future roadmap look like?
– Were you able to conduct a demo?
– And more!

As you work on your final presentations, you should ask yourself these questions and more, then, be selecting about determine which information to include or omit from your final presentation. Work with your team to determine which points help you tell the most compelling story about your startup.  Use those as the foundation for your final presentation.

Anything you leave out, you should anticipate a judge asking during Q&A. Immediately following your presentation, the judges will have 5-10 minutes to ask you follow-up and clarifying questions about your startup.



Many teams will over-emphasize their solution or technology in their final presentations. I believe strongly that this is over-rated.

I believe that one of the most effective things that a team can do is paint a very focused, emotional, yet concise picture of the big problem to be solved or the opportunity at hand.

If you can pull at my heart strings and make me truly see and believe in the bigger picture, it’s much easier jump for me as a judge, audience member, of consumer-at-large to land on your startup as the only possible solution to the problem.

Doing this shows that you understand your user, you’ve developed true empathy with them, and are thus able to design a solution that truly meets their needs.

WTF is a Minimal Viable Product?

As a participant at Twin Cities Startup Weekend Youth Edition, you and your team will be expected to create a minimal viable product (MVP) prototype to demonstrate to the judges on Friday night.

You might be thinking to yourself “WTF is a MVP?!”

Eric Reis, author of The Lean Startup defines an MVP as:

“A Minimum Viable Product is that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.”

Ash Maura, author of Running Lean, has a slightly more strict take:

“A Minimum Viable Product is the smallest thing you can build that delivers customer value (and as a bonus captures some of that value back).”

The dialogue and discussion about MVPs is large, but several factors remain consistent:

1. Maximize learning.

2. Create value for your customer (or learn why value is not created).

3. Minimize time and resources devoted to get there.

The image below is a good articulate the process of developing an MVP.


In the lower half of the diagram, value was created immediately (if only a very small amount of value), but was not maximized. Over time and multiple versions of the product, learning was achieved, and the product evolved.


We look forward to seeing you create MVP prototypes next week at Twin Cities Startup Weekend Youth! Below are some resources to help you create an MVP over the course of the event. 



Flinto: https://www.flinto.com/

Proto.io: https://proto.io/

Pop: http://popapp.in/pricing/

Balsamiq: https://balsamiq.com/


Apple Keynote: http://keynotopia.com/guides

Microsoft Powerpoint: http://keynotopia.com/guides-ppt

High Quality iPhone Mock-Ups: http://www.swiftbootstrap.com/?ref=producthunt


Strikingly: https://www.strikingly.com/

SquareSpace: http://www.squarespace.com/

Wix: http://www.wix.com/







Startups in 13 Sentences

We are less than 1 week away from Twin Cities Startup Weekend: Youth Edition!

We’re excited to see you and hope you’ve started thinking about your 60 second pitch.

As you gear up for the event, check out this short but powerful feature from Paul Graham, the co-founder of Y Combinator. Y Combinator is one of the most prestigious accelerators/seed funds in the world and has helped launch startups like Airbnb, Dropbox, Reddit, and OMGPop.

This post is entirely a re-blog/copy & paste of Paul Graham’s original post here. We do not claim any credit for it, but hope you find it inspirational.

Startups in 13 Sentences

February 2009

One of the things I always tell startups is a principle I learned from Paul Buchheit: it’s better to make a few people really happy than to make a lot of people semi-happy. I was saying recently to a reporter that if I could only tell startups 10 things, this would be one of them. Then I thought: what would the other 9 be?

When I made the list there turned out to be 13:

1. Pick good cofounders.

Cofounders are for a startup what location is for real estate. You can change anything about a house except where it is. In a startup you can change your idea easily, but changing your cofounders is hard. [1] And the success of a startup is almost always a function of its founders.

2. Launch fast.

The reason to launch fast is not so much that it’s critical to get your product to market early, but that you haven’t really started working on it till you’ve launched. Launching teaches you what you should have been building. Till you know that you’re wasting your time. So the main value of whatever you launch with is as a pretext for engaging users.

3. Let your idea evolve.

This is the second half of launching fast. Launch fast and iterate. It’s a big mistake to treat a startup as if it were merely a matter of implementing some brilliant initial idea. As in an essay, most of the ideas appear in the implementing.

4. Understand your users.

You can envision the wealth created by a startup as a rectangle, where one side is the number of users and the other is how much you improve their lives. [2] The second dimension is the one you have most control over. And indeed, the growth in the first will be driven by how well you do in the second. As in science, the hard part is not answering questions but asking them: the hard part is seeing something new that users lack. The better you understand them the better the odds of doing that. That’s why so many successful startups make something the founders needed.

5. Better to make a few users love you than a lot ambivalent.

Ideally you want to make large numbers of users love you, but you can’t expect to hit that right away. Initially you have to choose between satisfying all the needs of a subset of potential users, or satisfying a subset of the needs of all potential users. Take the first. It’s easier to expand userwise than satisfactionwise. And perhaps more importantly, it’s harder to lie to yourself. If you think you’re 85% of the way to a great product, how do you know it’s not 70%? Or 10%? Whereas it’s easy to know how many users you have.

6. Offer surprisingly good customer service.

Customers are used to being maltreated. Most of the companies they deal with are quasi-monopolies that get away with atrocious customer service. Your own ideas about what’s possible have been unconsciously lowered by such experiences. Try making your customer service not merely good, but surprisingly good. Go out of your way to make people happy. They’ll be overwhelmed; you’ll see. In the earliest stages of a startup, it pays to offer customer service on a level that wouldn’t scale, because it’s a way of learning about your users.

7. You make what you measure.

I learned this one from Joe Kraus. [3] Merely measuring something has an uncanny tendency to improve it. If you want to make your user numbers go up, put a big piece of paper on your wall and every day plot the number of users. You’ll be delighted when it goes up and disappointed when it goes down. Pretty soon you’ll start noticing what makes the number go up, and you’ll start to do more of that. Corollary: be careful what you measure.

8. Spend little.

I can’t emphasize enough how important it is for a startup to be cheap. Most startups fail before they make something people want, and the most common form of failure is running out of money. So being cheap is (almost) interchangeable with iterating rapidly. [4] But it’s more than that. A culture of cheapness keeps companies young in something like the way exercise keeps people young.

9. Get ramen profitable.

“Ramen profitable” means a startup makes just enough to pay the founders’ living expenses. It’s not rapid prototyping for business models (though it can be), but more a way of hacking the investment process. Once you cross over into ramen profitable, it completely changes your relationship with investors. It’s also great for morale.

10. Avoid distractions.

Nothing kills startups like distractions. The worst type are those that pay money: day jobs, consulting, profitable side-projects. The startup may have more long-term potential, but you’ll always interrupt working on it to answer calls from people paying you now. Paradoxically, fundraisingis this type of distraction, so try to minimize that too.

11. Don’t get demoralized.

Though the immediate cause of death in a startup tends to be running out of money, the underlying cause is usually lack of focus. Either the company is run by stupid people (which can’t be fixed with advice) or the people are smart but got demoralized. Starting a startup is a huge moral weight. Understand this and make a conscious effort not to be ground down by it, just as you’d be careful to bend at the knees when picking up a heavy box.

12. Don’t give up.

Even if you get demoralized, don’t give up. You can get surprisingly far by just not giving up. This isn’t true in all fields. There are a lot of people who couldn’t become good mathematicians no matter how long they persisted. But startups aren’t like that. Sheer effort is usually enough, so long as you keep morphing your idea.

13. Deals fall through.

One of the most useful skills we learned from Viaweb was not getting our hopes up. We probably had 20 deals of various types fall through. After the first 10 or so we learned to treat deals as background processes that we should ignore till they terminated. It’s very dangerous to morale to start to depend on deals closing, not just because they so often don’t, but because it makes them less likely to.

Having gotten it down to 13 sentences, I asked myself which I’d choose if I could only keep one.

Understand your users. That’s the key.

The essential task in a startup is to create wealth; the dimension of wealth you have most control over is how much you improve users’ lives; and the hardest part of that is knowing what to make for them. Once you know what to make, it’s mere effort to make it, and most decent hackers are capable of that.

Understanding your users is part of half the principles in this list. That’s the reason to launch early, to understand your users. Evolving your idea is the embodiment of understanding your users. Understanding your users well will tend to push you toward making something that makes a few people deeply happy. The most important reason for having surprisingly good customer service is that it helps you understand your users. And understanding your users will even ensure your morale, because when everything else is collapsing around you, having just ten users who love you will keep you going.


[1] Strictly speaking it’s impossible without a time machine.

[2] In practice it’s more like a ragged comb.

[3] Joe thinks one of the founders of Hewlett Packard said it first, but he doesn’t remember which.

[4] They’d be interchangeable if markets stood still. Since they don’t, working twice as fast is better than having twice as much time.


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