Get ready for launch – Startup Weekend Sheffield returns!

After debuting our first event way back in 2012, the team behind Startup Weekend Sheffield are gearing up for a special 10th edition of our weekend long entrepreneurial extravaganza.

Taking place on 2nd – 4th June at the University of Sheffield’s Diamond building, Startup Weekend sees participants progress from pitching an idea to launching a real business, in just three days. At the end of the weekend, teams present their ideas, the research behind them and show off the prototype to an expert panel of judges.

Sheffield has a huge pool of talent and is an ideal location for you to launch a new venture, and a Startup Weekend is a great place to kick it off. It’s a chance to learn, be inspired and meet likeminded people to collaborate with.

A team of mentors, experts in all aspects of business, development, design and pitching will be on hand to help teams develop their ideas of the weekend. As a special theme for the 10th event, we’re inviting ‘blast from the past’ judges and mentors who have helped host previous events. If you’re an experienced Startup Weekender you’ll probably recognise a few!!

At other Startup Weekends all over the world, teams have gone on to create successful businesses worth millions of pounds and Sheffield has its own success stories. Drone-footage company, Airstoc, and Goodvid.io, a platform to connect brands with user generated video content, were both conceived during a Startup Weekend Sheffield event.

“Attending Startup weekend generally did transform my life. It opened my eyes to the tech world and what could be achieved in a short space of time with the right team. For Airstoc, we used it to test out an idea and even more importantly, to find potential co-founders, which enabled us to start our own business the following month. For anyone who is interested in entrepreneurship, or just wants a fun weekend, I highly recommend it.”

Giles Moore, Co-Founder and CEO at Airstoc

“I wasn’t sure what to expect from Startup Weekend other than the opportunity to network and exchange ideas with like-minded people. But it turned out that it was Startup Weekend Sheffield that got Goodvid.io started. It was all the motivation we needed to put other things aside and start working on Goodvid.io as our main project.”

Dimitrios Kourtesis, Co-Founder at Goodvi.io

You don’t need to have an idea or an existing team to join in. You don’t even need to be from Sheffield to take part with people from all over the UK joining in. Just turn up with an open mind, the will to get started, and a ticket!

Tickets are available online via Eventbrite.com – just search for ‘Startup Weekend Sheffield.

For more information, visit www.sheffield.up.co or email sheffield@startupweekend.org

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SWSheffield / Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/StartupWeekendSheffield








Grand Prizes

The first, second and third prizes are provided by InnovateMK.

InnovateMK is an initiative sponsored by Tech Mahindra in association with Lividia Ltd and The Cube. Their goal is to drive innovation in the Milton Keynes area, this area has long been known for its many start-ups in a variety of sectors – including digital services and automotive technologies.

According to InnovateMK anyone can become an entrepreneur. The work place and economy have been changed and are continuing to change because of digitisation, automation and globalisation. Everyone should be able to have a career path defined by what they can create not one that is characterised by their employer.

InnovateMK is built for innovators who work with disruptive technologies. A range of services, facilities and world class technology is available on site for you to use and partner with.

First Prize – 3 month Incubator Service at InnovateMK

During these 3 months you will have:

• 5 days per week access to the innovation facility
• Mentor access
• Connectivity
• Founders Community

Second Prize – 2 month Incubator Service at InnovateMK

During these 2 months you will have:

• 5 days per week access to the innovation facility
• Mentor access
• Connectivity
• Founders Community

Third Prize – 2 month Incubator Service at InnovateMK

During these 2 months you will have:

• 5 days per week access to the innovation facility
• Mentor access
• Connectivity
• Founders Community

See you at Startup Weekend Buckingham!








Startup Weekend Derby Roundup

Startup Weekend is a worldwide movement that brings together entrepreneurs, designers, developers and startup experts to build creative solutions to the world’s most pressing problems – all in one exhilarating weekend. Here’s what organiser, Andy Stannard had to say about the experience.

 

Startup Weekends are all about building products, teams and friendships to teach entrepreneurship and maybe even form a new business. They start on a Friday with networking and pitching, before participants vote on their favourite ideas and form teams. On Saturday the teams research the business idea and it’s viability using the lean business canvas as a guide and then move onto customer research and prototyping. Sunday is finally about refining the work and creating a presentation to tell the story of the idea. Throughout the weekend mentors are on hand to offer guidance and feedback, allowing the teams to gain valuable insights and experience.

The teams

At Startup Weekend Derby we had six teams formed for our first ever event;

That Crowd – an event booking site
Ari – a new design for a single blade razor
Groüp&go – a group ticket booking site
Get Hired – an industry-specific career advice service
Cook anywhere today – combining travelling with cooking lessons
The rent is too damn high – a property rental information portal

What’s great about Startup Weekends?

Startup Weekends have had a huge positive impact on my life. They’ve helped me to gain confidence, make new friendships and build a huge respect for startups and the people behind them. I love the can-do attitude of the attendees and the feeling of energy that flows through the event. Startup Weekends are always full of positive people who dream big and put their words to action.

You’ll typically find people collaborating, discussing and helping each other whilst others have their heads down hammering away new prototypes and preparing customer surveys. Throughout Startup Weekend Derby I was delighted to hear so many people mention how inspired they were feeling.

Getting started in Derby

Much like the teams taking part, running an event is a real team effort. My good friend Giorgio Cassella who I met at Startup Weekend Sheffield also wanted to put on a Startup Weekend in Derby. We both felt Derby has huge potential with its strong community of talented people. Derby is well known for its huge engineering companies but that more creative industry players often seemed to get left out. This is why we choose Derby, to help strengthen the creative tech scene and encourage more collaboration between university students and established industry professionals.

The Derby tech community soon stepped up to help run the event, including my friend and colleague Stela Zlatkova, entrepreneur Sean Price, and Business Woman and Derby University employer engagement lead Bev Crighton.

As word got out, and with the help of our industry contacts, we managed to put together an amazing group of mentors for the event. We had Phil Hornby, Helen Clark, Ben Smithwell, Chris Kemp and Sharon Stevens-Cash all offering their help and advice – they provided great sounding boards to the teams. As an organiser, it was great to see how the team’s ideas progressed into well throughout and researched products; complete with prototypes. All the mentors were amazed by the work produced.

And the winner is…

After pulling together on the Sunday for a final push on their products, we all collected back into the lecture theatre to see the team’s final presentations. We had a great panel of judges including Samantha Deakin Hill of Campus Capital, Dawn Foote of Katapult, Justin Johnson of Biotaware and Bruce McLeod the Enterprise Advisor of Derby University.

All the teams made extremely professional presentations and the mood in the room was one of energy and illation. The judging took a long time due to the closeness of the event, but ultimately the winners were Cook anywhere today with GetHired closely following as the runners-up. We also included two sponsor awards with the inniAccounts Award For Innovation going to The rent is too damn high and the Spark Award For Creativity going to Group & Go.

Our amazing sponsors

Events like this wouldn’t be possible without having sponsors to provide the money needed for supplies and catering. We were very fortunate to have inniAccounts quickly offer to help not only as a sponsor but as volunteers at the event. James Poyser, co-founder of inniAccounts, gave our keynote speech. Discussing the inniAccounts journey from just an idea to a startup and finally onto a fully established business. Our attendees appreciated his honest summary of the issues and struggles faced by startups aswell as his pragmatic advice on how to overcome these problems.

We were also very happy to have Tutora as a pledged sponsor for the event, especially as they were going through a funding round at the time.

The Spark Agency and RDS also stepped in to help with funding the event. Without all these amazing sponsors, Startup Weekend Derby wouldn’t have been possible.

We’re just getting started

Well done to everyone involved, I feel very proud to have been part of such a great event. But this event is only a starting point. We’re going to continue growing and getting even better. So, if you would like to get involved simply find us on Facebook at Startup Weekend Derby or send a tweet over to @SWDerby. We’re always on the lookout for volunteers, organisers, sponsors and participants. Let’s get started!








Smoke, Startups and Mirrors

Startup Weekends normally involve several projects with a technical based idea that ultimately wants a website or app creating (not always, I spent one weekend brewing up a new health drink). The idea of the event though is not to showcase your technical talent at producing an apps, it’s to showcase your creativity in identifying and solving problems.

No one cares about the solutions code quality, maintainability, or even scale-ability as long as it solves a problem for people and that people actually want solving. With that in mind here are some ideas, suggestions and tips on solving problems with code.

I recently heard someone use the phrase artificial artificial intelligence, this is where a process looks to be sleek and automated but really behind the scenes a human is pulling the levers and pressing buttons to get a job done, but it’s all hidden behind a sleek UI. This may not be a scale-able solution to the problem but if no-one has this problem or wants your solution then scale-ability is not a concern to have. Automation can come latter on when your startup has actual customers. Tutora was a good example of this, a user would request a tutor for a certain subject in a certain city on a certain day, the request went to a founder not a server, they queried good old yellow pages in order to find a good match. They would then setup the booking in what appeared to be a sleek automated process but was actually a long winded manual effort. When Tutora knew people wanted to use this service, that’s when they created a database and automated the processes.

We all like to create projects from scratch, but a Startup Weekend is not the place for this. If you do have to or want to code, yeoman has many project generators to help you quickly get a project up and running with many features wired up already. This allows frees you up to concentrate on creating the actual value for the customer. Another way to get a quick start is to use WordPress and some of the many themes and plugins available that may be a good match to your needs.

For the more ambitious participant hoping to produce a mobile app I recommend using Exponent, this lets you create Apps for Android and IOS and distribute them without going to the App store. It allows you to quickly get an app running that can be shared with others that can be deployed as standalone apps on the App Stores at a latter date. The apps written with exponent are React Native based which I would really recommend.

Rather than rolling your own server I would recommend using a PAAS (Platform As A Service) such as firebase to quickly configure a data store for your app, push notifications and login server. When I took part in my second Startup Weekend I used Parse.com as a PAAS provider to quickly create a database back end for the web and mobile apps we created. This allowed us to create a working prototype by the end of the weekend.

Use SAAS providers, with so many companies offering rich powerful API’s to a wide variety of products it is possible to create solutions to problems without really touching code. Through use of third party service connection companies such as Zapier or IFTTT you can create powerful solutions that can be wrapped up behind sleek interfaces without anyone knowing that you did not really code that much.

Smoke and Mirrors people








Pioneering Accountancy Firm Announced As Startup Weekend Derby Sponsor

Founded in 2005, inniAccounts are a pioneering accountancy service for contractors, consultants and small businesses. Their, market-leading, online application enables clients to manage their business finances on the go. Real-time cash forecasts allow financial decisions to be made with both confidence and superb tax efficiency.

inniAccounts exists as a direct result of its three founders’ personal frustrations as contractors. They knew there had to be a better way than spreadsheets to manage their finances. Against the advice of the accounting industry, they decided to apply their natural curiosity for technology to solve the problem. Learning along the way and building their technical and accounting know-how – they created a tool that is now used by thousands of people every day.

The company supports startups and small businesses because they’re one themselves. They understand how difficult it can be to start up and go it alone. Having made a success from doing this, they can now pass on their insight and tips for launching and managing successful products. They can also share great pointers on the technical challenges and developments required for a leading business.

inniAccounts think StartUp Weekend is a brilliant idea. Sponsoring the event allows them to stay innovative and cutting edge with the industries new developments. Plus they’re excited to see all the new things entrepreneurs are coming up with! They’re delighted to share what they’ve learnt from their own journey so far. Spending over a decade in the business has provided plenty of information to help startups understand what they will need to succeed.

To find out more, visit the inniAccounts website.








VentureFest East Midlands to sponsor Startup Weekend Derby

It’s a match made in entrepreneurial heaven!

We’re pleased to announce that VentureFest East Midlands will be sponsoring the inaugural Startup Weekend Derby and have provided a VERY exciting prize for the winning team in March.

VentureFest East Midlands is the premier event for small businesses and startups in the region. Now in their third year, VentureFest bring together small and medium sized enterprises who are ready to attract investors and begin to scale-up.

Being held in Derby for the first time on 22nd March, the event is split across 3 main parts: The Innovation Showcase Expo, the Main Stage and the Business Lounge. Each of the two stages will have their own focus for the event and the Innovation Showcase Expo sees the inclusion of brand new pods to showcase smaller businesses.

The theme for this years event is SMART Innovation, allowing attendees and aspiring entrepreneurs will hear stories from businesses within the sector about how they’ve grown and improved their business through innovation and design.

Additionally, the awesome team behind VentureFest East Midlands will be giving the winning team at Startup Weekend Derby a showcase pod during the event! This will allow the team to continue demoing their startup to a wider customer base, obtain ever valuable feedback to develop their business and network with potential partners and investors.

It’s an amazing opportunity for you to take the next steps towards developing your startup into a real, tangible company.

VentureFest East Midlands is completely free to attend and we highly recommend going.

Register before 24th February and you’ll also be in with the chance of winning a ticket to Startup Weekend Derby – sweet.

Visit the VentureFest EastMidlands website to register today: http://www.venturefestem.com/

Sponsorship positions for Startup Weekend Derby are still available and start from £250 to feature your brand to both experienced and aspiring entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, designers and developers. To enquire about sponsorship, please contact giorgiocassella@gmail.com








What the hell is a Startup Weekend?

A few members of the Derby startup community are putting on the first ever Startup Weekend Derby but not everyone has heard of this type of event called a “Startup Weekend”. Sounds interesting but aren’t entirely sure what it is, allow me to change your life!

 

What is a Startup Weekend ?

 

A Startup Weekend is a get together of people who want to work together and build something. They may have an idea, a dream or just a desire to help build something new. Over the weekend ideas are pitched, selected, validated, prototyped and presented. All with the help of each other and some battle hardened industry experts acting as mentors for the weekend. Finally on Sunday evening people present their business to a panel of Judges, a winner is selected and everyone celebrates a great weekend.

 

No Talk, All Action

 

Startup Weekends are different to conferences and talks, this is a practical event where participants learn through action, with help and guidance of our coaches. You don’t get to sit down and listen, you have to participate and be involved.

 

Does it have to be an online business ?

 

NO! Lots of people do online sites etc but teams work on physical products such as food and drinks or even services. I’ve even seen a cheap water filtration system for the 3rd world being built as a social enterprise business.

Sounds interesting right! So how does the weekend actually work?

 

Friday: Everyone gets together for some food and networking. A wise entrepreneur will tell a tales of toil and plight that ends in ultimate triumph. This leads onto a fun idea pitching warm up that prepares people for the main event the “Pitchfire”. If you have an idea this is your chance to pitch the room and hopefully get selected to form a team. You only 60 seconds per pitch so keep it concise and let people know what you need help with.

 

Once everyone who wants to pitch has had their 60 seconds worth its time to network, talk and cast votes on your favourite ideas. Then the topmost ideas get to form teams where ideally you want a selection of skills such as a designer, developer, marketer to help bring the idea to life. Even if you idea did not get through you can still form a team if you can get at least three people to agree to join forces.

 

With a team formed its time to go home and try and calm your over excited brain down and to try and coax it to sleep ready for Saturday.

 

Team forming, can I go with a pre existing team? Yes, you can but the rule is you must not have worked on the idea before. Most people go as an individual though or with friends but without a set idea.

 

Saturday : You have and idea and a team now what. The mantra for the weekend is ”No talk, all action” so its time to get out and validate your idea. Although you do need to talk we want to make sure your idea solves a problem that people have, so you need to know what problem is that your idea solves. Who is it that experiences this problem and where would you come across them on the weekend? Its time to get out and speak to the public about the problem NOT the solution. Note down the stories and then get back together as a team to share your research.

 

Do people have this problem your idea solves? If not maybe the research highlights something similar that you can “PIVOT” to? If they do its time to start doing some prototyping, research on possible rivals, research, etc.

 

Sunday : Time to carry on where you left off, if you have some product prototypes show them off. If you have no prototypes now is the time to build them. Try and find some people from your target market again and get some feedback. Would people actually hand over some hard earned cash for this? You get some Google Adwords credits and a free domain in your pack for the weekend, use them to create a marketing site and see what kind of engagement you get.

 

Remember you have a presentation looming at the end of the day so you also need to start laying down some slides about the problem, your solution, the market research and how the business would work.

 

Try and rehearse your presentation and get some feedback before you do it for real.

 

Sunday evening : time for everyone to get together and marvel at what each other has achieved. Each team puts on a short presentation followed by a Q&A session with the judges. After every teams presented, the judges go off to confer and you get to eat and wait. The winners are announced and its time to relax, chat and celebrate an amazing weekend with your new friends.

 

Did I mention that Derby is having its first ever startup weekend this March? If all of this sounds like something you’d like to be part of, tickets are now available to secure your spot at the event.

Get your tickets here!








5 Startups Who Used Startup Weekend as a Launchpad for Success

Over the years we’ve seen hundreds of startups launched at Startup Weekend, covering an overwhelming number of different industries and verticals.

I’ve personally seen social enterprises helping the less fortunate both at home and abroad, the birth of innovative new platforms for crowdfunding local live-music and even new brands of food and drink, all of whom managed the seemingly impossible – launching a successful company in just three days.

But this is what Startup Weekend is all about.

It’s about empowering individuals like you, dear reader, to take the leap, to pursue your entrepreneurial dreams, to bring your ideas to life. To start something that has the potential to not only survive beyond our sterile testing area at Startup Weekend Derby, but to thrive out in the real world and become a great business.

And this is actually very possible! Over the years, many of the companies launched at Startup Weekend events worldwide have continued their work after the weekends festivities, hiring new employees, raising investment rounds and increasing revenues tenfold in the following weeks and months after launch.

In fact, somewhere around 11% of Startup Weekend startups go on to achieve ‘success’ (a very broad definition, but nonetheless…), and just for you I’ve curated a few of the best examples from both overseas events, and some who started a little closer to home.

Zapier

If you’ve ever worked with a multitude of different web apps, you’ll probably have come across Zapier before. Zapier allows you to connect different web applications together to create cross-functionality that previously would only have been possible with highly technical knowledge.

The cool thing is, Zapier was actually started as a project at Startup Weekend Columbia way back in 2011 and the founding team are still together, albeit bolstered by a team of 54 remote workers living all across the globe.

Not bad for a weekend project, right?

LootCrate

OK, confession on my part – I’m a bit of a nerd and video games have been my jam since I was a wee lad (I even built 3D environments for games for a while), so LootCrate are an essential on our list of successful Startup Weekend alumni.

Founded at Startup Weekend Los Angeles in 2012, LootCrate offer a monthly subscription box service which delivers awesome gamer, geek and tech swag straight to your door. The key component which sets them apart? Unlike other subscription-box services who focus on providing samples in each box, LootCrate sends full products like figurines, t-shirts, food and more, providing amazing value to their customers.

Since launching, the team have been crazy successful, increasing their subscriber base tenfold in the few months after Startup Weekend LA and now servicing millions of fan worldwide. Kick-ass.

Airstoc

OK, time to feature some homegrown talent on our list. Founded in 2014 after a successful run at Startup Weekend Sheffield, Airstoc are building the first dedicated marketplace for professional aerial-drone footage.

As a fast-growing and controversial new area of technology, the team behind Airstoc are making good use of their first-mover advantage by going on to raise multiple funding rounds and begin hiring to expand their team.

Just goes to show, you don’t have to be a well connected tech bod from California to achieve great things after Startup Weekend!

Spare Change

Another more recent alumnus of Startup Weekend Sheffield, Spare Change are a social enterprise on a mission to help solve the problems faced by homeless people in the UK. Founded in June 2016, Spare Change received mentorship by DotForge Accelerator after winning Startup Weekend to help them develop their business.

They’ve now become deeply involved with many communities and charitable organisations in their region to continue learning, start growing the company and carry on building out a solution that truly helps homeless individuals.

Launchrock

Finishing off our micro-list of awesome Startup Weekend alumni are Launchrock. These guys began their journey at Startup Weekend Philadelphia in 2011 taking 2nd place at the event with a platform to build landing pages and hype around pre-launch companies – very meta at a Startup Weekend!

Since that weekend, Launchrock have helped thousands of people launch their businesses, raising a solid round of seed funding and eventually being acquired only three years later.

With Startup Weekend Derby looming ever closer, now’s the time to start thinking about your ideas, practicing your 60-second pitch and thinking about who you’ll need on your team to have a successful weekend.

Even if you idea isn’t picked, find something you like the sound of and don’t stop once the weekend is over! Keep going, keep working and become one of our 11% who go on to achieve great things!

Not bought your ticket yet? Hurry over to our ticketing page and pick one up, Early Bird discounts are still running until early January!








Creating space for entrepreneurs to flurish

Final Group Photo Nov 2016
Final Group Photo Nov 2016

 

So the first Leeds Startup Weekend has just drawn to a finish. Late at night in the Belgrave Music Hall the community of entrepreneurs took their ideas from concept to execution over a 52 hour period are not quite ready to see the weekend come to a close. Despite the fact that most worked so hard and are ready to for a solid night’s sleep they are eager to make the most of the last evening by networking with their new connections and friends.  Combine that with the fact they ventured well out of comfort zone to do things like pitching, walking up and getting feedback from complete strangers or just building a collaborative team from people they had met less than 1 hour before anything this amazing group did after was well deserved.

Startup Weekend is almost magical in that every time the event is run – which now take place in over 150 locations around the world – it blows away expectations for what you can accomplish in a relatively short time. When it takes place a new part of the entrepreneur community is born. For me the weekend is far more than just starting a business. It’s really about finding like-minded people who have a similar attitude and tenacity – they all want to build a business and all see innovation and creativity as the norm. In a world where most of us work for someone else, with the majority of people in the UK working for some sort of public sector organisation. Be it the NHS, Local Government, schools, military etc – then finding others who bring together their ambition, creativity, ability to adapt and learn and most of all take a risk with their ideas in a way that is exposing and fulfilling is surprisingly unusual.

One participant said it well “I feel like a door has opened in my mind.”

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Product Designer Peter Roll talking through hardware prototyping

Creating the space where strangers can connect, share ideas and be challenged from mentors and judges is very important. This weekend was created by an amazingly talented group of people from freelancers to entrepreneurs and just as importantly key people from both universities in the city. This meant that no one organisation was responsible for the event. Importantly, it is a group effort, and it puts aside the agendas of each partner to create a space where constituents from all our networks can connect and grow new potential companies. We were helped by Eva, an experienced Startup Weekend facilitator who has run several weekends in Macedonian and Bulgaria – the startup community is international and close knit.

Are you ready to build awesome companies? @naloria getting us ready for a big weekend
Are you ready to build awesome companies? @naloria getting us ready for a big weekend

Here’s a rollcall of the teams:

Bloom – Inspired by her personal experience of living with her curls, Abigale and her team built a personalised subscription service providing your monthly supply of haircare products chosen just for you and your hair.

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Vimla Appadoo @thatgirlvim coaching session with team Bloom

Personal trainer Mark and his team developed a time saving, money saving approach to eating healthy with WIP – personalised meal plans and food delivery service.

Motivated by their own experiences Where’s My Child is a wrist band that helps you keep track of your child, while giving them the freedom to roam within a selected safe distance, warning you when they stray too far away.

Each week 11 people commit suicide in the UK, this is a shocking number, even more worrying were the findings by Andrea and her team that very few people knew where to seek help if they were worried a friend or loved one – Help Geoff was the interactive game they developed to address this issue.

Q was also inspired by a big health problem, but this one was the amount spent on legal bills by patients and the NHS in litigation. First Resolve offers a high level assessment of the potential of each claim using powerful algorithms and also promoting the potential for a swifter, less costly mediation approach.

Building on his experiences of working in an innovative company, MB and the team developed Tracktion, a tool for surfacing innovations and ideas from across the workforce and using crowd validating the ideas through peer review and voting.

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FB Seekers working well into Saturday night

FB Seekers were the largest team and had world domination ambitions for their market place for student’s sourcing skills such as language tuition, cleaning and IT support from fellow students.

These are all awesome teams and the point of the weekend was that everyone built a startup idea, learnt a hell of a lot, made some awesome friends and had fun!

If you want to join us next time follow @SWLeedsUK. If you want to find out more check out our how it all worked out blog! 

Big thank you:

Spark – University of Leeds, Leeds Beckett University, Unilever, 3Volution, KPMG, Infinity Works and Futurelabs for sponsoring the first Startup Weekend: Leeds








My First Start Up Weekend Story

Have you ever thought a start up weekend was just for aspiring entrepreneurs or people with a business degree or uni students? I did once and I was happy to say I was wrong about that.

It was January at the start of this year.

I was living in Toronto, Canada temporarily and was in the midst of trying to build a network and meet people but it wasn’t so easy. Going to pubs and bars got expensive and you didn’t always meet the right people at them. My roommate was attending the university at the time and told me about this “accelerator weekend” for anyone who want to take an idea from concept to business in only a few days.

At first I had my doubts – I mean it was a *whole* weekend and I had work. I also didn’t know how to make smartphone apps or have a business degree but I had heard of friends who have done them and was always interested in trying one. With only days left until the event I took a leap of faith and managed to get one of the last tickets to the event (after a few agonizing days of being put on the wait-list).

Now the format of every start up weekend is different but essentially you create a group, brainstorm your idea the first night, develop it and build a prototype on Saturday, and finally present on Sunday.

The biggest thing I remember right from the start was the adrenaline rush. In fact I was so buzzed off the excitement from the event that I didn’t have a drop of caffeine that whole weekend even while being sleep deprived (not recommended by the way but desperate times call for innovation!).

Did it all go according to plan? Absolutely not. Here are some of the things that weren’t so optimal:

– On the first night none of my teammates could agree on a project to tackle. By midnight we still weren’t decided on an idea and I tossed and turned in bed thinking of options
– Oh did I mention I had to work at 6 am the next morning? That was lovely
– Literally running through the winter weather to get to my team meeting by noon (so much sliding around)
– Struggling to get everyone agreeing on one idea (but after a little help from our mentor we got through that)
– Totally not giving ourselves enough time to practice our slide deck (our team ran over time in front of the judges)

In the end it came down to the timing on our pitch and we didn’t make the finals but I was okay with that. This was my first Start Up Weekend and I learned a heck of a lot and was proud of myself for getting that far.

serious-idea-generation
our-team-getting-mentored
i-made-a-new-friend
the-panel-from-y-combinator

 

But you know what did work out better than I expected?

The feeling of accomplishment of actually *doing* something with my weekend instead of just watching lying around the house. Not to mention finding hidden strengths and actually surprising yourself with what you can come up with as a team! I can honestly say for the cost it was a great investment (I mean the food alone was worth it)!

I got to meet so many incredible people including my friend Kate on the last night who I became great friends with during my time in Toronto (leading to more adventures including a trip to Niagara Falls!)

I also learned of the (somewhat) secret tech and start up community in the city that was so much more than just one event! This single start up weekend for me kicked off months of conferences, meeting inspirational entrepreneurs, tech classes, job offers and many amazing memories.

I would strongly recommend doing a Start Up Weekend at least once, and I know for myself I couldn’t wait to be a part of another one again!

And for all you keeners out there, here is my personal list of lessons learned:

  1. Think big but practical! Go in for unique solutions to unsolved ideas but think of exactly how you are going to get from A to B.
  2. Do your research. One person on my team insisted on this “great new idea” which we found out by our mentor already existed. You want to make sure that you can offer something unique to the market. And just because you haven’t heard of it doesn’t mean it doesn’t already exist. (see: Google)
  3. Quickly establish the strengths and weaknesses in your team. Communication is key! Make sure everyone has a chance to get their ideas out from the start and you make a plan on how to work together. Check in often to see if everyone is on target or could use some help.
  4. Find out when your deadline is and work backwards from there and give yourselves a time cushion.  If it needs to be done for 3pm make sure to plan to finish about an hour or so before just in case something goes wrong.
  5. Practice your pitch. I know this seems obvious but go through your pitch as much as you can. Out loud. Standing up. Without looking at notes. You can have the best idea in the world but if you don’t sell it correctly you have little chance of going to the finals.
  6. Most of all have fun and don’t take it too seriously. Some teams hid themselves away for the whole weekend but you get so much more out of it meeting everyone from the contestants to the judges to the volunteers. You don’t have to be starting a business to take away plenty of great skills and experience from an event like this!

All the best!

Ashton