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
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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!
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.
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?
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
When is the last time when something ‘itched’ you and how did you react to it? Blame somebody or something, be cynical and decided to move on OR did you feel ‘enough is enough’? If you belong to the group of people with the latter reaction, you have that trait that is widely spoken of but seldom practiced called Innovation. Innovation, defined simply, is the cycle of ‘encountering a problem’ deciding not to live with it designing an alternative which either alleviates or eliminates the situation. Differentiated innovations in terms of benefit or cost are called Disruptions and hence I-Phones disrupted phones with complicated interface and AirBnB did the same to the expensive hotel industry.
The science of innovation fundamentally hasn’t changed over the years. The big companies of today started at one point in time as ‘start-ups’; developed product or service through standard process of iteration with consumers; once ready, launched it in a limited geography; expanded distribution through physical expansion and awareness through standard media of TV, radio and Billboards. Each process was painfully physical, slow and expensive. As business grew, so did the need for resources to fuel the business. Evolutionary development (almost like nature) followed where every next generation solution of the same product or service would be marginally better. Thus the two necessary conditions for innovations were time and resources only possible through institutions rather than individuals.
So what’s changed to fuel this sudden wave of innovations led by individual start-ups? The answer lies in the phenomena of Compression of Time!! Massively enabled by technology, most activities which took years are down to real-time (real-time feedback from consumers, unlimited reach through online, accessibility to global expertise). This means suddenly, given the right level of resource support, a sizeable business which used to take decades can be built in years. What this means is now suddenly innovation is possible at individual level and given that there are more individuals than institutions in this world, what we see is proliferation of Innovations and Disruptions!!!!
So while one pre-condition of innovation has been solved, it still needs significant understanding of business and financial resources to scale up any start-up and in my view, that what makes the connection of Start-ups with big established companies very interesting. Give way to super-acceleration of ideas!!!
Vivek Sirohi- “ Deodorants R&D VP “
Many people think that Startup weekends are just for those looking to develop apps or software. This is far from the truth, your idea could just as easily be a service or a tangible product, but is this possible in 54 hours?
Tangible product I hear you say, can you actually develop a piece of working hardware within a weekend? Well it all depends on what it is, maybe a simple device might be created as a proof of principle (POP) model. As the name suggests this wouldn’t be the final product but, a model that will provides confidence that the idea is viable.
So how can you make this model? 3D printing springs to mind. This will require a 3D model to be created and then be printed. In most cases this is a sensible route to take but, if you have only 54 hours it could be a lot of time spent to find the model doesn’t perform as you expected.
A better approach is to think laterally. What about the materials you have close at hand in an office, paper, glue, cardboard, sticky tape (Think Blue Peter)?
Maybe you can hack an existing bought product? Fortunately Futurelabs is in Leeds city centre with loads of shops that might just have the thing you need to adapt, to make your POP model. The other big advantage of this approach is you learn as you create, you might need to pivot on the design while making your model.
Best not to lose site of the whole product offering. Marketing, business model and validation are just as important as the design and execution for the Startup weekend judges. However the most important thing is to have fun creating stuff with a fab team.
Peter Roll, Design and Development Engineer for Roll Design. @peteroll
Vimla Appadoo – Programme Director at Dotforge Impact, Service Designer and Community Manager at FutureEverything
I’ve worked with tech startups for the past three years, helping them to figure out the steps they need to make on their startup journey, and using Human Centered Design to do so.
1. Sharing is caring
Mentoring isn’t just a one way conversation. When you mentor, you gain as much insight as you’re able to give and for me mentoring is another channel to expand my horizons, learn from people and give and take some great advice at the same time. Mentoring is a great way to share your knowledge, but equally any startups at Startup Weekend should question any advice they’re given! It’s a great way to learn collaboratively and make the best decisions for your startup over the weekend.
2. It’s fun
Startup weekends are so. Much. Fun.
They really are. There’s a great buzz, so much excitement and it’s great way to spend a weekend. You get to meet so many incredible people, build innovative startups and you could find your way on a team that builds something great. As a mentor, it’s exciting being able to be a part of the journey, to be able to give a little bit of help and support. It really is just so much fun.
3. You never know who you’ll meet
I’m driven by helping people and there’s no better place to meet and talk to exciting and interesting people than at a Startup Weekend. It’s a melting pot of creativity, innovation and inspiration. You might meet the next founder of an amazing startup, new friends or even your new business partners. The options are limitless and you get to make so many great connections.
So, they’re all of the main reasons why I mentor. I’ll be sharing some Design Thinking skills, and Human Centered Design to help you figure out your market fit.
I hope to see you there next weekend!