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This is a Guest Blog from Techstars Alumni, Amandeep Midha, who also is a Startup Weekend Veteran. He shares his experience from both participating at Startup Weekend and being part of the Techstars accelerator with Barclays in New York City.


Who is ERNIT ?

Ernit is a Danish Fintech company aims to teach children about money through the ingenious combination of a physical piggy bank and accompanying app. The app allows kids to save digital money and allocate amounts of their choosing to particular goals, while the piggy bank helps them to track the progress they make

 

What is Techstars ?

Techstars is a global ecosystem that, in association with Barclays bank, helps entrepreneurs build their business by offering accelerators, venture capital, community programs and an enormous network to the startups they deem worthy of attention and capable of success. Techstars is also a parent organization of Startup Weekend family

 

Journey Through Techstars Accelerator:

Techstars Accelerator is 13 week long program after careful selection of 1% success rate among startups that are picked from across the globe. The unique part of Barclays Techstars accelerator was that it was Fintech Accelerator Program run right from the heart of New York with plenty of mentors, innovation staff from Barclays and other financial institutions available to mentor the participating startups. While first week is general bootstrapping, 2nd and 3rd week are what is called mentor madness where over the period of work day over 50 mentors visit us all in 2 weeks and the speed dating that follows us to find mutual perfect match and a startup can pick 4-6 mentors for themselves. Techstars also emphasizes on weekly OKR ( Object Key Results ) and KPI metrics which keep the whole operation in motion at a pace while being in accelerator can sound like being in B-school and in full-time job at the same time

We all then adjust ourselves to these KPIs, pick specific goals in weekly OKR sheet and then go all the way in achieving those, and these goals can be as specific as possible e.g. publishing the app with 3 new features and having 75 people signed up, to quote an example. Details of my engineering notes I had published earlier at  https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/engineering-notes-techstars-crafting-worlds-first-piggy-arora as we developed ERNIT all around in fintech, IoT, platform dimensions and led the path of adoptions with various other tools, dashboards, and KPIs. Coming from a Startup Weekend hackathons regular, I would say it was 10+ weeks of hackathon with surprising amount of code being added and features delivered in extremely short time to compare otherwise

 

How to Shine as a Developer in 54 hours:

As a developer participating in Startup Weekend, it can be real fun and enriching experience

Counting on my experience, I can offer the following suggestions:

  • Always Pitch Something

It does not matter if you come prepared to pitch a topic or not, just recollect any hiccup in your daily lives, offer to build a solution for it and see if your thoughts align with rest of people. How to test that solution or validate the problem that you propose to solve? Just by pitching it. As they say “The person who stands for nothing, falls for anything”

  • Wardrobe Readiness

During Startup Weekend, the only wardrobe developer needs to care about is her/his multiple hats. Make sure you wear those thinking of designer, customer, growth hacker, UX analyst and maybe more hats that you can think of!

  • Manage Your Time Well

The 54 hour format gives little room for something concrete product to build upon, yet at the begin itself you could sense the mood of pitches, theme of the event e.g. Fintech , and study something prior from common problems and possible solutions you could be coding to build out during this weekend. While you may still be waiting for team to conceretize coding task for you, yet this is time you could use to utilize and setup Startup Weekend perks and have the DevOps ready for team communication e.g. Website, Slack channel, or Team Facebook Group and move along

  • Try Something New & Learn Together

Startup Weekend is great place and time to try out something new that you have not tried before. For example, I would have used Facebook Graph APIs with Javascript and in one hackathon where two more developers in team knew Python but not Facebook APIs, we decided to do Python coding for Facebook APIs and it was learning for all

  • Challenge the Status Quo

Easier said than done, this is I expect from any developer to use this skill at the time of sleepy hours. You will be working late often past midnight both on Friday and Saturday and when you find your team members low on energy, that is time you can be little nasty or condescending towards business idea for which you are coding. If done in moderation, it helps keeping team members awake and fresh thought process always in circulation and you have always something more to do than you can handle

  • Don’t shy away from User Interviews

While working as developer professionally, you may hardly get a chance to make user interviews with your team lead or UX person. Startup Weekend gives you complete recipe and experience that you do not miss out on any stage and wear a different hat and have your little walk-of-pride

  • Look Around & Make Friends

I could be no-nonsense hyper-professional at my workplace, but I know Startup Weekend is the place where I express more and make more friends while discussing business objectives, goal setting for set of hours, having those beer and coffee meetings with whole team or sub-team and keep things in motion

If there is some other team working on other area of interest to you, go ahead and approach them and help them as well if you can afford apart from your time with your team. There are no hard & fast rules and all of us are looking to learn and contribute

  • Mentoring Feedback Updates

Mentoring feedback during Startup Weekend could cause significant changes in solution than earlier, be prepared for those in advance and have that conversation from your co-developers or event organizers if you wish to. Agility to amend solutions based on feedback is rare skill and there is no better time to practice it other than being at Startup Weekend yourself

  • Karma whether you believe or not

Be prepared if you get caught in a team where things may not be good, there may not be teamwork, or someone just wants to take advantage of your skills to concept proof something for him/her. Either you should have quit that team on Friday evening itself, but do not loose yourself in agony and just keep doing and building what you are awesome at and make it good learning experience for yourself. When the time comes for final pitches on Sunday afternoon, everyone will know whose contribution to team has been most, and there are always recruiters and other people who definitely won’t miss out your awesomeness

  • Life After Startup Weekend

Even if you do not win, most of individual journeys still do not end with Startup Weekend. I still cherish some of my best friends whom I met at such hackathons. A creative burst and refreshing zest of developer life that I enjoy with those buddies is extremely special long after the event is over.


About the Author:

Amandeep Midha

Amandeep is Vice President of Engineering at ERNIT and also he was the  first employee to join ERNIT early 2016 after coming from unique experience of working in small to large software organizations across Europe and Asia. As passionate Fintech hacker at multiple international hackathons, at Startup Weekend Amandeep had participated over 5 times and he recounts his experience refreshing every time. Currently he is part of body of Nordic Startup Weekend organizers and provides technical assistance to Startup Weekend participants

Aleksander Bordvik
(@ABordvik)