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From mentor Wren Lanier –

Teams: Are you feeling unfocused? Wondering if you’re doing everything you need for Sunday night? Here’s a quick guide to the four areas you need to focus on.

1. Validation

Judges are going to want to see validation for your business idea. This isn’t a one-size-fits-all process; each team will need to validate in a way that’s most effective for proving your customers exist and their need is real.

Some validation strategies:

Surveys

Surveys have been popular with several teams. They’re a quick way to gather feedback, but you have to be able to demonstrate to the judges that the people who filled out your survey ACTUALLY ARE your potential customers, and not just your mom and your friends and your StartupWeekend buddies.

Get out there and find your customers on message boards, LinkedIn groups, Facebook groups, Twitter hashtags. Post your survey as widely as possible, and be ready to tell the judges why your survey matters.

Facebook Page

Create a Facebook page for your business, and collect as many Likes as you can. Put as much info about your product — including photos, mockups etc — on the page to attract people’s interest. Be ready to share your number of fans with the judges when you pitch. The more, the better!

Landing Page

Tools like LaunchRock make it easy to put together a quick, attractive landing page for your startup to capture interest from potential users. This is a numbers game too; have your social media and marketing folks promote your site as widely as possible to get the maximum number of sign-ups.

Face to Face interviews with your potential customers

For some teams, your customers aren’t just on the Internet — they’re behind the bar or behind the cash register, busy with their own businesses. GET OUT OF THE ROOM AND MEET THEM. Talk to them about your project, get their feedback, and get quotes about their needs that you can present on your website or in your pitch. Even better, talk to them about your pricing and your business model. Will they pay what you’re planning to charge? The judges will want to know.

2. Business Model

Have you read the Judging Criteria for the competition? It outlines all the pieces of your business model that you need to figure out.

  1. Who is your customer?
  2. What is your core value proposition?
  3. What are your key activities?
  4. What are your revenue streams?
  5. What is your cost structure?
  6. Who/what are your key partners/resources?
  7. What are your distribution channels?
  8. What is your roll-out strategy?

The more detail you have for each one of these items — and the more evidence you have to validate your assumptions — the stronger your case for winning will be. Don’t save this stuff for the last minute; the choices you make here should inform every aspect of your design and demo.

3. Demo

This is the nitty-gritty: what have you built? Every team should build at least a single-page website for their business describing who you are, what you do, and the unique value you offer. Show the judges that you mean business.

Beyond that, you should have something that demonstrates how your business will work. Whether it’s a demo website, a set of mockups, or diagrams that describe how your product or process works, your demo should be illustrate the unique value that your startup provides. Are you streamlining a complicated process into something simple? SHOW US HOW. Are you connecting potential buyers with potential sellers? SHOW US HOW. Your demo should prove that you’ve passed beyond the idea stage into the execution stage.

4. Pitch

On Sunday night, you’ll have 5 minutes to make your case to the judges. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

Energy and enthusiasm: This is your baby! You’re going to be tired after a long weekend, but don’t let it show. Instead, help the judges see how much you love your project and how proud you are of what you’ve done.

Slides are not a script: Keep your slides as concise as possible. More pictures, less words. Don’t stand there and read from your slides; use them as supporting material for your pitch instead.

Choose your numbers carefully: When pitching your business, don’t overwhelm the audience with a shower of numbers and facts. Quality over quantity; build your pitch around your 3-4 most powerful numbers — the numbers that validate your idea and that prove the revenue potential of your company. Save the rest for Q&A, and impress the judges when you can rattle them off like a pro.

Be memorable: There will be a lot of teams pitching back to back. Make it easy for the judges to remember you and what you’ve done. You don’t have to be cheesy or gimmicky, but an interesting slide design or wearing a brightly colored shirt can help you stand out from the pack.

Joey Figaro