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Written by Charles Yu

Ailton SchoembergerIn June 2013, Ailton Schoemeberger won Startup Weekend Vancouver with Domastay, an “Airbnb for international students seeking homestay.” This year Ailton is back to co-organize Startup Weekend 2014 and share his experience of previous year’s event and the experience of running a startup after the competition.

We took a few moments to ask him some questions on his experience and advice he would give to this year’s participants.

What advice would you give to participants with business or marketing background

Participants with marketing and business backgrounds who aren’t pitching actually have a lot to contribute and have their work cut out for them once they are inducted into a team. Whether it’s validating the idea on the street with complete strangers or helping out with presentation slides and sourcing images and relevant information — marketing and business participants have a full plate.

Speaking of pitching ideas, what suggestions do you have for those looking to pitch their ideas at the event?

There are three factors which I believe makes a successful pitch:

  1. The presenter has to be memorable
  2. The pitch needs relatable examples
  3. and, Post-pitch mingling is a must!

Before attending Startup Weekend 2013, I came to the realization that I might be confused with other individuals who are looking to pitch. In order to differentiate myself, I wore the Brazilian Soccer Jersey on pitch day introduced myself as a Brazilian native and explained my idea.

Another participant by the name of Ed also realized the importance of differentiation by wearing a hat and telling the audience to remember him as “Ed with the hat.” Pitching to the audience using a relatable example such as, “building an Airbnb for international students,” made it much easier for the audience to grasp the big idea.

What kept me in the minds of the audience was I was willing to socialize with all the participants exchanging our thoughts and ideas of how we can take our Airbnb for homestay concept and turn it into a working startup.

What should team leaders focus on to ensure they maximize time at Startup Weekend?

Have a clear mental picture of what you want to build and capitalize all the available resources provided by the organizers at Startup Weekend.

Teams are always excited to get started and will throw out many ideas, some of which will deviate from the original concept. Guide the team with a firm hand, it will be your responsibility to keep the team focused and stay on track.

The event provides many resources. Mentors are there to advise you and share their experience, lawyers can give legal consultation and help to get your team incorporated, and lastly, networking is a huge perk whether it’s fellow participants or sponsors promoting their services. This goes back to the importance of socializing with participants after pitching.

As a founder, you need to understand the experience and background of different individuals and their attitude, amount of passion, and perception of the idea.  Getting to know people in the event may prove to be the key to your startup’s success in the future.

Winning Startup Weekend is a significant step towards taking an idea and making it into a real business. How should teams continue after the competition in order to turn their ideas into a successful start up?

Again, I want to emphasize on team cohesion and focus. They are critical factors in keeping the momentum built during Startup Weekend going. One thing I learned at Institute B’s ChangeMaker Curriculum Course after winning Startup Weekend Vancouver in 2013 was to run a lean team. In the beginning we had a staff of 11 people which made it difficult for us to coordinate nimbly around challenges. We had to let some team members go which was an incredibly difficult experience since they were not employees but partners who shared the entire Startup Weekend experience with me, although it had to be done.

We trimmed the team down to 6 people and then eventually 4. It will be your responsibility to keep the team focused on building upon the foundations which were laid during the competition and not deviate to another idea or become non participants due to personal issues. In short run it like a lean business.


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Sean Kennedy