Date, Venue and Catering

Picking a Date

It’s important to pick a date for your Techstars Startup Weekend that doesn’t conflict with other events that might attract the same audience. Choose a date that isn’t on or near holidays (religious or otherwise).

We recommend that you:

  • Check local / regional tech event calendars and online event sites. Scheduling your Startup Weekend after another large entrepreneurial or tech event can often drive more participation. If you do decide on this, reach out to the event organizers and ask if you can cross-promote each other's events 

  • Check local community calendars for events that might affect local traffic and parking.

  • Check holiday and religious calendar

  • Check educational institutions’ calendars for exam and large sporting event dates

  • Consult your Techstars community support contact to discuss potential dates based on past events, where applicable

  • Check for any other Startup Weekend events that might be scheduled on or near the same date in your city or region

  • Have a first, second and third choice date for your event so that you can be flexible when facing unforeseen obstacles. There may be a community tech event being moved to your first choice date, or your venue of choice might not be available.


Venue

It will be hard to check other tasks off your organizing list without a venue. Therefore, securing a suitable venue should be high priority once you have been approved to run a Startup Weekend. As the cost to hire a venue for a weekend can be high, we strongly recommend that you find a sponsored venue. 


Venue requirements

Keep these things in mind when considering a venue:

Cost: Try to secure a venue with in-kind sponsorship. If that’s not possible, verify that all associated venue costs will fit into your event budget. 

Size: Estimate how many participants you’ll have at your event. Then, add your volunteers, judges, mentors, and others to your estimate to come up with an average venue size. Everyone will need to fit into the same room a few times during the weekend, and they will need enough space to work as teams without interruption.

Location: Your location should be easily accessible by all, via personal or public transportation. Venues with free parking is preferable, and there should always be accessible parking. Make sure that you share this information with participants. 

Wi-Fi: Without a good internet connection, participants cannot do the work required during a Startup Weekend. Make sure that there is enough bandwidth. A general rule of thumb would be to have an absolute minimum of 5mbps down and 1mbps up. Talk to the venue about these details, and consider that each person will be using at least two devices at all times.

Outlets, Power Strips, and Extension Cords: Participants will need power sources for their laptops and phones. Make sure that the venue can provide enough access to power outlets. If they cannot provide power strips or extension cords, you’ll need to remember to supply these yourself. 

Access Hours: You should have access to the venue by 3 p.m. on Friday at the latest, so that you’ll have enough time to set up the registration desk, different spaces, and your presentation for Friday night. Do a walk-through with your facilitator. We recommend asking the venue to open at around 8 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday, and close at around 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. Startup Weekend usually finishes around 8 to 9 p.m on Sunday night. Give yourself at least two hours to clean up the venue afterwards, as your team might want to chat more with participants, judges, and mentors after the event. Get all venue access information, including any access codes, keys, or access cards. Have a contact number for both your venue liaison and the venue’s security services, including confirmation of their availability throughout the event. 

Furniture: There should be enough tables and chairs distributed throughout the space for all teams to work on without interruption from other teams. There should also be tables for food and registration, and if you need to rent additional tables or chairs, factor that into your event budget.

Presentation Room: There should be a space where all participants, mentors, judges, speakers, volunteers, and guests can come together for Friday and Sunday night pitches, presentations, speakers, and workshops. Having a stage, or a raised area for presenters, will allow for a better overall experience.

Audio Visual Equipment: For presentations, you’ll need visual equipment like a projector and a sound system with microphones. Ideally, your venue will have this already, but you can also rent this equipment. Make sure all equipment is tested prior to the event and again on Sunday before final pitches. Have a dedicated ‘tech support’ person there during the weekend. It’s good practice to bring a few extra audio/visual laptop adaptors. 

Temperature: Check with the venue to see if you will have access to the air-conditioning or heating system, or if you can have the contact details of someone who can adjust this for you. Oftentimes, air-conditioning systems will be set to automatically switch off during times when the venue is unoccupied. It’s important to make sure that participants are physically comfortable throughout the weekend. 

Whiteboards or Flip Charts: Each team should have a place to visually collaborate and brainstorm. If whiteboards are not available, bring flip charts or easel pads. Rolling whiteboards can also serve as effective space barriers between teams. You might be able to borrow these from a local business or educational institution as part of an in-kind sponsorship. 

Kitchen Area: Ideally, your venue should have a small kitchen area with a sink and refrigerator. If there is no refrigerator at the venue, bring plenty of ice and coolers or containers for beverages. Some people might choose to bring their own food, due to food sensitivities or medical conditions. Make sure that they also have access to the refrigerator or cooler. These areas should be kept clean and tidy at all times, and trash should be removed frequently throughout the event. Try to make your event as sustainable as possible by reducing the amount of waste produced. Participants are typically delighted to hear that the organizing team is mindful of sustainability!

Restrooms: Confirm that there are enough restrooms and that there is an accessible restroom. Check with your venue contact to make sure they are accessible throughout the entire weekend. We recommend that you have a conversation about the frequency of restroom cleaning by facilities services during the weekend. 

Security: The safety and security of participants and everyone else involved during Startup Weekend should be a top priority. Ask your venue contact about security protocol, availability, and best practices. Cover this during your venue walkthrough. Check if there are any spaces that are off-limits, and make sure that the Wi-Fi can be accessed by all participants. Share this information with your facilitator prior to the weekend, as they will need to communicate this to participants during their welcome presentation on Friday night. 


Consider reaching out to the following types of venues: 

Coworking Spaces: Coworking and shared spaces are typically well-equipped with tables, chairs, breakout spaces, restrooms, a kitchen, and power outlets. They are usually able to accommodate a large number of people and have flexible access, security, and use of space. The venue provider is often willing to donate the space in exchange for community recognition. Check to see if the venue can sponsor prizes such as access to the coworking space for a certain period of time for the winning team. Remember, we advocate for prizes that push teams to think past the weekend and take their next steps to building their startup. 

Corporate (or Startup) Office Space: Corporate offices often have large event spaces. Corporations are often happy to sponsor space since this allows them to support local entrepreneurship and innovation. A local startup could also be a great venue. They might be keen to get further involved by mentoring participants or leading a workshop. 

Local Public or Government Buildings: Community centers and libraries, especially large city libraries, often have space available for community events. Local economic development programs may have access to community spaces. Some cities have innovation hubs that can be used over the weekend.

Universities: Given the educational nature of Startup Weekend, engineering or business schools tend to be a good fit. In return for sponsoring the venue and acknowledging the university as “venue sponsor,” you could include a discounted ticket price for students from the university. Universities may sometimes charge for A/V or/and security support during the weekend, so make sure that you discuss the agreement in detail before making your decision. 

Event Venues and Hotels: Hotels and event-specific venues usually have dedicated staff to support with A/V, Wi-Fi, security, and facilities. However, the cost is typically high and availability is often limited. 

Ask venues about security fees, A/V and tech support fees, insurance policies, and catering contracts before signing anything. A “free” venue with a high security fee and/or an exclusivity contract with an expensive catering company can end up costing a lot.

You can use our venue outreach template when contacting potential venues for your event.


Accessibility

Techstars Startup Weekend is always open to all, and events should be accessible by all. 

Startup Weekends remove barriers to entrepreneurship such as limited access to Wi-Fi, mentorship, and food so that participants can focus on their entrepreneurial educational experience. Empower those with disabilities by removing barriers for them. Plan ahead to support anyone with a disability and provide contact information on the ticket registration page, inviting individuals with disabilities to make their concerns known.

Wheelchairs: Your site should be accessible to those in wheelchairs. A rule of thumb is that they will need 1 yard / 1 meter of aisle to move around. Make sure that participants don’t stand behind wheelchairs or block them in. Bring icebreakers and voting to the level of those in wheelchairs. Clearly mark a wheelchair spot in the front row, near an aisle so that they can freely move around. If you have a stage, ensure that the wheelchair has easy access. Otherwise, avoid the stage altogether.

Visual Impairment: There are many types of visual impairment, ranging from color blindness, to partial visual, to total vision loss. Your event should be accessible to the visually impaired. We recommend that you:

  • Pick a venue with clear, straight aisles, with room for walking aids

  • Avoid room layout changes

  • Make sure voting is tactile and, with permission, escort visually impaired individuals during voting so that they can participate equally 

  • Consider transcribing final presentations.

Auditory Impairment: For those with auditory impairments, consider: 

  • Hiring a translator or allowing a family member to accompany them. Make sure the translator is comfortable. Many communities will subsidize the cost of translators for this kind of event 

  • Ensuring a clear line of sight to presentations to facilitate lip reading 

  • Transcribing videos and ensuring closed captioning is enabled. Many video-hosting platforms enable transcription upon upload.

Other Disabilities: There are many invisible disabilities including anxiety disorders, PTSD, learning disabilities, and epilepsy. Consider having a quiet room for those that might need an area to decompress. 

Some of your participants may not be comfortable talking about their disabilities, or may need assistance that cannot easily be provided. If you see someone in this situation, be flexible and empathic.

Certificate of Liability Insurance request

If your event venue requires a Liability Insurance Certificate, please download and complete the request form below. 

You can download and complete the form electronically or print the form and scan the completed form to send to our third party insurance company (HUB International Insurance Services Inc). If all required information is filled in correctly, you should receive your certificate within 24 working hours.

Required fields to be completed:

Top section

  • Requested By: Your first and last name

  • Date: Date of the request

  • E‐mail Address or Fax: Your email address

  • Coverages Required on Certificate: Select the appropriate coverage.

Middle section

  • Certificate Holder Information: Event’s Venue/ landlord name and address 

  • Job Description and/or Job Number: Official Techstars event name, date and venue name.

Bottom section

  • Send Certificate to: 

    • Email address: Only fill this in if the email address is different from the requestor address provided above

    • Mail: Requester’s (your) postal address for a hard copy of the certificate. 

You must attach the insurance section of your contract (venue agreement) with the venue and submit it along with the completed form. 

Form Submission Instructions

Please send your completed form and contract to yuki.tsang@hubinternational.com, toni.simpson@hubinternational.com, eric.lam@hubinternational.com

If the form requires more information, the insurance company will reach out to the requester email address (your email address) directly.

Please reach out to help@techstars.com if you have any questions or concerns.

Download Certificate of Liability Insurance request form

Catering

Participants need healthy, tasty food to fuel building their startup over the weekend, and it is often one of the most remembered aspects of the weekend. You should start sourcing catering at around two months out from your event. Communicate the option for in-kind sponsoring of a meal, or a percentage thereof.

You will need to provide meals on Friday night, and breakfast, lunch, and dinner on Saturday and Sunday. That’s a total of seven meals. Make sure that snacks and beverages are available throughout the weekend.

Keep the following in mind when considering your suppliers: 

Locality: Support local businesses where possible.

Sustainability: Be mindful of unnecessary waste. Support caterers who provide compostable or recyclable food containers and eating utensils, or let them know that you will be supplying your own. 

Nutritious value and dietary options: Food will be brain fuel and you will need to make allowance for those with dietary restrictions. We’re not saying that everyone has to eat kale every day, but try to go for a balance between tasty and nutritious, hot and cold. 

Convenience: Try to use caterers who can deliver, as it might be hard for the organizing team to pick up the orders. If delivery is not an option, allocate this duty to event volunteers. Schedule delivery for 30 minutes before meal time. 

Cost: Don’t underestimate the importance of providing good food for the event. Opt for quality food, but make sure your event budget allows for your catering costs before confirming a caterer.

Use our caterer outreach template when contacting potential caterers.


Food setup

Set up food in a dedicated and easily accessible space. Encourage networking and connection during meal times with a communal area where people can gather. Your facilitator will often encourage participants to find someone they haven’t spoken to yet during a meal time. Consider putting a sign up around the food area with this messaging. Unplanned connections are a large part of the Startup Weekend experience. 

Catering confirmation 

Confirm all catering a week before the event, and assign volunteers to food setup, prep, and removal where needed. 

Please reach out to your Techstars community support contact with any questions or concerns.