While the teams are working hard and showing high energy pitching their ideas to the judges, let’s hear from another one of Startup Weekend Aarhus Health’s team mentors, Hanne Wick.
Hanne is a communication and business consultant, and she is the co-author of, “Iværksætterhåndbogen,” a book currently in Danish with hands-on advice for anyone with their own business.
Hanne starts by sharing with us the traits that she observed in groups that she feels will prove the project successful.
“My approach with the teams is from the point of view of wanting to give precise and practical help,” explains Hanne. “I don’t like sitting there as the ‘wise one,’ I want to see practical things where I feel that it’s possible to do something for them.”
One of the main things Hanne says she witnessed with the groups is to do with presenting the ideas.
“What I observed was that many of the groups were very bad at presenting their idea,” she explains. “But that is very normal in the start. Often they have told the idea before, they have been working on it, however, presenting so that others understand the idea is incredibly difficult.”
As her main observation, Hanne spent a lot of time with many of the groups helping them to become more precise around communicating their idea.
“I want them to get their concept down to one simple idea that is easy to understand,” says Hanne.
She also emphasizes the time factor when presenting ideas. Time is particularly important at a Startup Weekend as participants get 60 seconds to present their initial ideas, and only 5 minutes to present their final pitches to the judges.
“Normally, of course, the very short pitch is called an elevator pitch,” Hanne explains. “And this is important because it helps you get focused. It is not only being able to say that speech, it is the practice to get it sharp.”
Hanne believes that the team’s need to precisely know what it is they are offering and be able to tell it very fast. She also believes that it often easier to do that once the teams have managed to sell the idea to someone.
“If you are going to tell your idea to an investor, for example, it is a lot easier if you can prove exactly where your money comes from through making a sale,” explains Hanne.
Hanne does see some negative aspects to elevator pitches, especially when teams don’t concentrate enough on the content.
“You can have the greatest idea and present it very badly,” she explains. “So then you might need someone to help you present it. I often see people, especially if they are very “nerdy” or into technical details, come with an idea, however, they might not be the best person to present it.”
In Hanne’s view presenting is a skill to recruit into a group just like any other skill and it is clear that this is quite often not realized. In that case, it is down to practice, coaching, and being sharp on validated feedback.
“It is a real shame if a good idea falls because they can’t make this sixty-second or ninety-second elevator pitch,” she explains. “It is important to see the idea, see the people behind it, and the abilities they have to realize it clearly.”
And it is clear from Hanne’s advise that pitching is a skill that needs someone already skilled in communication and sales. Or, it is something a team member focuses on to make a Startup Weekend pitch with an impact on the judges.
One of the great things at any Startup Weekend is getting the opportunity to share your ideas and get solid feedback to help improve it. In order to give the participants of Startup Weekend Aarhus Health the most useful feedback possible, we invited several mentors from local businesses to come and spend time talking with the teams.
We spoke with three of the mentors to get their views on what it was like sharing their advice on what the teams should be thinking about when it comes to turning their ideas into a workable business.
We’ll share their thoughts over the next few blog posts, starting with our first mentor, Line Dybdahl.
Line is one of the founding members of Be My Eyes, a smartphone application that allows sighted people to loan there eyesight to the blind via the phone’s camera.
Line is no stranger to Startup Weekends. Be My Eyes is a project conceived at a Startup Weekend in Aarhus back in 2012 and one that has been growing at a fast pace ever since.
“I think it is important that the teams focus on user needs and user experience,” explains Line. “Validation is important. Showing the judges that they have validated with users that what they are solving is actually a problem and that the solution offered is something users will actually use.”
The other area Line highlights is funding. The business model for Be My Eyes focuses on being a non-profit organization. Which means that investors don’t see any profits, making it vital that teams show that they know where the money to finance their idea comes from.
“We worked about one and a half years before we got our first serious funding of over one million Danish Kroner,” Explains Line. “We had received some small funding before that; however, it is really expensive to develop apps in Denmark.”
Be My Eyes wanted to focus on producing a high-quality app that was easy to use and, as Line Explains, getting a large investment helped them to achieve this.
“We had spoken about pushing the app out a year earlier with limited funds,” says Line.”But the app would not have been as mature as it is today because the funding gave us the time to solve a lot of problems and test it before fully releasing it.”
Line admits that they didn’t think about the fact that what they were doing to begin with was Social Entrepreneurship, the team simply formed around what they all thought was a cool idea.
“We did in the beginning talk about a lot of different solutions for the problem,” explains Line. “We thought about making a call centre, for example, or making a normal entrepreneurship business model — but what we ended up doing was social entrepreneurship and non-profit because that made sense.”
While Social Entrepreneurship and going the non-profit route fitted to the idea of Be My Eyes, Line is quick to point out that going down that route still means treating the project as a business.
“You can have a non-profit, but, you can also have this thing called non-profit for growth,” explains Line. “This means you are making revenue in the company but it is not anything for the shareholders.”
The money in this instance goes to developing the company as well as providing essential team members with a salary to fuel that development.
“This is something that the teams need to consider,” says Line. “If you are getting funding you need to be willing to work a lot for a long time voluntarily to show your commitment to the ones who do eventually fund you.”
Katrine Marthinsen works with Startup Weekend in Bergen, Norway and manages much of the social media for those events. She also has a startup revolving around health and fitness, making her the perfect facilitator for this year’s Startup Weekend Aarhus Health.
Earlier today we took a few minutes with Katrine to ask her about her experiences with entrepreneurship, Startup Weekends, and how she sees her role as an event facilitator.
“I think the benefit of a Startup Weekend is that participants get to play with ideas in a totally safe and supportive environment,” explains Katrine. “This gives participants the chance to learn new skills and test their ideas.”
However, Startup Weekends aren’t all about simply playing with ideas. The intention is that participants develop their ideas into a working business.
“I’ve had cases where participants end up quitting their job and just starting up because things worked so well with their team,” Katrine explains. “I remember one team where they all ended up moving to the same city to work full-time on their business, which still exists today and is really going strong.”
Katrine is also quick to point out that she doesn’t believe there is a simple recipe for making a team work. However, she does believe there are some traits common to successful groups.
“You need to be committed to the idea and be passionate about it. That is the number one thing you need,” says Katrine. “So if the whole team has a similar vision of what this company could become after the Startup Weekend, I think that is always a good starting point.”
While having an idea that your team is passionate about is important, having the skills to execute the idea in practice is equally as vital according to Katrine.
“For this you need a team with diverse skills,” she explains. “You need someone with business skills, someone who knows how to market it, someone who knows how to develop it, and someone who can manage the team so they can use their skills properly.”
As a Startup Weekend facilitator, Katrine doesn’t just see herself as a motivator, she believes it is part of her job to help the teams see the long-term potential in their ideas.
“One of my jobs as a facilitator is to make them dream about what they can do with their ideas and help them build a community around them.”
Katrine stresses the idea of building a community quickly around an idea and not being afraid to share the idea by networking. She points out that this is one of the reasons teams are encouraged to pitch their ideas frequently. The teams are also encouraged to validate their ideas, which is one of the requirements for the event judges at a Startup Weekend.
In fact, Startup Weekend has three criteria that participants have to meet when presenting their ideas to the judges.
“The first of these is validation,” Katrine explains. “The teams have to go out and get feedback from the people who might use their service or product.”
The second criteria is that the teams need to have a business model so the judges can see how they plan to make money. The last criteria is execution.
“Execution is the most important of the criteria,” Katrine explains. “Without an idea you can’t build a business model. But a business model can only work by being executed.”
Meaning that the teams need to be at the stage where they have made a prototype of their product that can test quickly on the market.
Katrine also sees her role as a facilitator as passing on the beliefs behind Startup Weekend.
“Ultimately, I want the teams to succeed and have a good experience,” Katrine says. “The mission of Startup Weekend is to educate people about entrepreneurship so that they can also realise what they can achieve in as little as 54 hours at a Startup Weekend.”
At the time of writing this post, the teams at this year’s Startup Weekend Aarhus Health have been working for almost 24 hours. It is already apparent that Katrine has gone a long way to achieving what she wants as a facilitator. The teams are working hard, have validated their ideas, and many of them are already preparing prototypes ready for presenting to the judges tomorrow.
Earlier this evening over 60 participants arrived for the latest Startup Weekend Aarhus Health event, held at Via Community College in Skejby, Aarhus. The college neighbors one of Denmark’s largest hospitals and hosts several educations in the area of health.
Although the focus with this Startup Weekend is health, the range of skills at the event is broad. They range from health care professionals, physiotherapists, web designers, and entrepreneurs, to biologists, communication and marketing experts, to hands-on skills like carpentry.
This wide range of skills is one of the distinguishing aspects of a Startup Weekend. However, another area of uniqueness is around how the participants are activated to get networking and share their ideas. In fact, almost as soon as participants arrive they are encouraged to pitch their ideas to one another right away.
Prior to this latest Startup Weekend, Sussi Bianco, one of the instigators of Startup Weekend Health here in Aarhus, invited participants to a pre-event. Here the participants had the opportunity to receive expert advice on pitching as well as a chance practice their skills in just 60 seconds.
We interviewed Sussi following the event and asked her to give us her expert tips on how to pitch an idea at Startup Weekend Health.
“One of the most exciting things about Startup Weekend Health is that people get the opportunity to meet others with completely different competencies to their own,” explains Sussi. “For business people, for example, they get to know people from the health sector that they probably wouldn’t get to interact with as a normal part of their daily activities.”
Sussi also states that it’s the same for health care professionals who often only have the time to interact with colleagues or patients.
“I remember one of the first Startup Weekend Health participants who was a health professional. She told me that the event changed her life because she got to meet people who had competences that she had no idea existed. She said she realized the knowledge and skills she got from other people she could adopt into her daily work.”
One of the skills Sussi is referring to is pitching. Often this is a neglected skill because we take it for granted that we can explain or pitch our ideas. However, learning to pitch in just 60 seconds is a craft that requires practice.
Sussi gave us 3 of her expert tips to get you pitching for your next Startup Weekend.
“The first tip is ensuring that you make your pitch memorable. One of the ways to do that is to make clear the skills and background that you have to work with your idea. You can also choose to include a funny or unusual instance that highlights the problem you intend to solve.”
Sussi’s second tip is about the problem itself. In short, make sure it is clear, precise, and understandable.
“This also means that a pitch in the Startup Weekend sense is not always about the solution but about what pain or problem you aim to solve together with other people.”
And Sussi’s last tip highlights the importance of needing a team to fulfill an idea.
“The important part of making a team is in ensuring that you find people with competencies that are totally different from your own. And part of your pitch should be stating exactly the kind of skills you need to make it happen.”
One of the aspects of pitching many participants struggle with is time. Because there is usually a high number of people pitching their ideas at a Startup Weekend, there is a practical reason in limiting them to 60 seconds. However, as Sussi states, this is a limit to embrace rather than dread.
“The funny thing is that when you get used to the format of keeping things short in just one minute it doesn’t feel like a short time. Our experience shows that when you get used to getting to the point in 60 seconds, that it is a skill that you can use in a lot of other areas to convey ideas beyond Startup Weekend.”
This last point is one of the most important when it comes to deciding whether to participate in a Startup Weekend. While Startup Weekends are about turning ideas into businesses in just 54 hours, it is also about more than that. It is about what you take home. It is about the new skills and experiences that affect all aspects of your life. Learning to convey ideas simply is exactly one of those skills that can only prove itself useful after getting the chance to practice it in a safe and energetic environment like Startup Weekend Health.