When I found out about @SWSheffield, I debated for a long time whether I should go or not. I didn’t want to launch a business, I already had one, and there was no plan to change that. So why go?
Well, I wanted to see how I felt about working on businesses with a team, as opposed to being a freelance/indie developer, which can be isolating. This was a chance to get out and find out what I wanted. There was going to be 3 meals a day (very important), what did I have to lose?
At the event, a guy called Ted gave me the obligatory t-shirt and name tag before telling me where the food was. I grabbed some snacks and sat down amongst the other attendees. I managed to get chatting to a few people, and before I knew it, my nerves had gone.
Pitch Time…team formed, now it began, for real.
I didn’t have an idea (like most) and that wasn’t a problem, you don’t need to have an idea. After the people who did had pitched, the facilitator offered everyone else the chance, even if it was a small half-baked idea. I decide in that moment to take a chance and get the experience. So, I stood up and gave it a go. I would say it wasn’t my finest moment, but I delivered!
Pitches over, ideas narrowed down to the popular ones, it was time to join a team, my main reason for coming along. I’d made a choice and sold my skills to Saskia, who had an idea named ‘Spare Change’. Our team of 6 was formed, and now it began, for real.
We grabbed a table, which would become Spare Change HQ for the weekend. This was my first opportunity to see how working in a team felt. There’s no hierarchy or power plays here. This is proper teamwork. We all offered up our thoughts and within a few hours we had refined a high-level idea into a well-defined business plan. Tomorrow was the day we would validate, but for now it was home to bed, worn out from the excitement.
Saturday…it’s work that you actually want to do.
We regrouped over breakfast (very important), shared ideas we’d thought about overnight and what followed was 24 hours of exhausting, exciting and fun work. This is work, but it’s work that you actually want to do. You have the choice of doing something new or sticking to what you know. You can go out and pound the pavement doing customer interviews, or remain indoors working on mockups and pitch decks. The weekend isn’t about what you can and can’t do, it about what you want to do.
When Things Clicked…the importance of a good team.
About halfway through, I realised the importance of a good team. A team needs to be balanced. Someone with the skill and passion to do a job that you don’t like is invaluable. You can’t do everything on your own, and I don’t pretend I can, but sometimes I thought I had to, being a solo-founder and all. I learnt that it’s OK (and good) to trust in others.
When 2pm Sunday hits all too soon, you need to trust in all to deliver a good pitch. It’s a team effort. After working most of the night (optional), there isn’t much energy to worry, just have fun instead.
Advice: You should listen to the organisers, they’ve primed the judges on what to look for, so focus on hitting the same points. They will tell you, so listen!
Is that good advice? Yes, we followed that, and we won! I’ll tell you now, the feeling of winning after an exhausting 56 hours is immense. In that moment, everything you’ve worked toward, pays off! We won prizes, and had an awesome afterparty with everyone that attended.
A Year On…
I still enjoy steering my own ship, but I changed from wanting to be a one-man band, to build a valuable team and working together. Although we disbanded the idea a few months on, I made a good friend (shoutout to Harry) and we’re working on a new idea.
I gained a lot from the Sheffield Startup Weekend experience and I recommend it to all. There’s a lot of fun to be had, a lot of knowledgeable people to meet and plenty to learn about yourself. You’ll make friends, win prizes (even if you don’t win 1st place) – I came away with a unicorn ? mug and a chicken ? …
Tickets are available online via Eventbrite.com
For more information, visit www.sheffield.up.co or email firstname.lastname@example.org