When you say “yes” to a 54-hour event called “Startup Weekend”, I don’t think anyone really realizes what they are getting into unless they have done it before. But let me give you a glimpse of my own experience with my first Startup Weekend in Muncie, Indiana.
I was fortunate to have a role on the organizing team. We started rounding up the team and began planning in the Spring of 2018, even though our event was not until October. As the weeks went by, we started reaching out to sponsors, local restaurants for catering, and darn-near any business within an two-hour radius that would help promote our event. We faced some hurdles along the way, but, as a team, we made a point to adapt and overcome anything that stood in our way of success. No one said this would be easy! And with this being our first event, we reached out to Startup Weekend veterans for advice and encouragement. We had a great community and support system from day one.
As the weeks grew shorter and the event quickly approached, we blasted out information anywhere and everywhere. We hung flyers, spoke to various groups around the area, and even had placement on the radio station, news stations, and in newspapers. By the time the event rolled around, we had secured twelve mentors, three judges, five sponsors, and 35 participants. Startup Weekend Muncie (SWM) was here whether we were ready or not.
The first day of SWM was a very-detailed blur. It went by so fast, but each moment stood out for different reasons. The introduction and welcome was a success, with our huge thanks to our facilitator who drove three hours to work with us. Then, we led into ice-breakers that immediately got people out of their shell and developing new relationships. All the fear and nerves that everyone walked in with slowly started to fade away. This resulted in a group of brilliantly brave individuals, all with ideas for something to help solve a problem. Finally it was time to pitch. Our participants pitched a total of 28 ideas. After a few rounds to narrow them down, we were left with seven solid ideas. The idea creators behind each quickly formed teams and started working.
From an organizer’s point of view, there were times when I felt like nothing was happening. But when I walked around to sit with teams and hear about their progress, I knew things were moving full speed ahead. In less than 24-hours, teams had solidified company names, developed websites and social media platforms, started to gain traction with customer validation by talking to their target markets, and some even had prototypes in the works. One thing that really stood out to me was the drive these people had. They had gone from being a bit nervous or confused to sitting in a new team with all the ambition in the world. There was nothing stopping these teams. When we brought in mentors, their progress increased even more. Our goal with the mentors was to bring in diverse knowledge to help each team in different ways. I would humbly say our team did a great job bringing in exactly that. These mentors had backgrounds in law, product development, marketing, computer design and software, as well as years of business development and experience. They offered so much to help each team. When it was time for final pitches on Sunday, each of our seven teams really had a well thought-out business plan, customer validation, and plans to solve problems in their everyday life.
Looking back on a jam-packed weekend, I personally learned and grew so much, but above that, I saw an incredible amount of teamwork and development in our participants and our organizing crew. I can almost guarantee everyone was on an emotional roller coaster that ended on a high point. We experienced excitement, chaos, stress, reassurance, growth, completeness, and more. Sure, our teams had times of panic. We made pivots and stood under pressure, but to power through and come out on top was indescribable. It’s not everyday, or even in normal business, that you get to experience and learn as quickly as you can in Startup Weekend. When there’s one near you, or even if there’s not, GO! They are international! There’s bound to be something close. This is an opportunity you cannot get anywhere else. Why not spend your weekend building a company?
Startup Weekend Muncie 2018 Highlight Reel