McKenzy’s Top 5 Tips for Maximizing Startup Weekend

1. Come with an Open Mind

What are your talents and passions? What are you bringing to Startup Weekend? Startup Weekend is all about exploration, testing your abilities, and thinking on your feet. So do just that! The more open-minded you are, the better your experience will be. Startup Weekend encourages making mistakes, being unsure and uncomfortable. But if you’re open-minded, you can learn immensely from your unsure-ness. Here, you will gain transformative new experiences, don’t let your past experiences hold you back! 

2. Be Engaged

You are going to meet some really cool people because you all have an interest in the thrill of Startup Weekend. Show your fellow participants that you are interested in their ideas! Ask questions, get personal, and make unique connections while you are building your startup. You’ll meet a lot of great people, and some of these people might just be the people you’ll continue your startup with post-weekend.

3. Stay Focused

Everyone hits a little slump on Saturday afternoon. You’re in the thick of the madness, exhausted, and have a little twitch because you have had too much coffee. Take a deep breath, go for a little walk around the block, give your brain a rest! Take little breaks to clear your mind, to regain perspective and focus. When you’re working with your team, put away the social media and focus on your team’s mission. Your team needs you! You have a lot to do, so don’t waste your time! 

4. Take Initiative

You might be asked to take the lead on some aspect of your business – perhaps you’ll be the lead developer, designer, or validator. It might be scary, but you can do it. You’re at Startup Weekend to learn and experience new things — embrace it! Some people are natural leaders, while for others it feels unnatural; this is the perfect opportunity to practice. It’s okay if you have no idea what you’re doing. Just keep trying again and again and again. Don’t be afraid to say “Yes” to new and perhaps challenging opportunities! You can do this!

5. Have Fun! 

Yes, you are attending Startup Weekend to do a whole bunch of work on a really cool startup. But you are also attending to meet wonderful people, share inspiring ideas, and gain invaluable experience. While you are working super hard, and perhaps a little stressed out, make sure you do it with a little smile on your face. OK – I know that sounds a bit silly. But seriously, this is an amazing experience, so make the best of it!

5 Things I Learned at Startup Weekend (and You Will Too!)

Your Idea Matters

I went into Startup Weekend with an entirely clean slate. I (literally) had no idea what Startup Weekend was, what it was about, who would be there, and so on. My friend said I should do it, and so I did. I distinctly remember walking in the room, looking around at all the people who were completely different than myself and thinking, “Oh my, what did I get into?” Then the pitches started. I frantically took notes on my phone, trying to keep up with all the pitches. I realized some of the people pitching ideas had come up with them right then and there. Some ideas were huge, like building a year-round, sustainable, community garden powered by fancy hydroponics and whatnot. Other ideas were relatively simple, like creating an interactive app with infographics about heart attacks. All the pitches were presented with passion and excitement. No one ever said “That’s a dumb idea.” No matter the size of an idea, or how long it was thought out, whatever idea you have – it matters. Ideas change the world.

Be Passionate

When our team leader pitched his idea the first night, I sensed his enthusiasm in his pitch and wanted to match it with my own. As the teams separated and began working early into the morning, we found that we were not very organized and going around in circles with our conversations. We struggled to make a game plan, find where to start, and even make the first step. But we did learn one thing that night – we were all passionate about making our startup work somehow, someway. My team seemed like an odd mix up of people, but we were passionate and excited to do our work. Our energy is what kept our team rolling forward on our project. If your team doesn’t have positive energy, what do you have? Staying true to what each of us was passionate about was what made us so good at each of our tasks. Don’t pretend to be excited about something you’re not – join a team that shares similar passions with you! I’m thoroughly convinced that our enthusiasm as a team is what helped us win. Stay true to your passions, because your passions will help you have an amazing experience.

Use Your Strengths

In high school I did a thing called StrengthsFinder. It’s this crazy long quiz produced by Gallup which ascertains your top five strengths. My top five are input, relator, developer, adaptability, and restorative. I’m good at giving input – I listen to what you have to say and then I tell you what I think. Then I could help you develop your idea by giving you feedback from my point of view, or I could help you restore your idea into something more viable. I’m good at relating to different people. Most the time, I’m good at adapting to the various curve balls life throws at me. I used these strengths so many times when working with my Startup Weekend team. I didn’t have technical skills or design skills, but I had other strengths and I knew how to use them well. You might not have taken the StrengthsFinders quiz, but you know what strengths you have and how you can use them to be helpful to your team. If you are like me, don’t worry about your technical or design skills, use your strengths and you’ll be fine!

Rely on Others

While I may be adaptable, I’m also super controlling, and kind of a neat freak. When it came to the point in Startup Weekend when we were all exhausted and running off of carbs and coffee, another side of me came out. I got frustrated when I was doing research and couldn’t find the information we wanted. But that’s why my friend Skyler was there. We were the research team, and so when my ugly side showed up, Skyler helped me get back on track and working towards the goal. My teammates relied on one another; we helped each other out when we struggled. We encouraged each other when were were in gloomy times of little sleep. We lifted up one another when we needed it. That’s what your team is for. Rely on your team to keep you accountable, on track, and working towards the goal – that’s why it’s called a “team.”

Put Yourself Out There

I went to Startup Weekend because my friend told me to (and I was told there was free food). I’m a biology major who works as a CNA and EMT in small-town North Dakota. I thought I wouldn’t fit in with the Startup Weekend crowd. I felt completely useless. Of course, I knew if someone broke their arm or was in cardiac arrest from a caffeine overdose, I might suddenly become the most qualified person in the room. Regardless, I brought everything I had to the table. And because I put little ol’ me out there, I met some of the coolest people in Fargo and discussed some engaging ideas with total strangers. Don’t say “no” to Startup Weekend because you think you have nothing to offer, because you have to offer yourself, your strengths, and your passions – and that’s huge! If nothing else, just come for a lot of really great food.


The next Startup Weekend Fargo is March 3-5, it’s coming up quick! For details and tickets, visit

What is Startup Weekend, Anyway?

When I signed up for Startup Weekend last year, my mom asked, “What is Startup Weekend, anyway?” My reply was, “Eh, I’m not really sure, but I’ll find out!” I didn’t know what I was getting into at the time, but I would soon discover what this hectic weekend is all about.

Startup Weekend is a 54-hour event that brings together developers, designers, visionaries, marketing gurus, business managers, artists, and pretty much everyone in-between. Many people come to Startup Weekend with an idea to pitch to the crowd of participants. Then everyone votes to decide which ideas will be worked on during the weekend. They form teams around the winning pitches based on their skills and passions. The teams work for hours on end, going through endless pots of coffee, to build their new startup company from the ground up. After designing, prototyping, building and testing their company, teams present their work on Sunday night to a panel of judges in a five minute presentation, as though pitching to potential investors.

Uffda! Long weekend, right? It was the longest weekend of my life – small exaggeration. Yet one year later I’m coming back. I’m excited to tell newcomers about the cool things we did that weekend, all the things I learned, and how proud I am of my Startup Weekend team today.

You might be asking yourself, “What cool things can I experience at Startup Weekend?” Well, I learned all about what it means to start a new business. All the work that goes into putting together a website, designing the content, and picking the colors takes a lot of teamwork. I learned how to work with a team toward a common goal. I learned how to find something I’m good at in an unfamiliar field, and contribute what I can.

When we pitch we practice overcoming anxiety so we can share ideas we’re passionate about. We learn how to work in teams with very different people, and rely on others when we don’t have the skills. I learned a lot of invigorating things at Startup Weekend, but most importantly, I made connections with some really amazing people in my community. I had conversations with fascinating people about their ideas and passions. You get the idea — there are a lot of exciting things to experience at Startup Weekend!

If you’re wondering whether Startup Weekend is for you, it was for me – and I’m a student with a biology major. So sign up, take a risk, and have a wonderful experience! 

The next Startup Weekend is March 3-5, just one month away! For details and tickets, visit