Guest post by Matthew Ayoub
My first Startup Weekend completely changed my life.
It was the first time I was around a large group of like-minded, entrepreneurial people, who all lived in New Mexico. Indeed, this was the first time many of us realized that such a community even existed. Now, here we are more than a year and at least half a dozen Startup Weekends later and I can’t imagine a New Mexico without this thriving and ambitious entrepreneurial community.
This weekend marks another Startup Weekend, and I think this event is more important than ever for our city, our state, and for all entrepreneurs who call New Mexico home. Startup Weekend is only 54 hours long; a headfirst dive into the whirlwind startup experience. This event offers a chance for anyone who has ever had an idea to take action and bring that idea to life. But it’s also so much more than that. In 54 hours you will have failures and successes, you’ll learn your strengths and weaknesses, you’ll come to understand the value of your team, you’ll make lifelong friends, and you’ll find a purpose. Startup Weekend will challenge you in new ways and you will grow as an entrepreneur.
During my first Startup Weekend, I set out to learn about creating a team around an idea. I had been working on a startup as the sole founder for several months and I knew that when the time came for that company to grow, building the right team would be essential to its success. I went to Startup Weekend with a new idea, something I hadn’t worked on in the past, and I was able to form a team around that idea. Over that weekend I learned some of the most important lessons that I still use to this day. The top three are, the importance of your pitch, team diversity, and aligned focus. Here they are in detail:
Lesson 1: The Pitch
When you arrive at Startup Weekend on Friday evening, one of the first things you do is pitch your idea. After all the ideas have been presented, people will begin to form teams around what interests and excites them the most. I knew that my pitch was important to attracting people to my team. What I didn’t realize, was how carefully you must craft your pitch, to attract different types of skills. The pitch that attracts marketing and business people is going to be a bit different than the pitch that attracts the engineers and the programmers. Think hard about who you need on your team in order to succeed, then craft your pitch to appeal to those people.
Lesson 2: Team Diversity
A successful startup needs a wide range of skills. You need industry experts, in the market you are trying to break into, you need the technical talent, to help you build your product, you need the marketing and sales skills to bring your product to the world, and you need business skills to effectively run the company. You can usually find all these people at a Startup Weekend event. Tailor your pitch to attract who you need most urgently but don’t forget to seek out the other skills you may need to get your business off the ground. You have an opportunity to talk with people, while they decide what team they would like to join. Take an active approach to this and try and recruit people to your cause. If you just wait for everyone to come to you, you could miss out on a valuable addition to your team.
Lesson 3: Focus
One of the challenges to having a talented team with diverse people and skills, is that everyone will have ideas. This can be really great while you create the concept for your product but can quickly cause a breakdown in productivity. It’s important to brainstorm and finalize your minimum viable product as soon as possible. Once you have decided what features you will focus on in the first version, focus your team away from brainstorming mode and into execution mode. Your goal now is to build and validate in preparation for your pitch. One of the challenges during my first Startup Weekend was balancing the flow of new ideas with actually developing the ideas we already had. The most focused teams will produce the most.
Making the decision to launch your own company always comes with a certain amount of risk and events like Startup Weekend provide the perfect environment to make mistakes and take chances without much downside. The lessons I learned during my first Startup Weekend have been tremendously valuable as I’ve continued to build my company. Now I attend Startup Weekend events as a coach, which allows me to mentor new entrepreneurs and I’m always amazed at how much the teams can improve and grow in just 54 hours. If you’ve ever had an idea and want to bring it to life, come to Startup Weekend, create something amazing.
Matthew Ayoub is an entrepreneur and founder of technology company Media Trove, and Kanoodl – a startup that enables customers at restaurants, stores, and other businesses to influence the music around them.
About Startup Weekend
Startup Weekend is a 3-day event where entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs meet up to brainstorm, plan a product/service or business idea, and build out a first model / prototype.
The event takes place at the CNM STEMulus center in Downtown Albuquerque, November 21-23, 2014