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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 www.up.co/communities/usa/fargo/startup-weekend/9626

McKenzy Diehl McKenzy Diehl
McKenzy is a biology major at Concordia College, a nationally registered EMT, competitive bodybuilder, and Startup Weekend Fargo winner/alum.