Lorraine Warren, Professor of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Massey University
Last month, I had the privilege of acting as a mentor in Palmerston North’s Startup Weekend. Startup Weekend is a nationwide format where participants spend an intensive 54-hour weekend, with food and beer provided, working on new ideas with a view to taking the successful ones through to real businesses. Over the weekend, teams form and storm around new ideas, and then use the Business Model Canvas to develop those ideas. The weekend culminates in a competitive pitching event, where winners are chosen, and teams receive valuable critical feedback. It was my first experience of this format, as I’m new to the country. It was particularly exciting for me, as a group of my students were actively participating as part of their 152.334 paper in Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship. Feedback from the students was excellent – they really enjoyed the intensity of the weekend, and clearly a great deal of personal growth had taken place in many different ways.
But what happens next? Clearly not every idea or team is viable beyond the weekend. But as the Palmy Startup team point out “Whether entrepreneurs found companies, find a co-founder, meet someone new, or learn a skill far outside their usual 9-to-5, everyone is guaranteed to leave the event better prepared to navigate the chaotic but fun world of startups.” So how do you make sure that happens, and get the most out of the weekend?
1. Keep a reflective log – it’s easy to get carried away in all the excitement, and lose that energy in the following ‘come down’ period. Making a record of your feelings, emotions and learning experiences will consolidate the benefits of the weekend in your mind. And maybe spur you to further activities or learning experiences.
2. Build your network – get business cards not just from your team and other participants, but also from the mentors, organisers and judges. A few days later, send a brief note thanking them, or noting the connection as appropriate. Not to ‘sell’ anything but just to let people know you’re out there.
3. Even if you’re not taking your idea forward, arrange to meet your team in one month’s time over beer or coffee to see if any new opportunities have arisen – after all, you know each other pretty well now!
So, if you have a new business idea that you want to test out with skilled mentors, or want to find out more about the start-up process and perhaps get involved in someone else’s team, come along and give the Auckland Startup weekend a go! You’re bound to have a lot of fun.