By Roberto Braga, SW Organizer (Brazil) and Contributing Writer for UP.
If you’re reading this from the Startup Weekend blog there’s a great chance you already know what Startup Weekend is all about: a weekend-long event where people come with startup ideas and go out, 54 hours later, with working projects and a team. Startup Weekend is great at launching an entrepreneurial spirit into until then frustrated corporate employees and it’s spreading all around the world, taking away its core message of entrepreneurship as a transforming agent.
I’ve been in touch with Startup Weekends since 2011 and, in this while, organized three of them and helped 5 others. I also was a lead instructor at Startup Weekend NEXT. In these events I’ve seen lots of teams going from zero to epic wins in their business – and I’ve seen a lot of them becoming very frustrated in the few days after a Startup Weekend. Looking at these teams, I’ve compiled a set of tips to help individuals (and teams) get the most after those intense 54 hours.
1) You formed a team – not a startup yet
This is the most common mistake people make when talking about Startup Weekend. Even with many great startups coming out of Startup Weekends, the main goal of the event is to gather people working with startups (and innovation, in a broader sense). Startup Weekends are great in connecting people and putting them into a challenging situation where they can do their best work and, most importantly, find co-founders and a nice team.
Use the post-weekend days to know each one of your team members better. Balance the hesitation and try to find your team’s strengths and weaknesses.
2) Who’s in – and who’s not in
It’s not rare that SW teams get really big. I’ve seen teams of 10+! This is great to share work during the weekend, but there’s a great chance that you’ll get into issues by… Let’s say… Monday. There’s not a magic number of how many founders will fit nicely in a company, but keeping a founding team of 4+ will probably generate a lot of trouble. Rule of thumb here is look for the Hipster, Hacker, Hustler triad for a start. The more you can make the founding team smaller, the better. Believe me.
One of the common problems here is that part of the team wants to be full time at the new venture and part of the team is still afraid about left their jobs to be part of an unproven business. Again, there’s no magic answer. But the fact is that anyone is able to be full time at the company the equity, at least for a while, should be split in the same ratio. But there’s no problem at all at keeping a part-time routine in the beginning of the new company.
A good suggestion can be a roadmap, trying to predict activities in the following months. If anyone fails to perform certain activities, there’s a great chance of this person not trusting the business enough to be a founder.
3) Validation – now the right way
Even with customer validation as one of the key criteria used by SW judges, it’s not enough time to do it the right way. Generally, the customer validation made in a Startup Weekend is very solution-focused and biased. If you’re considering running your startup after the weekend, you need to consider doing customer validation from scratch.
Here the recommendation is the NEXT curriculum. If you’re close to a class, don’t miss the chance. NEXT is focused on building your business on top of proven hypotheses learned from customers and is a great exercise to find your next tip.
If you don’t have a NEXT near you, a great online alternative is the Steve Blank’s course in Udacity. Attending it together with your team with discussion sessions can be great.
4) Detach from your original idea
There’s a great chance of your startup idea not being as great as you thought on Sunday night after a your pitch, even after a lot of praise. And there’s no problem at all in that. Maybe the great thing about your team is just your team, as I said in tip 1. And there’s a considerable chance that this team will do great working in another startup idea.
So the exercise here is to use you SW startup idea as a starting point, but not being strictly in executing it point by point. Again, Customer Development here is the key to achieve an answer if you can persevere on your original idea.
5) Enjoy your new network
Startup Weekends are great in the network aspect. It’s not rare to hear histories about startup communities born at Startup Weekends. Enjoy this network the most you can! Get close of organizers, probably they’ll route you to upcoming events. And probably if you succeed you’ll need to hire in a short future, so the SW alumni network can be a great place to find people to grow your team.
Another place to keep informed about startup community is StartupDigest. They have a weekly events newsletter with volunteer curators.
If you enjoyed the weekend, why not giving back a little to your local community to keep great things happening?
6) Mentors can’t tell what you should do
There’s a great chance you’ve heard a lot of advice from mentors during the weekend. And there’s also a great chance that these advices told you to do things. And there’s a great chance of one mentor told you A and other mentor told you B, where A and B go in opposite direction! So it’s the time to filter the feedback avalanche and try to get to the point. Many of the feedbacks you heard just don’t apply. Your team is the right people to decide which ones are valuable.
I’m not telling you to work alone and don’t follow advices, but just to take a look at what is the core point about them. And maybe it’s time to start thinking about a board of advisors. And why not asking those mentors you like the most during SW to be closer?
7) Have fun!
You enjoyed SW because SW is intense and fun all the time. Organizers and SW team try to keep that happening all the time. Why not bringing this culture to your new born company? Don’t think startups are fun all the time, but if people (and the culture they foster) are nice, your business will reap the rewards.
Interested in writing for the UP community? Fill out our short survey here.