From a recent article in Forbes by the Muse, I was inspired to share their four ways to know it’s time to pursue your idea because they run parallel with the desired goals and outcomes of Startup Weekend Evansville.
“Ideas…They’re fantastically fun to throw out and thrash around, but making them happen is a daunting prospect. Especially when you’re looking for an idea that can bloom into a business.
So how do you know if your idea is strong enough to plough ahead? Or invest? Or quit your day job? There’s certainly no science to it, but there are some things that help make the decision easier—so that when you do take the plunge, it feels less like a plunge and more like a shallow dive.
In an attempt to make this a more interesting read, let’s check out some signature moves from famous old prodigies and see what they can teach us.
1. The Darwin: Share Your Idea
Darwin didn’t hide away in a black box and magically resurface with his theory of evolution. He wrote stacks of letters to other scientists, journalists, and friends to pressure test and develop his theory before he was ready to share it with the world.
I find it deeply infuriating when people say “I have an idea” and follow it quickly with “but I can’t tell you about it.” The notion that people are idea-goblins, waiting to steal your genius and launch it before you do is, on the whole, quite absurd. Having ideas is the easy bit. Making them happen is where the real hard slog starts.
So set aside the conspiracy theories and get sharing. It really is critical. By circulating an idea, you strengthen, build, and evolve it into a more robust thing. In short, you’re upping its chance of survival by allowing it to adapt to feedback and input. As a bonus, sharing also gets you in the habit of pitching (and defending) your idea; and the sooner you can practice conversing like an entrepreneur, the better.
2. The Alexander: Have a Cunning Plan
If planning battles was as sexy as fighting them, perhaps we would have celebrated Alexander the Great’s strategic chops as well as his swordsmanship. Whether invading Thessaly or Thebes, he knew exactly what had to be done and how to do it.
The same diligence must be applied to start-ups; and creating a business model is a great place to start. It forces you to address your shortcomings and decide whether or not you can overcome them. No idea is perfect, but deciding early on where your weaknesses are and how to conquer them is a big time and energy saver in the long run.
Creating a business model will also give you a taste for the hard work involved with starting a business. There’s a Hollywood-style myth currently doing the rounds about the start-up that gets acquired for a billion dollars after a year or so of what looks like very fun work. Start-ups are indeed fun, but it’s important to not gloss over the intense hours, sweat, and work—and the planning—they require.
3. The Galileo: Trust Your Gut
This isn’t the “are you willing to be incarcerated for your idea” test, but there is something to be said about trusting your gut. Only a lunatic would have rocked the boat as much as Galileo did without dogmatic belief in his idea.
My own “trust your gut” moment came eight months in. I’d been trying relentlessly to find partners to help me build my site. It had been fruitless and laborious and I had pretty much given up. But then I noticed a pattern. When I went out on the town, I’d find myself talking about my idea heatedly, and repeatedly. I realized pretty quickly that I couldn’t abandon it. I believed in it too much to let it slide.
4. The JFK: Up the Ante
Once JFK announced to the world that America would be the first nation to put a man on the moon, there was no turning back. An ambition had been declared and now it had to happen.
As an entrepreneur, start looking for ways to up your own ante and terrify yourself (just a little). Yes, start-ups are lean and should operate with prudence, but until you take a bold action to transport your idea from your head to the real world, it really is just an idea. Actively pursuing ways to make it real will force you to commit with new tenacity. For me, this moment came when I wrote my first check. I felt the stakes rise and my commitment triple once I paid for logo design. Until then, my idea was just an idea.
If you have a business idea of your own, these are all things you can do, and should be doing, now. They’re more than just best practices, they’re tricks to help you build confidence. And confidence counts. Having conviction in your idea and conviction that you can deliver on it is what will make “taking the plunge” feel less like a risk and more like an inevitability”. – The Muse
If you are at this point of thinking and thinking about your idea, realize you are not the only one pondering the same market problems and solutions. Whether you want to acknowledge it or not, ideas are commodities. It’s only a matter of time from when someone steps forward and brings their idea into the “light” that the reality of validation can begin. Life is too short to wonder what if. Take an easy step at Startup Weekend Evansville.
The Startup Weekend Evansville judging criteria is broken up into four sections. Teams are judged according to the following criteria (weighed equally):
- Have they established a “Minimal Viable Product” for the weekend (be it software, hardware, etc.)? *Note: an MVP is the minimal feature set to be able to start collecting data.
- How many iterations of the product have the done throughout the weekend? Successful product execution should be able to show you a roadmap of where they started and how they have collected data to evolve their product. A great SW team should be able to make it through many cycles of data collection throughout the weekend.
- Were they able to demo something functional?
Business Model Validation:
- Can you identify a clear customer segment?
- Can you identify a clear value proposition to that customer?
- How many customers did you talk to in the weekend?
- How have you validated your solution with the customers?
- How will you acquire customers?
- What differentiates your model from competitors?
- What are your users core needs?
- How many users have you engaged with?
- What feedback have you gotten to inspire your user feature set?
- Tell me based off your user insights why your product looks this way?
- Tell me based off your user insights why your product feels this way?
- Who is your team made up of?
- Why can this team take your idea to the next level?
- What has your team done this weekend to show you can go above and beyond all other startups to become successful?
Last February (2015), on a cold and icy Friday night, I had the opportunity to participate in a Startup Weekend on the campus of the University of Southern Indiana. The weather was of little concern as inventors and entrepreneurs (both young and not as young 🙂 ) from around the Tri-State pitched their invention or business idea to an impressive audience of educators, engineers, scientists, business owners, IT specialists, marketeers, angel investors and more. Based on the content of the pitches, the audience voted for the ideas they felt had the most promise, and then all participants worked together throughout the weekend to develop the ideas further.
Join us again in 2016! February 19 – 21 at USI, teams of citizens will rally around creative ideas and define what else needs to be done to get the start-up concepts off of the ground. Perhaps the idea needs a marketing analysis, a prototype, a capital investment analysis or technology assistance. If participants do not have the knowledge, they generally know someone in the community that does!
On Sunday evening, a fresh panel of judges from the community arrive for a terrific dinner and the opportunity to vote on the best of the best ideas.
Are you interested in pitching an idea? Or, perhaps you would like to offer your expertise to help a Startup team or be among our prestigious judges?
I hope you can join us! To learn more about Evansville’s Startup Weekend click here.
More than 23,000 teams from 150 countries around the world value Startup Weekends as a seed to economic growth. To learn more about Startup Weekends visit https://startupweekend.org.
Coined by a botanist in the first half of the 20th century, “ecosystem” referred to a localized community of living organisms interacting with each other and their environment. Noticing relevant parallels between the worlds of biology and commerce, J. F. Moore (1993) ported the concept to the increasingly interconnected and rapidly changing context of business. Moore noted the trend of successful business evolution involving attracting resources, creating cooperative networks, and co-evolving capabilities around innovation.
Initially embraced by the technology sector, the concept has now moved beyond buzzword status and represents a metaphor that impacts the mental models of leaders as they make decisions in a wide variety of business domains. For example, companies such as Apple, Facebook, Alibaba (China), Softbank (Japan), Nokia (Finland), and SABMiller (South Africa) all make explicit their intent of developing and strengthening aspects of their ecosystems (E. Kelly 2015). According to Kelly (2015), “ecosystems are dynamic and co-evolving communities of diverse actors who create and capture new value through increasingly sophisticated models of both collaboration and competition.”
Startup Weekend Evansville (SWE) in parallel with our host university, University of Southern Indiana, is providing a unique platform for all persons to engage in the healthy development of our startup ecosystem. SWE provides a neutral “playground” for all persons to intersect and cross-pollinate ideas, relationships, and resources for a more cohesive ecosystem. A recent white paper further highlights key “ingredients” for a thriving startup ecosystem.
You can make a valid contribution to our community by just showing up, having fun, and participating to demonstrate your support of this entrepreneurial effort. In just 54 hours, you can bring about significant change.
The Switchboard – An online, interactive directory of Bloomington’s resources for entrepreneurs. The site includes profiles of local organization willing to assist entrepreneurs and small businesses as well as local entrepreneurs bloomingtonswitchboard.com.
Bloomington Urban Enterprise Association – If you live or have a business located in the Bloomington Urban Enterprise Zone, you may be eligible for certain grants or professional development scholarships. For more information check out https://bloomington.in.gov/m/viewPage.php?docType=document;document_id=166.
Cowork Btown – A local coworking space with a variety of membership options. More info at coworkbtown.com.
Blue Burro Workspace – A new coworking space in downtown Bloomington with flexible pricing options. More information at http://www.bburro.com/workspace/.
Gayle & Bill Cook Center for Entrepreneurship – Provides free consulting to entrepreneurs and small businesses as well as entrepreneurship classes at Ivy Tech. Apply online to meet with Cook Center consultants at https://ivytech.edu/bloomington/5935.html.
Small Business Development Center – Provides free consulting to entrepreneurs and small businesses, gives clients access to market research tools, presents quarterly workshops, and assists businesses with Quickbooks. Sign up for an appointment at http://www.isbdc.org/services/.
Bloomington Economic Development Corp – Houses the B-Start Pre-Accelerator program for student startup companies and provides assistance to business owners. http://comparebloomington.us/entrepreneurship/
Bloomington Technology Partnership – Partnership for Bloomington’s tech businesses. Provides programs like Code School, job listings in the tech sector, and business assistance http://bloomingtontech.com.
City of Bloomington, Department of Economic and Sustainable Development – Assists business owners in navigating local business regulations and provides resources like business academy online courses http://bloomington.in.gov/m/viewPage.php?docType=document;document_id=2113.
IU Intellectual Property Clinic – The clinic provides a range of IP counseling services to clients judged to be in need of pro bono services. The clinic is certified for both patents and trademarks under the USPTO’s Law School Clinic Certification Pilot Project. They also provide PatentConnect for Hoosiers. The project will link Indiana entrepreneurs with patent lawyers who have volunteered to provide pro bono patent prosecution services http://ip.indiana.edu/pro-bono-services/.
VisionTech Angel Network – A statewide angel network with a Bloomington chapter. More information at http://visiontech-partners.com.
Hanapin Marketing – Hanapin Marketing is an industry-leading digital marketing agency that specializes in just one thing: pay-per-click advertising (PPC). And it’s our objective to make everyone better at it: ourselves, our clients, our peers—the entire industry. http://www.hanapinmarketing.com.
Johnson Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation – Headquartered at the Kelley School of Business, JCEI has nationally-ranked academic programs provide you with a wide range of real-world entrepreneurial experiences through cross-campus initiatives with other university departments and involvement with the business community. More information at http://kelley.iu.edu/JCEI/index.html.
Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization – Principal undergraduate student organization for entrepreneurship at IU facebook.com/iuceo.
The top teams at Startup Weekend Bloomington 2015 are going to win these awesome prizes:
- 1st place student-led team will win a spot in the B-Start Pre-Accelerator Program www.b-start.org
- 1st place team will win a 3 month free partial membership to Cowork Btown www.coworkbtown.com
- 1st place team will win free consulting with the IU IP Clinic http://ip.indiana.edu/pro-bono-services/
- 1st place team will win a free pack of Uel Zing Coffee http://uelzing.com
- 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Place teams will win consultation time with The Gayle & Bill Cook Center for Entrepreneurship https://ivytech.edu/bloomington/entrepreneurship/ and the south central Small Business Development Center http://www.isbdc.org/locations/south-central-isbdc/
All teams will give 5 minute pitches on Sunday evening and judges will evaluate them based on business model, customer validation, and execution. Prizes will be awarded to the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place teams.Thanks to all of our community partners who donated these prizes!
Here is a handy map for the weekend with both bus and driving directions.
If you plan on riding the bus, the 6, 6L, and 9 all have stops close by. If you’re coming from campus, you’ll want to get off in front of Sushi Bar, just before the bypass. Then you’ll walk catty-corner to the CIB and walk in either entrance on the east or west side. Coming from the west has an easier time because the bus stops directly in front of the CIB.
If you are driving, there is plenty of parking directly in front of the CIB as well as the secondary lot just east. Parking enforcement will not patrol these two lots, so you are free to park in any valid parking spot, i.e. not a handicap spot or on the curb.
Should you have any questions about parking, just message us on Facebook or Twitter, or email the organizers at email@example.com.
Can’t wait to see everyone!
Do I have to pitch an idea?
No, but we encourage you to! You can pitch an idea you’ve been thinking about for years, or something last minute you think of during the event. It’s a great experience and invaluable practice for public speaking.
Can I pitch more than one idea?
Depending on the number of ideas pitched and the schedule, you may or may not be able to pitch multiple ideas. Prioritize your ideas: pitch your best idea (and the one you have most prepared for) first.
What should I bring?
- Power cord
- Business cards
- Camera – take pictures and video!
- Optional: A second monitor, keyboard, etc…. set yourself up to be productive!
- Lots of creative energy!
What if I can’t be there for a couple hours? Do I have to participate all three days?
Apart from Organizers, selected Coaches, Speakers, and press, everyone who attends the event is expected to participate all three days. This is important not only to preserve the ‘vibe’ of the weekend (“no talk, all action”) but also to minimize distractions/disruptions for working teams. However, if you can’t be there for just a couple hours on one of the days because of a commitment it is fine – as long as you warn your team at the beginning of the event.
Can I pay at the door?
No, you cannot pay at the door of the event – you need to purchase the ticket online. If you are physically unable to pay online, reach out to the local organizers to arrange payment.
Do I need a team?
Everyone who attends the event as an attendee is expected to participate on a team (teams will form around the top 8-10 ideas pitched by the end of Friday night, you can choose which team you’d like to work on). This is important not only to preserve the mission of Startup Weekend (teamwork!) but also to minimize distractions/disruptions for all working teams.
Can I pitch my existing business?
No. Startup Weekend is designed to be the most effective platform for growing new businesses from the ground up over the course of a weekend. A key facet of the weekend – and a central value for participants – is the spirit of complete collaboration, buy-in, and ownership. We’ve found that having existing businesses in the mix undermines this spirit, in addition to creating an imbalance between those ideas that are truly ground-level.
What if my idea doesn’t get selected?
The purpose of the Friday voting and crowdsourcing isn’t to exclude certain ideas, but simply to highlight the most popular and high-potential pitches and end up with a manageable number of teams – ensuring that each team has a variety of backgrounds and skills. If your idea isn’t selected but you’ve formed a team around the idea, you’re welcome to work on it over the weekend. If you decide to do so, however, please tell the event Organizer, as this may be an issue regarding your teams’ eligibility for prizes.
What are we supposed to have accomplished by the end of the weekend?
While there are no specific requirements in terms of what teams should have accomplished by Sunday, it’s in your best interest to plan your execution around what you’ll be judged for on Sunday:
- Customer Validation (did you vet your business?)
- Execution and Design (what did you build? Do you have a minimally viable product?)
- Business Model (do you have a plan for the future?)
As far as presenting goes, some of the most common presentations include any combination of the following (in no particular order):
- Wireframes or fully developed website;
- Mobile Apps (from mock-ups to skeletons to fully functional)
- Slide decks (Powerpoint, Keynote, Prezi, etc.)
- Videos (i.e. product demonstrations, etc.)
- Live product demos
Why is it a competition?
Competition is not a central theme of Startup Weekend, and this is often reflected in the broad, horizontal allocation of prizes and general flexibility/leniency of the event ‘rules.’ If and when the competitive aspect comes into conflict with the positive atmosphere we try to cultivate, we consistently choose the latter. We do believe, however, that friendly competition is beneficial to all parties and, most importantly, more accurately reflects the realities of startup life. Just as it’s important to gather ‘real-world’ feedback over the weekend, it’s also important to have real-world pressures and obstacles.
Are teams expected to continue after the event?
Whether or not you continue to work on the idea with some or all of your team is completely up to you. Approximately 25% of Startup Weekend participants continue working on their idea with all of their team.
If you have any other questions visit our website or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Startup Weekend Bloomington to Help Entrepreneurs Launch Businesses During 54 Hour Event
Bloomington–Startup Weekend Bloomington is hosting its annual entrepreneurship event on November 6th-8th at the IU Cyberinfrastructure Building. Entrepreneurs, designers, developers and startup enthusiasts are invited to participate in this event to take their innovative business ideas from concept to launch in 54 hours. Tickets are available at bit.ly/swbtown15.
The goal of Startup Weekend is to provide the time, space, knowledge, and resources to help potential entrepreneurs gain the experience they need to start successful ventures. The event takes place over a span of two and half days. On Friday night, attendees take the mic to pitch their ideas- typically web and mobile applications – to the group in 60 seconds or less. After groups form around the best ideas, the rest of the weekend is spent transforming those ideas into viable companies with the help of coaches and seasoned startup entrepreneurs. “One of the greatest benefits Startup Weekend has to offer to entrepreneurs is the opportunity to interact with local CEOs, founders, investors and startup veterans who coach the teams during the weekend. Working with these coaches not only gets the teams advice from the experts, but helps connect them with all the local resources the growing startup community in Bloomington has to offer,” said event organizer Meghan Turner. By Sunday, teams are ready to present their ideas in front of a panel of judges who award prizes to the winning team.
New this year, Startup Weekend Bloomington is partnering with the Bloomington Economic Development Corporation (BEDC) to offer the first place student startup a spot in their B-Start program. B-Start is a pre-accelerator program of the BEDC for IU and Ivy Tech student startups. “Bloomington’s business community and its leaders are dedicated to helping entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses, and Startup Weekend is an integral part of our ecosystem. Connecting the B-Start program with Startup Weekend Bloomington allows us to connect emerging startups with others passionate about creating jobs in our community,” said BEDC Vice President Dana Palazzo.
Student tickets for the event are $25 and regular tickets are $40. The event runs from 6:00 pm Friday, November 6th to 8:00 pm Sunday, November 8th at the IU Cyberinfrastructure building at 2709 E 10th Street. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit bit.ly/swbtown15.
Startup Weekend Bloomington is sponsored by Innovate Indiana, The Bloomington Urban Enterprise Association, the Innovate Indiana Fund, The Gayle and Bill Cook Center for Entrepreneurship at Ivy Tech Bloomington, Humanetrix Foundation, Inc., Hanapin Marketing, BEDC, and the City of Bloomington Utilities Department.
ABOUT STARTUP WEEKEND BLOOMINGTON:
Startup Weekend is a community program of Techstars, a global organization that helps entrepreneurs build great businesses. The mission of Startup Weekend is to empower individuals and create economic growth by providing experiential education to potential entrepreneurs all over the world. The annual Bloomington Startup Weekend event is run by a team of local volunteer organizers. For more information about Startup Weekend, visit www.startupweekend.org.
Good Morning Everyone!
Hope you guys are enjoying the startup weekend experience. We wanted to present you with some more details in regards to the some of the business components that the judges are looking for over the weekend.
MVP: This is your basic prototype. What is that you need on a simple level to show potential customers/investors/friends/potential teammates. It doesn’t need to be working it just needs to get the basic message/idea across. This is an example of a very creative, non-technical MVP: https://vimeo.com/13377903
Business Model Canvass: Please see the canvass sheet provided and begin to fill this out. Focus on the Value Propositions and Customer Segments and how they are connected. Ask the organizers if you have any questions at all!
Value Proposition: Is this idea unique? What value are you offering to customers? What makes this different to everything else on the market? Your secret sauce! You need a differentiator to make this a successful business.
Our (product/service) helps (customer segment) who want to (job to be done), by (verb e.g. saving time) and (customer pain point e.g. increasing reliability). Can you fill out this sentence?
Customer Validation: This can be done in a survey format (surveymonkey or google surveys), you can use social media (facebook or twitter). The most valuable customer validation comes from getting out of the building and talking to people. You have 8,000 Notre Dame students across the road, ask them about their needs and the opinions. Give us powerful quotes from people (“I need to buy this now!”, “Everyone has this problem”, “All my friends would buy this”)
Target Market Size and Logistics: What is the potential market that your product/service could reach. If it is an app, how many smartphone users are there in the US? in the world? If it is for college students, how many freshman each year?