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Startup Weekend: How to prepare?


Here are some tips for before the event:

1. Get Registered

The frequency of events is on the rise. However the popular events sell out quickly. Make sure you set a reminder and register early. If you miss out – join the waiting list or beg. If you cannot attend as a participant, maybe you can help out as a volunteer or mentor; or watch the final presentations.

2. Check the Schedule

Get hold of an agenda from the event or previous events. The typical format maybe:

Friday – Networking, ice-breaker, pitch idea, vote for top idea, form teams.
Saturday – Plan, design, discuss. Start building.
Sunday – Finalise product/prototype and presentation. Pitch to the judges. Prize giving.

3. Who are you?

The weekend has a strong dependency on you and your abilities. You don’t need to be a guru but you should be clear on where and how you can help (technically and interpersonally). Think about your strengths and don’t limit yourself. You may not know how to code, but you may be great at motivating the team or using Google. Every bit of enthusiasm and positive thinking helps during the 54 hours.

4. What do you want to learn?

Be clear on what you want to learn from the weekend. Look out for opportunities to gain that new skill. You will be exposed to a diverse range of experts and people working in the field. Utilise the chance to ask these guys some tough questions.

5. Networking

The event brings together a pool of talented and driven individuals just like you. A startup weekend gives you an opportunity to meet and impress like-minded people.

Get some business cards (name, phone number, email and twitter handle are sufficient). Check out the social media sites. Start speaking to those attending before the day and stay in touch.

6. Homework

Startup experts like Blank, Ries and Osterwalder have developed frameworks to plan and implement your idea or concept. Check out some startup methodologies and be prepared to draw on this knowledge.

The key things to know are how to generate an idea, evaluate an idea and perform some kind of customer validation. The Ash Maurya’s Lean Canvas and Jason Cohen’s articles on customer Validation.

7. Pitching – Part 1

This deserves a separate post. It can be nerve racking but ultimately prepares your for future pitches and gives you some control over the weekend (if you attract enough votes).

At some events half the room will pitch. The most business viable proposals are often forgotten. Designers and developers are keen to work on interesting and creative projects. Pitch something that will gain the interest of a team, rather than funding. Concepts that will utilise popular technology are always popular.

i) First, brainstorm your ideas down on a piece a paper by considering the following:

– Problems – What things do I see everyday that I want to fix?
– Pain Points – What really annoys me? What is totally inefficient?
– Random – Whatever else is on your mind?

– Customer – Who is your target market?
– USP – What is your unique selling point/proposition (USP)?

An example of a simple template – Four boxes for each idea (Problem, Segment, Pros, Cons).

ii) Second, pick you favourites and attempt to apply a solution. Think about how the prototype will look and what elements it will incorporate:

– Web based application,
– Mobile based application,
– Social networking site,
– Location based,
– Game based.

You will dive deeper into the product once you form a team.

iii) Thirdly, combine these thoughts and pick the best one or two.

Discuss these ideas with your friends, family and/or colleagues.

8. Pitching – Part 2

Now you have your idea(s), it’s time to build the pitch. Commonly you only have a minute to sell yourself and idea. Split your 60 seconds into these sections:

– Who are you? (5-10s)
– What’s the problem? (10-15s)
– What’s the proposed solution? (10-15s)
– Who are you looking for? (5-10s)

Remember to smile and be enthusiastic. Keep cool and don’t forget your in a friendly and open forum. You are not the only one a little nervous. Standing out will help people remember you. Silly hats or body paint may help.

At the end of all the pitches you should be given an opportunity to summarise the pitch on a piece of paper. Make sure it stands out and simply explains the main elements of your idea. Finally the audience will vote.

You may need to hustle people to get their votes or combine with others to gain enough votes.

Don’t get upset if you don’t get enough votes. Join a team where you can show off your skills and learn new things. After all, the weekend is all about learning and networking. The idea is not as important as the process.

9. Pack Your Bag

Pack a pen, paper, iPad, laptop, business cards, sleeping bag, enthusiasm… Get ready for an exciting 54 hours.

Meet our another Mentor – Mahesh Yadav

Our another Mentor - Mahesh Yadav

Poster for Startup Weekend Ludhiana


Meet our Mentor…
Dolly Bhasin – Managing Director
SPH Consultancy & eServices Pvt. Ltd.
epublishing eMarketing eLearning #swludhiana

The 6 Scary Truths About Becoming an Entrepreneur

The 6 Scary Truths About Becoming an Entrepreneur

There’s a haunting, scary, messy truth about being an entrepreneur. Those who dream about entrepreneurship think about the freedom of being able to chase big dreams, the thrill of building empires and the joy of making a mark on the world by doing something better than any other person in a field has yet done.

There’s something to all this. Entrepreneurship is indeed fun, rewarding and freeing. But there’s a back side to entrepreneurship that nobody likes to talk about much. Being an entrepreneur can be grueling, spirit breaking and downright tough. I hope you have thick skin. You’ll need it. Here are the six scary truths of entrepreneurship:

Related: The Hard Truth of Entrepreneurship: You Will Suffer

1. You are not your own boss.

I wanted to be my own boss, just like millions of other entrepreneurs. What I soon learned was that great entrepreneurs are never the boss, except perhaps in title. There are more than 300 sales professionals and staff members at the company I own — and they are the bosses.

Awesome businesses are built by listening to the people who make the business entity run. Anytime one of my people calls me “the boss,” I quickly remind that individual that I am directed by my team. I am their employee, the one employee who has 300 bosses who help lead the ship.

2. You won’t be the highest paid.

So many new entrepreneurs have grandiose visions of making huge amounts of money. Perhaps some will. For most, though, it will take years, probably decades. To build an amazing empire, you need the best sales team and staff, and this will require you to invest funds.

When you find a person who can take your empire to the next level, you will be the first to give up your own paycheck to hire them because that’s what entrepreneurship is about. Your business will take on a life of its own almost like a child. You will want more than anything for it to succeed and flourish, even if it’s at your own expense.

So you will sacrifice and happily eat your $1 ramen noodles in the quiet of your home so that you can hire the cream of the crop to help you build your business bigger.  You will sacrifice today for a better tomorrow because that’s what great entrepreneurs do.

Related: 5 Stern Truths You Need to Know Before Becoming an Entrepreneur

3. Work-life balance is impossible.

In the building stages of a business, seeking work-life balance is futile. Work will become your life. When you are at home working in your yard, at your kid’s soccer game or getting ready to turn in at night, you’ll be thinking about your business.

You’ll wake in the middle of the night worrying that you should have handled something better or jumped on an opportunity faster. There is no 9-to-5 to building a business, only 24/7. Yes, you will spend time at home and even on vacation, but you will always be on, thinking about your business.

I love running my company, but I’m the first to admit that my house is always a mess, my car makes me look like a hoarder with constant remnants of the last two week’s worth of appointments, and sometimes I go to bed in the clothes I wore to work because I’m so tired that changing into pajamas is just not an option.

4. A hidden support team is oh, so very critical.

A great company has a great support system, including executive, administrative, production, manufacturing and additional staff. That’s the official company. A great entrepreneur also has an amazing support staff outside the office, perhaps a spouse, kids and friends. Your family better have a 100 percent buy-in to your dream if you’re going to be an entrepreneur or your business or family will suffer.

My real estate empire is a by-product of the support I have at home and the friendships I’ve cultivated over a lifetime. The foundation of my work life is family members who understand that I sometimes have to field phone calls all weekend and attend networking events most evenings and that a recruiting appointment will often trump a homemade meal. Time is always carved out each week for them because they are the why behind everything I do. But when you have not just one boss but hundreds, an entrepreneur and the family that supports her are required to make occasional sacrifices.

5. Someone won’t like you.

The hardest lesson for me was this: The bigger the empire, the more enemies are made. For most entrepreneurs, it’s a tough thing to realize. That’s not to say you won’t have legions of supporters because you absolutely will. But there will always be people who won’t like the way you do things, the decisions you make or the direction you’re headed in. For some entrepreneurs, this is spirit breaking.

You will spend a big part of your life pouring every ounce of your being into the company. You will give back to your sales team, staff and the company in general until it hurts. Sometimes you’ll make decisions in the best interest of the company but not necessarily of the employees.

You’ll make decisions that are in the best interest of one set of employees but not others. You’ll cut out services because you have to cut costs. There will always be someone who doesn’t like what you’re doing, and it will hurt.

Your business is something that you gave life to and it is in that way your baby. Not much that will hurt you like someone putting down your business or saying that you just don’t care about the people who make it up.

6. Perception matters.

Even when your business is not doing amazing, act like it is. Smile. Perception matters. Perception, in fact, matters more than reality. Six months ago, I rebranded my business. It was the most difficult time of my entire business career. I lost one quarter of sales force because these staffers didn’t believe in me or my new brand.

There were nights when I went home and cried myself to sleep, and yet I put a smile on my face and went back to the office the next day ready to take on the world. In six short months I recruited as many new salespeople as the number of those who left. I can now say confidently that the rebranding was the best move I ever made in my career.

The hard truth is that there will always be days when you have to use every ounce of your being to put on a smile to tell the world that everything’s OK. I promise, if you do, one day you’ll wake up and everything really will be OK.

Related: How to Regroup When You’ve Lost Your Way

5 Ways Women Entrepreneurs Can Overcome the Funding Gap

5 Ways Women Entrepreneurs Can Overcome the Funding Gap

From Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg to General Motors’ Mary Barra, more and more women are earning top leadership positions.

It’s clear that women have come a long way since the Mad Men era. But, women still hold a mere 14.6 percent of executive officer positions. And this pattern continues with women entrepreneurs and small business owners, especially when it comes to raising capital. According to the “Kauffman Firm Survey,” men start firms with nearly twice the capital that women do. On top of that, only 4.4 percent of the total dollar value of all small-business loans goes to women.

So why does the funding gap still plague women entrepreneurs today? It could be that women are more risk averse. When starting my business, I always took more calculated risks than blind leaps of faith and funding seemed chancey. Asking for money is also a touchy subject that never feels comfortable. Women could also fear that committing to funding cycles will take time away from family.

Despite the hurdles widening the funding gap, every entrepreneur needs capital to sustain a business. As a woman entrepreneur, don’t let these start statistics deter you from actively seeking funding.

Here are five tips for getting the funding you need to succeed:

Related: Will You Join the Phenomenal Growth of Women-Owned Businesses?

1. Broaden your funding horizons.

Raising capital doesn’t always have to be in the form of venture capital or equity financing. There are many wonderful options out there, including bank loans, crowdfunding, lines of credit and Small Business Administration loans. Educate yourself on the variety of available funding sources to find out which one suits your needs best.

2. Network with others.

Entrepreneurs who build a strong network have a greater amount of resources and insight into funding opportunities. There are many women networking organizations, such as Ellevate, that support business growth, provide financial advice and offer mentorship opportunities. Make a concerted effort to connect with powerful businesswomen, and if you’re in a position to mentor somebody else, step up and do it.

Related: How to Leverage Boardroom Diversity for Greater Success

3. Get involved.

You can (and should) be an advocate for the change you want to see in the business landscape. As you search for funding opportunities, support other women and any initiatives that advocate women in business.

For example, Sen. Maria Cantwell and the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship recently introduced the Women’s Small Business Ownership Act of 2014. This legislation deserves a round of applause for increasing access to lending as well as business counseling and training for businesswomen.

4. Seek corporate and government support.

Don’t let large corporations intimidate you. Big-name players, such asAmerican Express, are now creating support programs for women entrepreneurs by providing useful content, forums and even boot camps. The government also sets aside contracts and funds for minority-owned, veteran-owned and women-owned businesses. There are countless opportunities: You just need to take the plunge.

5. Don’t hold yourself back.

Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, is famous for promoting self-confidence in women. According to Sandberg, women leaders often get in their own way by underestimating their abilities and goals. Being cautious can pay off in some areas of business, but when it comes to raising capital, you need to approach funding sources with a winning attitude.

Accessing capital is paramount for any growing company. By facing the funding gap head-on and taking advantage of the resources and mentors available, you can overcome this hurdle and secure the funding your business deserves.

9 Growth Hacks Any Small Business Can Implement



In 1996, an email company named Hotmail launched with a small group of users. By the end of 1997, that company had 12 million users.

How did they grow so dramatically in just year and a half? Well, they looked at their initial numbers and saw that approximately 80 percent of new users came by referral from current users. To make the most of referrals, Hotmail created their iconic email postscript: “PS. I love you. Get your free email at Hotmail.”

That single line, added at the end of every email sent through Hotmail, drove millions of new users in an ever-widening ripple effect.  Hotmail successfully created one of the first documented growth hacks.


Growth hacking is the combination of product design, marketing, and data with the overall goal of driving customer growth.  Initially popular among fast-growing startups, the principles of growth hacking have since spread to the wider business world.  With a focus on understanding the customer and designing the right product, successful growth hacking drives growth in both the short- and long-term.

So how can you apply a growth hack like Hotmail’s to build your own business?

Let’s explore nine innovative and data-driven growth hacks that you can adapt to your own situation.

1. The Webinar Hack

When you’re trying to find potential customers, you don’t just want to reach a massive number of people.  In fact, you might not need to reach very many people at all. You just need to find the right people.

Unbounce uses a variety of content marketing technique to reach customers. They write a popular blog, produce quality ebooks, and even offer a free email course. But when they started focusing on webinars those quickly became their number one acquisition strategy.


Because webinars offer an urgent incentive (“join before it fills up!”), you can drive significant interest. Once in the webinar, you get the opportunity to provide high-value teaching, which improves the perception of your company.

And at the end of the webinar you get a few minutes to explain your product.

Here’s how to run a successful webinar with very little work:

1. Pick a topic or get a guest speaker.

2. Create the webinar on GoToWebinar.

3. Make your landing page where people can join.

4. Do a dry run to make sure everything works.

5. Host the event and provide epic value.

6. Follow up with an email and encourage people to become customers.

Then assess how the webinar went, make a few changes to your strategy, and do it again.

2. The Giveaway Hack

AppSumo, a daily deals website focused on digital goods, has been extremely successful at running giveaways to increase their email subscription list. In just 10 months, by 147,973 new subscribers. Since each subscriber resulted in an average of $0.83 gross revenue, that’s a pretty significant marketing campaign.


So how’d he do it? Simple: He ran a steady stream of targeted giveaways.

He gave away Evernote subscriptions, in-person courses, and even MacBook Airs (the MacBooks performed worst!). Some giveaways drove a few subscribers and some drove thousands, but giveaway by giveaway the email list (and bank account) grew steadily.

So how can you run your own giveaway?

1. Find a specific product that only your target customers would like (broadly popular products attract generic leads).

2. Create your giveaway with something like KingSumo or Gleam.

3. Promote your giveaway with Facebook ads and your current email list.

4. Encourage social media shares for your giveaway participants.

5. Send a drip campaign to your new leads to convert them to customers.

If you choose the right product and audience, the money you spend on Facebook should start a chain reaction as current participants share your giveaway with their friends.

3. The Guest Post Hack

When Charlie Hoehn wanted to drive sales for his first published book, he turned to guest posting to reach potential readers. During the first month after publication, Charlie published nearly 20 guest posts and also made guest appearances on a couple of podcasts.

The result? He reached nearly a quarter of a million people and sold 2,000 copies. His self-published book landed on the top of its Amazon category.


Guest posts are powerful tool that can drive highly targeted visitors to your website. So how can you do the same thing for your site?

Here’s how you can create guest posts to drive customers to your own website:

1. Find popular blogs with audiences that match your target customer profile.

2. Write value-packed guest posts targeting particular blogs.

3. Email the blog author with your proposed guest post.

4. Continue emailing until you find a blog that’s interested in publishing.

5. Repeat … and make your posts better each time.

To make your guest posts even more successful, put together a custom pack of bonus materials for readers who join your email list. You can use extra information like PDF checklists, case studies, and exclusive videos to convert more leads from each guest post you publish.

4. The Two-Sided Incentive Hack

Since 2009, the car service Uber has raised millions of dollars and is currently valued at $18 billion. It’s now available all over the world and are even planning to break into the lucrative mainland China market in the near future.


How have they achieved this kind of growth? While many growth tactics factor into their speedy ascent, word of mouth (a.k.a., the viral factor) has driven their growth “substantially”.

To spur word of mouth even further, Uber uses a two-sided referral program. All current customers are automatically enrolled and given their own referral codes. When they give those codes to their friends, both the referrers and the customers they refer get a nice credit to their Uber account.

This gives the new customer a chance to try the service for little or no cost, and it gives the referring customer a friendly “thanks” for sharing.

To create your own double-sided incentive:

1. Make sure your product is worth sharing.

2. Find something current customers will value.  Free credit is an obvious win, but swag or VIP status might be good too.

3. Find something that will hook new customers.  Free trials or credits will let them try your product without any risk.

4. Promote it to all your current users through email and in-product messaging.

If done right, two-sided incentives can drive significant word of mouth, increasing the impact of all your other marketing endeavors.

5. Exit Popup Hack

WPBeginner, a free resource site for WordPress beginners, grew their email subscription list by using an exit popup display. In less than 10 minutes, WPBeginnerincreased their email subscribers by 600 percent. Prior to the change, they gained 70 to 80 new subscribers each day, and after the change they gained 445 to 470 every day.

How did they drive such a significant improvement? Using a simple popover with exit intent tracking. When a visitor arrives at their website, WPBeginner starts tracking their mouse movements. If the visitor’s mouse starts moving to close the window, a non-intrusive popover invites the visitor to subscribe for more articles.

By giving the visitor time to read before offering the upsell (i.e., the subscribe box), exit popups reach potential users at a time when intent is high, thus boosting conversions. Additionally, these popovers are non-intrusive, so the user can easily close the tab without any of the annoyances of a traditional popup.

To create an exit popover of your own…

1. Install software like SumoMe or OptinMonster.

2. Add copy for a simple subscribe box.

3. Connect to your email service (MailChimpAweber, etc).

Bonus: Create a special ebook or email course as an incentive.

Popovers always drive significant email signups since they’re more noticeable, but popovers with exit intent take it to the next level.

6. Retargeting Hack

Nitro, a commercial software development company, runs their business with a freemium business model and they receive a lot of trial users who never convert to a paid plan. To combat this conversion issue, they experimented quite successfully with retargeting ads. Using IP addresses, retargeting ads show specifically to people who joined Nitro’s trial but haven’t yet converted to a paid plan.

After launching these retargeting ads, Nitro has seen an 18 percent increase in online sales. Even better, they’ve seen a 3.9 times return-on-investment (ROI), which means that for every dollar spent on retargeting ads, Nitro has made $3.90.

The technical side of retargeting ads based on IP addresses sounds super complicated, but happily setting up your own retargeting campaign is actually really easy.

Here’s how you do it:

1. Join a retargeting service like Adroll (my favorite).

2. Add their code snippet to your website (just like Google Analytics tracking).

3. Select an audience to retarget (people who visited your website, trialers, etc).

4. Create an advertisement image (I used Paint.NET).

5. Start your campaign.

6. Test different campaigns to optimize ROI.

Like any other advertising platform, retargeting experts can help with all sorts of detailed optimization, but you can still achieve amazing results in just a couple hours of setup. If I did no other paid advertising, retargeting ads are the first place I would spend my money.

7. Drip Campaign Onboarding Hack

Too many marketers think their work ends once a customer signs up. On the contrary, joining your product is just the first step—acquisition. Now you need to help them activate by helping your users form a habit.

This process of onboarding can be dramatically improved with an automated drip campaign. Based on your knowledge of common questions, you can design a drip campaign with something like Intercom that sends a series of “power user” tips.

How effective are onboarding drip campaigns? Editing software Draft used this onboarding hack to improve the conversion from freemium to paid. With just one automated message, they boosted revenue by 200 percent.


Here’s how you can create your own automated drip campaign:

1. Create an Intercom or MailChimp account (MailChimp is email only; Intercom is email and in-product messages).

2. Integrate the code snippet on your website.

3. Create a series of 4 to 10 messages over a user’s first few weeks.

4. Watch for common questions and add them to the drip campaign.

Optimally, your onboarding campaign will answer common user questions and help users for habits around your product.

8. Invite-Only Hack

SpringSled is the “world’s easiest project management tool”. Well, at least that’s what they will be.  Right now, they’ve just got a landing page… and 150,000 beta users.

How did SpringSled drive 150,000 beta users in four weeks? Long before their product was finished, SpringSled opened their registration for beta users.  Each early access signup to SpringSled gets the opportunity to land 12 months of free project management by getting five friends to join the beta version.

After briefly driving some traffic by getting on ProductHunt and BetaList, the customers started pouring in through viral spreading. The “12 months of free project management” prize has worked quite effectively, and 99.8 percent of those first 150,000 signups came from referrals.

How can you design your own early invite hack?

1. Create a simple program with Prefinery or LaunchRock.

2. Setup an email drip campaign encouraging referrals.

3. Drive some initial traffic (ProductHunt, BetaList, Reddit, StumbleUpon, etc).

Bonus: Add a launch video

While many of the early invite users you drive will probably be low-quality leads, getting this level of interest before you even launch will definitely give you a solid base of initial customers from which to build.

9. The Live Survey Hack

Every customer is different.  They have different problems, different experiences, and different interests. They all come to your product for their own unique reasons.

And yet, the traditional landing page gives each of them the same static page. A/B testing lets you improve this page to help the most people possible, but everyone sees the same static page.

What if you could give different information for different customers? Using a live survey tool, you actually can do just that!

GoodBlogs wanted to increase the number of writers for one of its sites, The Flaming Vegan. To do this, they created a Qualaroo survey that asks new visitors if they’re vegetarian or vegan. If you answer “yes”, they ask if you’re interested in writing for the website. (If you answer “no”, the offer a discount on a blender.)


By implementing that live survey, GoodBlogs has increased new writer registrations by fully 300 percent.

Here’s how you can create a live survey:

1. Create 2 to 4 customer profiles (based on the people who come to your website).

2. Write 1 to 2 questions that filter these people.

3. Design a killer offer for each group.

4. Put this all together in a Qualaroo survey on your website.

Each customer is different so giving them custom offers based on their interests will help you dramatically improve conversion rates.

The #1 Thing To Remember

All these hacks are powerful and can help you improve conversions, but growth hacking is actually much simpler. Tactics help, but the best products win by making customers happy.  If you can make your users happier than a bull in a china shop, you will see sustainable growth.

Focus on building a product that hooks users and then use marketing to grow even faster.