McKenzy’s Top 5 Tips for Maximizing Startup Weekend

1. Come with an Open Mind

What are your talents and passions? What are you bringing to Startup Weekend? Startup Weekend is all about exploration, testing your abilities, and thinking on your feet. So do just that! The more open-minded you are, the better your experience will be. Startup Weekend encourages making mistakes, being unsure and uncomfortable. But if you’re open-minded, you can learn immensely from your unsure-ness. Here, you will gain transformative new experiences, don’t let your past experiences hold you back! 

2. Be Engaged

You are going to meet some really cool people because you all have an interest in the thrill of Startup Weekend. Show your fellow participants that you are interested in their ideas! Ask questions, get personal, and make unique connections while you are building your startup. You’ll meet a lot of great people, and some of these people might just be the people you’ll continue your startup with post-weekend.

3. Stay Focused

Everyone hits a little slump on Saturday afternoon. You’re in the thick of the madness, exhausted, and have a little twitch because you have had too much coffee. Take a deep breath, go for a little walk around the block, give your brain a rest! Take little breaks to clear your mind, to regain perspective and focus. When you’re working with your team, put away the social media and focus on your team’s mission. Your team needs you! You have a lot to do, so don’t waste your time! 

4. Take Initiative

You might be asked to take the lead on some aspect of your business – perhaps you’ll be the lead developer, designer, or validator. It might be scary, but you can do it. You’re at Startup Weekend to learn and experience new things — embrace it! Some people are natural leaders, while for others it feels unnatural; this is the perfect opportunity to practice. It’s okay if you have no idea what you’re doing. Just keep trying again and again and again. Don’t be afraid to say “Yes” to new and perhaps challenging opportunities! You can do this!

5. Have Fun! 

Yes, you are attending Startup Weekend to do a whole bunch of work on a really cool startup. But you are also attending to meet wonderful people, share inspiring ideas, and gain invaluable experience. While you are working super hard, and perhaps a little stressed out, make sure you do it with a little smile on your face. OK – I know that sounds a bit silly. But seriously, this is an amazing experience, so make the best of it!

What Happens at Startup Weekend?

At Startup Weekend, we refine undeveloped ideas into viable businesses. Startup Weekend combines the best parts of a hackathon, business plan competition and pitch contest. Participants work in teams to explore the resources, activities and relationships necessary to design and build new businesses from scratch.

They test their assumptions, interview real customers, meet with experienced coaches, and pitch as though to investors. By the end of the weekend, some teams will have functional prototypes, some may have even made sales, but all will deliver presentations of their work to a panel of judges.

The Spirit of Startup Weekend

All of the players and positions in the entrepreneurial ecosystem are represented at Startup Weekend: designers, developers, business people, students, professors, investors, and many more. Startup Weekend is designed to be accessible to anyone who wants to explore what it takes to turn an idea into a business.

Generous local sponsors ensure tickets remain inexpensive. Meals, snacks, and supplies are provided all weekend. Every person involved in planning, running, coaching, judging, facilitating… is a volunteer! Startup Weekend thrives on the passion and dedication of community minded locals who believe in entrepreneurship.

Friday Night: Pitch Night

Late Friday afternoon, a fascinating group of people gather to eat, meet and network, get warmed up, and settle in. The facilitator will open with a greeting and a little guidance for the weekend. Then our speakers, Jordan Maahs and keynoter Wade Foster will inspire us with their entrepreneurial experiences. Then the real fun begins…

Anyone with a new, undeveloped idea is invited to present their 60-second pitch to the crowd. After all the pitches are concluded, participants vote to determine which 10 or so business ideas will be developed over the weekend. Those whose ideas were not selected join other teams. Teams of roughly 4-5 people form organically around the winning pitches, and everyone gets right to work!

Saturday: Discovery, Iteration, Coaching, Testing

Throughout Saturday, participants work feverishly to innovate around their business models and explore variations of their value propositions. They go out into the community and interact with potential customers to discover whether their proposed solutions solve real problems — and if they don’t, they figure out what they should be creating instead. They meet with coaches — local experienced entrepreneurs, investors, designers, developers — people who have gone through these processes many times.

Sunday: Practice, Refine, Pitch

On Sunday, teams continue working, refining, meeting with coaches, and clarifying their business models. They develop their revenue models, cost structures, explore partnerships, marketing strategies and analyze the competitive landscape for their businesses.

On Sunday night each team delivers a 5-minute presentation, in the style of an investor pitch before a panel of judges. Then the judges grill them with questions for a few minutes. After all the teams have pitched, the judges withdraw to the deliberation room to discuss and select the winning teams. The prizes awarded to the winning teams at Startup Weekend are designed to encourage them to continue with their businesses post-weekend.

Want to be part of it? Check out a local Startup Weekend near you! 

Ready… Aim… Pitch Fire!

Startup Weekend is about connecting the entrepreneurs, makers and innovators in our community toward solving real problems by building new viable businesses from scratch in one weekend.

Pitch Fire

The main event on Friday night is called Pitch Fire. Anyone with a new business idea will be given exactly one minute to tell the room what problem they intend to solve, how they propose to solve it, and what kind of team they need to assemble.

Pitching is Caring

When our community comes together to share the problems we see, and the solutions we’ve conceived, powerful things happen. At Startup Weekend, it’s common to discover a handful of people that are deeply interested in the same things we are. Sharing our ideas is a first step toward discovering the resources and relationships we need.

It’s not required or expected that every participant pitch a business idea, but it’s strongly recommended! The experience of pitching to an audience and discovering whether your message is clearly understood by all is an important part of the entrepreneurial journey.

If you don’t bring an idea, or aren’t comfortable pitching, that’s okay. Just bring your passion, skills, and tools. There are many important roles to play throughout the weekend. You’ll find a good business idea to work on, have tons of fun, learn new things, eat great food, and meet some amazing people.

Sell Your Solution; Sell Yourself

While people are listening to your idea, they’re also observing you. They’re considering whether they want to work with you in close proximity for the next two days. They’re assessing whether you seem able to work well with a team and sustain the business going forward.

You Bring More Than an Idea

As a member of the team you hope to assemble you’ll want to quickly include a note about who you are and what you bring to the table. There’s no room in a startup for someone who is merely the “idea person.” You also bring experiences, skills, aptitudes, relationships, resources, etc. What strengths do you have which are relevant? Why are you the right person to explore and execute a solution?

Pitch Pattern

A simple 60-second pitch may look like:

:10 seconds – Introduce yourself.  
:20 seconds – Describe the problem you’ll solve.  
:20 seconds – Describe the solution.   
:10 seconds – Tell us who/what you need to be pull it off.  

Choosing a Name

During your initial pitch on Friday night your goal is to communicate clearly, be memorable, and generate interest around your idea. Choose a working title which is simple, descriptive, and memorable. Don’t worry — you can change it later. Imagine what someone would think about your idea based on the name alone. Without hearing your pitch, would they be able to guess what your business is about?

Practicing Your Pitch

Practice to a timer. On Friday night you’ll have exactly 1 minute to pitch your idea. It goes by fast. Practice to a timer a dozen times before you get up and do it front of an audience.

Practice with people. Practice your pitch with a variety of people. Try it on a grandparent, a friend, a coworker, a classmate, and a few strangers. Stick to your one minute pitch when practicing on people. After you pitch, ask them what they think you’re trying to do. You’ll discover what aspects of your pitch are unclear and learn to correct them so that people understand your proposal the first time.

Start Up, Sign Up

Want to be part of it? Check out a local Startup Weekend near you! 

5 Things I Learned at Startup Weekend (and You Will Too!)

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

What is Startup Weekend, Anyway?

When I signed up for Startup Weekend last year, my mom asked, “What is Startup Weekend, anyway?” My reply was, “Eh, I’m not really sure, but I’ll find out!” I didn’t know what I was getting into at the time, but I would soon discover what this hectic weekend is all about.

Startup Weekend is a 54-hour event that brings together developers, designers, visionaries, marketing gurus, business managers, artists, and pretty much everyone in-between. Many people come to Startup Weekend with an idea to pitch to the crowd of participants. Then everyone votes to decide which ideas will be worked on during the weekend. They form teams around the winning pitches based on their skills and passions. The teams work for hours on end, going through endless pots of coffee, to build their new startup company from the ground up. After designing, prototyping, building and testing their company, teams present their work on Sunday night to a panel of judges in a five minute presentation, as though pitching to potential investors.

Uffda! Long weekend, right? It was the longest weekend of my life – small exaggeration. Yet one year later I’m coming back. I’m excited to tell newcomers about the cool things we did that weekend, all the things I learned, and how proud I am of my Startup Weekend team today.

You might be asking yourself, “What cool things can I experience at Startup Weekend?” Well, I learned all about what it means to start a new business. All the work that goes into putting together a website, designing the content, and picking the colors takes a lot of teamwork. I learned how to work with a team toward a common goal. I learned how to find something I’m good at in an unfamiliar field, and contribute what I can.

When we pitch we practice overcoming anxiety so we can share ideas we’re passionate about. We learn how to work in teams with very different people, and rely on others when we don’t have the skills. I learned a lot of invigorating things at Startup Weekend, but most importantly, I made connections with some really amazing people in my community. I had conversations with fascinating people about their ideas and passions. You get the idea — there are a lot of exciting things to experience at Startup Weekend!

If you’re wondering whether Startup Weekend is for you, it was for me – and I’m a student with a biology major. So sign up, take a risk, and have a wonderful experience! 

The next Startup Weekend is March 3-5, just one month away! For details and tickets, visit

Register today for North Dakota Women's Startup Weekend 2016!

2015 Women's Weekend

Hey Ladies. Ever been in the shower and suddenly think of a great business idea? Or encountered a problem over and over again, and know the perfect way to solve it?

Get those ideas rolling on April 22-24 at North Dakota’s Women’s Startup Weekend. This is a chance to bond with fellow ladies of North Dakota in one of the only women’s startup weekends in the country. In just 54 hours not only will you build the foundations of a startup, but you’ll create lasting friendships, enjoy delicious food, and – who knows – maybe even embark on the journey of entrepreneurship.

If you’re thinking, “But I don’t have any ideas!” or, “This sounds scary,” then this event is made for you. You’ll be surprised what you learn about yourself! Take the leap, have courage, sign up and join us!

Read all about last year’s event here.


Startup Weekend Fargo 2016: Save The Date

Watch for more details to come later in 2015.  We’re excited to get planning for the 4th Startup Weekend Fargo.  March 4-6, 2016

fargo page logo save the date

What Happens on Friday, Saturday & Sunday?


Friday: Participants arrive at 6:30 pm, begin networking, and eat dinner. After an ice-breaking game and a short introduction by the Facilitator, there will typically be 1 short speech on practical topics ranging from Pitching Best Practices to Lean Startup Methodology and more. Then the “Pitchfire” will commence: anyone intending to pitch will have 60 seconds to give their best pitch. No presentations or props needed for Friday. It will just be you and a mic. After pitches are finished, all attendees will vote on their favorites, and using these votes the top ideas will be selected to be worked on over the weekend. Teams will form organically, consolidate, and begin working.

Saturday: Teams will work all day, with the occasional breaks to eat or listen to 1-2 short talks. Coaches will be circulating to provide concrete advice in the field of their expertise for those teams that want it.

Sunday: Teams will work uninterrupted from morning until mid-afternoon. They’ll begin wrapping up their product/prototype and/or presentation around 3-4 PM to do tech-checks and practice their demonstration. After all Judges have arrived presentations will begin: each team typically has 5 minutes plus 2-3 minutes Q&A from the jury (this varies occasionally.) The jury will select the top teams, give out prizes (if applicable), and the event ends (and celebration begins!)

Is This for Me?

Startup Weekend attendees’ backgrounds are roughly 50% technical (developers, coders, designers) and 50% business (marketing, finance, law). What unites all attendees is a common interest in entrepreneurship: whether a serial entrepreneur or new to the startup scene, every attendee is interested in working with a like-minded, motivated and skilled team to develop a product or business in one weekend. If this sounds like you, this is the event for you!

I am an Entreprenuer