Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Lisa Wang, Co-Founder of Fooze, the 1-Tap Delivery for Your Favorite Late Night Munchies, and member of the winning team of Startup Weekend Food Edition 2014.
“What’s Startup Weekend? What’s a hackathon?”
I remember asking these questions a year ago as my friend raved over the last one she had attended a couple months earlier. I had recently left my job as a financial analyst at a hedge fund and was taking my first leap into the world of startups. I was clueless, terrified, yet excited by the challenge of navigating a completely foreign ecosystem so different from the structured corporate one I was familiar with. With really only the surface understanding that Startup Weekend would require me to “build a company from scratch, pitch to a panel of judges,” and the enticement of enough food to make back the price of my ticket, I accepted the challenge and bought my ticket for Startup Weekend Food Edition.
In preparation, I canceled all my plans for that upcoming weekend. Any invitations to dinner or drinks were put on hold. “Why?” They would ask, “Because I’m going to spend the weekend meeting random entrepreneurs trying to hack together a new food startup.” I received bemused smiles, puzzled laughs, and a couple of nudges of encouragement from my cohort of corporate friends. It was going to be an interesting weekend.
That Friday evening, I entered into a room buzzing with an energy I could only compare to that of the pre-meet jitters I used to have as a competitive gymnast. Flitting around the room, I was surprised to discover that many of the attendees were similar to me, at a transition point in their careers, ready to take the leap and try something completely new.
A few nights prior, I had been facetiously kicking around an idea for a late night food delivery business. After trying and failing to find any half-decent food after midnight, I eventually resorted to some awful combination of $2 pizza and a rampage of Duane Reade’s cookie aisle. So when the Startup Weekend attendees were called upon to give a 60-second pitch of a potential food business, I figured I had nothing to lose, and stood up to pitch my idea,
“Have you ever woken up regretting what you ate last night? Have you ever been out late at night and wished you could get exactly what you wanted with a push of a button?”
Apparently, a lot of people had and after all the pitches had finished, I was able to to quickly assemble a team that was ready to tackle late night food delivery. It was an exciting moment and as the teams were formed, ours got to work immediately mapping out our individual strengths and our product roadmap for the next couple of days.
Over the course of that one weekend, I learned how to create basic wireframes, the importance of conducting user interviews, the difference between flat and skeuomorphic design, the necessity of distilling down a very clear problem, what the term MVP actually stood for, how to determine TAM, the essential elements of crafting a pitch deck, and perhaps most importantly how to balance conflicting ideas, test assumptions, and iterate (very) quickly.
After two sleepless nights, pitch day arrived, and our team had already learned more about the on demand food delivery space than most of us had ever cared to know. What had started as a half-serious idea and a 60-second pitch had now transformed into a project five people had poured dozens of hours of hard work into. We had cobbled together a very basic prototype, created a logo and tagline, interviewed over 100 potential users, calculated initial financial projections, and crafted a well-designed pitch deck to boot. Moreover, despite having a lifelong discomfort with public speaking, I was given pitch practice and critique sessions that allowed me to become increasingly confident even over the course of just a few hours.
Pitch night was one of the more inspiring professional presentations I had been to in quite some time. It was not so much the ideas, but rather the effort and cohesive passion I witnessed among each of the team members who had, for all intents and purposes, been complete strangers just 48 hours prior.
When it came time to announce the winner of the Weekend and my team was called, our entire team jumped up in surprise and triumph. Yes, we had put in an unbelievable amount of effort, but what surprised us was that we had managed to come together as a team that was derived from a host of different backgrounds completely unrelated to startups or tech. While winning a competition like Startup Weekend was indeed thrilling, it ultimately served a more important purpose; it was the impetus that gave every single member of that initial team the confidence to dive headfirst into the intoxicating world of entrepreneurship: of creation, ownership, and innovation that we all had only dreamed of before that fateful weekend.
A year later, I am the Co-Founder of Fooze, the 1-tap delivery app for late night munchies. I took that winning idea and plowed ahead with the same degree of energy and vigor I felt when I first walked into Startup Weekend. We pivoted multiple times based on user feedback, built a full-time team of three, graduated from Food-X, an international food business accelerator in NYC, and just recently launched our beta of Fooze, a little over a month ago.
Looking back, Startup Weekend was but one external factor that nudged me in the direction I am pursuing today. More important than the external push though, was the open and bold mindset with which I approached that Weekend and all weekends thereafter. As I tell many aspiring entrepreneurs, it’s no longer about knowing where you’ll be leaping, nor whether you’ll make it to the other side. In fact, don’t be surprised if you don’t make it your first time… Leap anyways.
Want to experience Startup Weekend Food Edition yourself? Tickets are still available!
From left to right, Dr. Bobby Green of Flatiron Health, an attendee asking a question, Derek Flanzraich of Greatist, Michael Kopko of Oscar Health Insurance, Fon Powell of SALT LLC, and Calvin Hwang of CityMD. (Photos by Frank Fukuchi)
We had a full house at the latest Startup Weekend NYCs: Health and Fitness Edition panel, lead by Amanda Goboud and Kimberly Hall. This event attracted entrepreneurs looking to network, VCs looking to assess disruptive technology, and professionals in the healthcare industry looking to tap into the healthcare startup world.
The panel discussion could be summarized in one word:
While there are many problems and inefficiencies in the health and wellness industry, the biggest of them seems to stem from data, which brings us to our first healthcare pain point.
Portability and transmissibility of patient data
- Information often gets lost or is in a useless form (e.g. filed on paper, illegible). In other words, important data is often unstructured and therefore unusable.
- Data in health care can be complicated and proprietary. Companies are hiring engineers to extract data, normalize it, and add it to a single common database. Companies still struggle to pull data from many sources and require engineers to weed through and develop common data models.
- There are massive privacy, regulatory, and security issues in medical data. There are currently no laws about data sharing in the healthcare industry. This means large healthcare institutes are not sharing data and there is still a competitive threat to share data.
The second pain point in the health industry that we heard about was about communication:
Clinicians are not able to communicate easily with one another
- We have largely uncoordinated health systems databases, which make it hard to share information!
- It is currently difficult to build integrated holistic patient care in a disintegrated health care industry where hospital system policy, government, and insurance companies all have diverging interests.
- We don’t have a patient focused healthcare system because companies are more interested in both protecting themselves and growing within their own system.
The final healthcare pain point starts with, as with any industry, cost and time. The healthcare and fitness industries are booming with monitoring and predictive tools that will help consumers assess their own health. How can these tools integrate into the healthcare system and help individuals prevent long term health complications?
Slow adoption of preventive monitoring and predictive tools by the healthcare industry
- There are many diagnostic tools and monitoring technologies that will allow us to make more informed patient care decisions earlier on. Insurance companies and health care systems are slowly adopting these technologies. How can we speed up this process?
- While prevention has higher initial costs, it saves money long term. Unfortunately, insurance companies don’t want to pay for unnecessary treatments, even though they may prevent future and higher costing treatments.
- Datasets can now provide inferences into how future complications can be prevented. Datasets can help predict and prevent unintended hospitalizations.
- There is a small subset of the patient population that incur significant costs for insurance companies. Most of their investment goes to these critical cases. High costs are caused in part by the tremendous lack of health care coordination for the most sick patient, who require the most attention. How can we fix this?
- FDA doesn’t have the manpower to regulate apps. Average FDA clearance time is 1 year!!
Take away: People need to realize that they own their own data. When they visit a health professional, they have the right to ask for it. We need to shift the focus from business to consumer. Treatment and prevention lies in the hands of the individual. Companies are now working harder than ever to empower individuals to take control of their own health through prevention techniques, monitoring tools, and the availability of health data.
Startup Weekend NYC health and Fitness edition is coming up this weekend. We now know that data needs to be consolidated (made both useful and useable), used to help individuals (prevention / prediction), and go into the right hands (clinicians work together in a more holistic way). Take these problems and bring them to Startup Weekend!
Need more ideas? Panelists also listed inspiring telehealth and early detection companies such as Noom, a weight loss tool, BluesStar, the first diabetes prevention tool approved by insurance companies, and ihealth, a wireless prevention tools that sync that with mobile platforms. Other great examples are Fitbit, Teledoc, and Daybreaker.
B2C may get the sexier headlines and seem to attract the best investors, but B2B is where some of the most profitable start-ups have transformed into global giants. That’s why the Startup Weekend NYC team added a B2B twist with its first-ever B2B Startup Weekend a few weekends ago. The event and its 74 attendees explored several of the biggest untapped opportunities in the B2B ecosystem.
In just 54 hours, 12 teams created and showcased new companies and concepts that would increase efficiencies, boost short-term benefits and streamline processes for corporate clients. Here are the key takeaways:
HR Technology Is Sorely Needed
The over-arching theme of the B2B pitches? HR needs help – and lots of it. Many of the teams created platforms to ease the burden on human resources departments, from tracking employees’ time off to one-click on-boarding.
Small Businesses Are a Hugely Underserved Market
An overwhelmingly large percentage of participating entrepreneurs were focused on the needs of small business owners. Because these SMBs don’t have enormous technology budgets, they are often over-looked or out-priced by major technology vendors. This was the sweet spot for mega-disruptors like Square and many of our teams followed suit, including one team that wanted to offer wellness benefits to SMBs and another that aimed to supply skilled student workers to small businesses.
The Validation Process is King
Some of our participants were new to the B2B universe – a client pool with extremely specialized needs. That’s why each team was tasked with validating their idea with their networks, real businesses and potential clients. Even asking simple questions in a LinkedIn group proved to be a valuable goldmine for the teams – and many pivoted their value proposition, and even their entire business concept after initial customer feedback.
Take Advantage of APIs
Intuit was NYC Startup Weekend’s partner for this challenge, and several of the participants leveraged Intuit’s extensive library of APIs to increase their scale and relevance in the B2B market. (It doesn’t hurt to have a major partner right out the gate, too!) Stand-outs in the integration include CreativeWorx, an SaaS platform that integrates timesheets with QuickBooks and DOPA, which streamlines contracts and electronic signatures into one workflow.
A special congratulation goes out to the winners of this year’s Startup Weekend NYC B2B Edition…
- Time Off – Easily request vacation days w/ electronic approval sent straight to HR/accounting
- Team Mojo – Organizing team events – connecting teams to planners
- DOPA – QuickBooks digital-signing contract management
Sad to have missed B2B? Don’t worry, join Startup Weekend Health Edition this weekend. Get tickets here: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/startup-weekend-nyc-health-fitness-edition-tickets-16434708656
For our second “pre-event” leading up to our Health + Fitness Edition in NYC (the first being a ride with SoulCycle!), Startup Weekend NYC hosted a panel to discuss innovation and growth opportunities in the Healthcare Industry. This was a sold out event held at WeWork Soho Lounge, and included a group meditation facilitated by Buddhify. We were fortunate to be joined by:
- Derek Flanzraich: Founder and CEO of Greatist
- Dr. Bobby Green: VP of Clinical Strategy of Flatiron Health
- Calvin Hwang: CXO of CityMD
- Mike Kopko: Head of Business Development of Oscar Health Insurance
- Fon Powell: Founder of SALT (Sodium Analyte Level Test LLC)
After an hour of very lively discussion and facilitating questions from the attendees, we pulled together this list of 15 things that were most interesting points to come from the event:
- Healthcare is having a tremendous moment now!
- Surprisingly, numbers point to the reality that millennials are not any healthier than their age group was a generation ago.
- NYC is a “startup” startup-scene.
- Let’s get doctors doing more doctor stuff less administrative work.
- Opportunities around the “consumerization” of healthcare have never been so numerous and fantastic!
- NYC is offering startups incredible science and technology resources to build amazing Health tech solutions.
- It’s exciting to hear about how technology is completely changing how an entire industry is operating.
- I am not sure we are seeing another industry be so completely disrupted.
- Building a company in the healthcare space is challenging but knowing those unique differences can make or break a company.
- Preventive health is a broader and more impactful approach to health living!
- We need to create partnerships in healthcare to help push prevention to the forefront of people mindset.
- An integrated view of health history is super important to provide consumers with the best tools to work with doctors.
- Healthcare very scattered, not enough focus on patients and patient care specifically. Data will change things!
- Responsibility around regulations and privacy is very high.
- NYC offering next level tech talent and a great consumer base for consistent growth!
Having volunteered at several previous SW events, I found Startup Weekend NYC B2B Edition to be really informative. The event was stacked with helpful mentors and speakers, including Roger Osario, Startup Weekend Facilitator, Eddie Cullen, Community Manager at Grand Central Tech, Tony Chang, Product Manager at Intuit, and Chi Nguyen, Product Strategist at Perka and Lead Organizer of Startup Weekend B2B.
Blaga Popova, Director of Engineering at Voyat and a former Startup Weekend NYC organizer, kicked off the weekend by highlighting some important differences between B2B (business-to-business) and B2C (business-to-customer) companies:
B2B companies typically have lesser known brands
B2B companies usually deliver platforms that work behind the scenes and may be white-labelled, whereas B2C companies rely on popularity and brand recognition.
B2B companies have a few large clients, while B2C companies have many customers
B2C companies often build products that create enjoyment or convenience for a wide audience. Their larger user bases can quickly swing from wild enthusiasm to complete disinterest in a matter of days, creating instability for the business. Conversely, B2B companies enjoy greater retention rates. Clients take longer to acquire and onboard, but they see the purchase or subscription more as an investment, so they often stay and help improve and steer the product.
B2B companies focus on solving existing problems and maximizing near-term revenue
Investors can be especially tough on B2Bs. Venture capitalists demand more developed business plans that account for revenue, product/market fit, and scalability. The flip side, however, is that B2B companies also tend to stabilize more quickly, so they can rely less on investor funding in the long run.
B2B companies need to consider how to seamlessly integrate with legacy software that already exists
B2C companies have more flexibility to build on trending frameworks and technology. Shane Brauner, Vice President of IT and Operations at Schrödinger and a mentor at SW B2B Weekend, commented, “Lack of integration with existing, legacy systems is a key blocker for startups who are trying to get businesses to invest in a new technology.”
Overall, I learned a great deal from just the Friday evening kickoff of the Startup Weekend B2B Edition, and I’m curious to know what YOU think. What are some of the biggest similarities or differences between B2B and B2C companies? Which one do you prefer? Let me know in the comments section below!
This June, some of New York City’s top health companies including WebMD, Oscar Health, Blueprint Health, Flatiron Health, City MD, SALT, Breather, Startup Health, Blink, Hacking Health, IBM Watson are teaming up with Startup Weekend NYC to help you launch the next BIG IDEA in Health and Fitness.
In case you need more reasons to attend our upcoming events (sign up below!), we turned to BuzzFeed to give you 8 reasons to join us this June.
- When you put technology into the hands of people who are passionate about helping others, miracles like this are possible: http://www.buzzfeed.com/candacelowry/doctors-were-able-to-give-this-blind-woman-a-3d-print-of-her#.un2NZ3vYd
- There MUST be a solution to reduce the time spent solving these types of questions: http://www.buzzfeed.com/lukelewis/things-patients-say-to-doctors#.forMaPr16
- We’re inspired by the cardiologist who built an app to help children with heart defects: http://www.buzzfeed.com/stephaniemlee/this-yale-doctor-is-coding-his-own-iphone-health-app#.le2RW0G3L
- Healthcare professionals are human and have so many questions. So. Many. Questions. http://www.buzzfeed.com/leonoraepstein/pieces-of-medical-wisdom-from-30-rocks-dr-leo-spaceme#.clzk14x8N
- Move over pagers, Apple Watch already has apps specifically built for clinicians: http://www.buzzfeed.com/stephaniemlee/doctors-will-soon-talk-to-each-other-through-the-apple-watch#.pcEban4X7
- There has to better ways to improve the patient experience other than letting Oculus Rift do product demos at the dentist office: http://www.buzzfeed.com/peggy/just-a-relaxing-trip-to-the-dentist#.auyRoeO94
- Disney’s hit movie, Big Hero 6, was all about big ideas that are possible when technology meets healthcare and we secretly hope that Baymax, your personal healthcare companion, will be a real thing one day: http://www.buzzfeed.com/alisonwillmore/6-reasons-to-fall-in-love-with-disneys-big-hero-6#.xvamKYDNn
- When awesome, passionate people get together, there’s no limit to what can be created in a weekend: http://www.buzzfeed.com/doctorbuzzfeed/14-everyday-things-nurses-can-do-better-than-you-mkr6#.kiGlKk59y
Kick-off your summer by joining Startup Weekend NYC at our upcoming Health + Fitness events:
June 12-14: Startup Weekend Health + Fitness Edition (our classic 54 hour event!)
We look forward to seeing you there and please spread the word. Share this post and email email@example.com with any questions.
Startup Weekend is a 501(c) 3 non-profit that brings together the entrepreneurial, web development and design communities for one weekend with one goal: It’s a 54 hour challenge to launch a business. Here’s a quick video of one of our events in NY: watch.
The weekend consists of 3 main parts Pitch, Build, Present. Friday night, pitch night, everyone with an idea gets one minute to pitch their idea for a business to the crowd. The crowd votes on the top 10-20 ideas (depending on crowd size), and teams form to build the foundations of the business and develop a presentation and pitch. Teams build all day Saturday and until mid afternoon on Sunday. Finally, Sunday is demo day, when teams will have the opportunity to present their ideas to the judges panel, the rest of the teams/participants, demo-day ticket holders, press, investors and industry leaders.
New York City will host its first business-to-business (B2B) themed Startup Weekend event on May 15-17, sponsored by Intuit. In preparation for this event, we gathered a panel of experts and passionate entrepreneurs at WeWork Fulton Center on April 29th to share inside knowledge and firsthand stories about some of toughest challenges in launching a B2B startup. If you missed the B2B panel event or want to relive the highlights, here is a recap of all the top inside tips and takeaways.
Defining B2B (vs B2C)
At its core, a B2B is a business supplying a service/product to another business. Meredith Wood, Editor-in-Chief at Fundera, highlighted that B2B companies aim to address a real need, whether it is to streamline processes or increase efficiencies, whereas there is more “want” involved in the purchase decision for business-to-consumer (B2C) products. Wood also noted that there is often a larger barrier to entry when starting a B2B company and stressed the importance of market trust, which was echoed by all the panelists. At a B2C level, the purchase decision ultimately affects the one consumer, but at a B2B level, the decision could impact tens, thousands of people, hence the additional barriers and security/privacy concerns.
The panel was quick to address other differences such as pointing out that B2B sales models are completely different and often more complex. For example, the sale of a candy bar to an individual, which only involves the store and the customer, was compared to the licensing of a candy bar which involves a whole team of lawyers and licensing agreements. For a B2C company, the challenge is to spread the product far and wide. Conversely, for B2B companies, Marisa Garcia, Director of Retail Engagement at JOOR, addressed the need to focus on building good relationships that lead to success. She encouraged attendees to identify key players, validating your product, and finding a good market fit.
Wood noted that, unlike working with enterprises, selling to a small business is scarily similar to selling to a consumer and that a lot of B2C platforms, such as Facebook, work great in the B2B space as well. Most small businesses use Facebook and being active on the same platforms as your customers can be helpful for establishing trust with your target audience. In fact, when asked about what category companies such as Etsy, Seamless, and Google fall into, Jeff Ragovin, Managing Partner at Ragovin Ventures and co-founder of Buddy Media, pointed out that there are there is another category, of business-to-business-to-consumer (B2B2C) companies. For example, businesses are increasingly using Seamless to feed their staff, a rare occurrence that blurs the line of the capacities a B2C company can fulfill, usually seen with enterprise platforms.
B2B trends and opportunity
Ragovin declared that the mobile is a huge opportunity for B2B startups. The average person reaches for their phone over 100 times a day and as the mobile landscape evolves, everything is becoming mobile first. More importantly, Google recently announced that they have changed search results to prioritize mobile-friendly websites. The takeaway: in order to disrupt the B2B marketplace, think ‘Mobile First.’
Yves Lawson, Vice President of Technology Strategy for Bank of New York Mellon, noted that the success of apps such as Robin Hood are demonstrating a paradigm shift in a FinTech space that used to be highly specialized for the wealthy. The same tools for wealth management and growth advisors are now available for everyone, impacting the economy on how we see wealth in the future.
Success in the B2B space starts with empathy
Overall, the panel had a lot of great advice for the attendees but all of them stressed the importance of gaining trust and providing great customer service as keys to success in the B2B space. Lawson stated that the B2B companies that stand out from the rest are the ones that go far with relationships and maintain good customer service, even if a companies has messed up or made a mistake.
Garcia highlighted the importance of empathizing with your customers. Her recommendation was to consistently ask yourself, “How can [I] make my customers’ lives easier?” and stressed the power of engaging people in conversations to demonstrate that you really understand the customer’s pain points. After all, “how can an entrepreneur really solve [your customer’s] needs or problems if you don’t feel their pain?” She shared about how a strong understanding of JOOR’s customers helped the company to create a product that consumers are more likely to adopt and find useful.
For Wood, was the most important aspect of a B2B product is how much time it can save businesses. She claimed, “People are willing to spend more if you can save them time. Time is money, as you can convert saved time into monetary value.” She cited that there were products she stopped using because it made more work than the time it saved.
Furthermore, she compared startups to a newborn baby as an analogy to drive home the importance of getting customer validation advising to “let your children go out and play with other people.” She also importance of a great user experience and customer service, getting products in front of early users and acquiring feedback.
Good customer service, networking, and partnerships
All four panelists agreed that knowing your market is the first step in starting in the B2B space, because considerations for working with a small business versus an enterprise company can be a very different experience. For example, Lawson noted that when working with large enterprises, it is helpful to reference competitors or other notable companies who use your product or service.
However, regardless of size, the panel agreed that responsiveness and customer service applies to all B2B companies. Citing how a small blunder could turn into a national headline as seen with airline companies as an example, the panel suggested that establishing a responsive and quality customer service system, by leveraging tools such as Twitter and Zendesk, will not only build trust but also demonstrate credibility that will ultimately win customers. The panel also suggested making the effort to always be reachable and to show that there is accountability to build customer trust.
Ragovin encouraged attendees to keep their networks fresh and emphasized that networking is really a two-way street that is much more fulfilling when you’re willing to “pay it forward.” He urged attendees to think about how they could help others, and noted that people are generally willing to meet when ideas are constantly being exchanged. From a business side, he accentuated the need to focus on providing actual solutions to fix your customer’s problem. If your product is not fixing a problem, there is no need for it and it needs to be reevaluated.
For smaller businesses, Wood shared how partnerships with accountants, or experts in her target market, has helped her to reach her ideal audience, noting that most small business owners will trust their accountant over everyone else. Additionally, working with trade associations is also helpful for reaching small businesses in specific industries.
In closing, Garcia highlighted the power of the network effect of getting your fans and customers to promote your brand for you. She emphasized the impact of word of mouth marketing, which ultimately comes from providing good customer service and satisfaction, bringing us full circle with yet another example of why customer service is key for launching a B2B startup.
Ready to launch the next big B2B idea?
To inspire the audience, each panelist shared a few of their favorite B2B products that they use frequently: Salesforce, FreshBooks, Facebook, Lightspeed, Intuit, and CoSchedule. If you’re ready to launch your next idea that solves a problem that businesses face, come meet some of the panelists and additional NYC based B2B mentors at the next Startup Weekend B2B Edition on May 15- 17. Don’t miss your chance to register! Tickets always sell out.
Heads up: special prizes from our sponsors at Intuit will be offered to the top ideas that incorporate the Intuit API to help small businesses. We encourage you to check out more info on getting started with Intuit Developer by clicking here.
If you have any questions about the upcoming event, please email the organizing team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
13 teams competed in what may have been the toughest NYCEDU yet. One, Mr. Cesar, emerged the victor. Take a peek at the top three teams; you’ll likely be hearing more from them soon:
First Place: Mr. Cesar
In their own words: High-achieving, under-resourced students lack the guidance they need to select and apply to selective colleges. Mr. Cesar is a tool for helping manage the college process from search to submit to enrollment.
What the audience had to say:
- “Brilliant! Must pick this idea! The winner!!!”
- “This seems solid”
- “Love it!”
Second place: Poly
In their own words: Words without borders. A service to help teachers communicate with parents in the language of their choice.
What the audience had to say:
- “High energy and awesome demo”
- “Very polished Looking presentation. Bravo on the detail work.”
Third place (and audience choice!): Wizart
In their own words: An artist takes you on a unique museum experience.
What the audience had to say:
- “Nice! I love art and I would use it!”
- “Great idea as very focused on purpose and meeting a real need; excellent design process; more information on business plan would be helpful.”
- “Terrific! Can’t wait to use!”
Thanks to all of the participants for a wildly inspirational weekend!
Led by the incomparable Deborah Chang, the well-synced and ragtag organizational team of David Fu, Benjamin Newton, Laura Patterson, and Ingrid Spielman (with community leader Andrew Young as advisor) delivered a sold-out, knock-out event on May 27th.
In between real-talk mentoring and the occasional selfie, I took many mental notes about some best practices I saw at SWNYCEDU that I think should be replicated across all SWEDU events, if not Startup Weekend itself.
For your consideration:
1. Hold the event at a school, but in an open area
It’s a common understand that a SWEDU event (or Startup Weekend in general) should take place in a school – plenty of whiteboards, space, breakout rooms, and common areas. If teams are all in classrooms, however, they won’t interact with each other as much, which inhibits the core purpose of building community.
SWNYCEDU put most of the teams out in a common area, giving each station a huge whiteboards, sufficient tables, and open spaces to roam and float to other teams. The result: a willingness to share and collaborate that supersedes the spirit of competition.
2. Give out lanyards with ALL of the FAQ information you’ll need
“What’s the wifi password, again?”
“What’s the Twitter hashtag for this event?”
“How do I know you’re actually supposed to be here?”
Not a problem when it’s hanging around your neck at all times. Key information is great to have, and it’s also a reusable, standardized way to maintain formality and security at the event.
3. Use a text-messaging app to send out alerts
More compelling than email or social media, texting gets people’s attention faster and adds another method of outreach to a crowd of focused, stressed-out participants.
4. Provide advance information and office hours signups for mentors
Figuring out how to coordinate members seemed like an impossible art to me, but this group worked it out well by creating a station for teams to review and request mentors.
Coaches were asked to come at specific times, and teams sign up to meet with them on a first-come, first-serve basis. This eased confusion greatly for everyone.
5. Provide 3 phases of mentoring: brainstorm, focus, and presentation
Traditionally in other Startup Weekends, mentors pop in an event at various, even unpredictable times, and sometimes their advice does not mesh well with the team’s general progress. Some are already validated and advanced, and some are still searching for that “thing.”
SWNYCEDU takes these variations into account and brings in mentors during Saturday morning and afternoon strictly for brainstorm and validation.
In the evening, they bring in mentors (usually Startup Weekend veterans) who aim to provide focus after a long day of retaining multiple opinions and ideas.
By Sunday, SWNYCEDU brings in coaches who specialize specifically in pitch practice and communication, not business content or validation. This overall strategy gives teams a bit more structure and clarity as they evolve their ideas into bona fide companies.
6. Use Google Slides to present pitches seamlessly…
Simply put, there are far too many different ways to present at a Startup Weekend. Teams tend to present off their own laptops and switch back and forth between operating systems and format. In my opinion, this is a clunky and volatile process.
SWNYCEDU had one computer for the entire presentation setup, so they used a single format (Google Slides) and uploaded everything into the cloud. A huge amount time was saved overall between transitions.
7. … make teams do web demos (and tech check in advance)…
Doing live demos are traditionally considered a big risk at Startup Weekend – technical failures are perhaps forgiven but not forgotten. With only one computer for all 13 presentations, all demos also had to be sent up to the cloud and tested by 3pm.
8. … and put links to both decks and demos in a single Google Doc
A little embarrassing backstory: Startup Weekenders should always consider Murphy’s Law – whatever can happen will happen. This happened to me when I foolishly opened up every single presentation and demo into a single web browser and, to no one with a basic understanding of IT, crashed the system.
Organizer David Fu stepped up in a huge way to reboot the system and put all of the links to the slides, demos, and videos in a chronologically organized Google Doc. Once everything was back in order, the process went smoothly. Despite the 20-minute technical delay, we finished the event on time.
9. Serve dinner while the judges deliberate
As a past organizer and volunteer, I’ve never known what to do with the judges deliberation period. Dinner usually is served after presentations are submitted, and in the past I’ve seen ways to pass the time such as Community Asks or some light video or entertainment.
Serving dinner gets people to talk across teams, offer congratulations, and take their minds off the anxious decision that awaits them. Good food placates all.
10. Make animated GIFs of yourselves whenever possible
Taking on a new initiative that gets communities also doing Startup Weekends simultaneously, we made some fun little animated images for our friends in D.C., who held a Maker-themed event of their own. I think this speaks for itself.
If only we made more… Andrew Young, I’m looking right at you.
Finally, and most importantly of all:
11. Have a team that puts vision, guests, and team above ego
I can’t say enough wonderful things about Team SWNYCEDU. There was not an iota of attitude among any of them. When things went right, they showered each other with support and praise. When things went wrong, they responded to the problems with solutions rather than stand around and point fingers.
On top of that, they were an absolute pleasure to work with. I laughed at Laura and Ingrid’s wry jokes, felt secure by Ben and Deborah’s unflinching professionalism, and may have found some long-lost cousins in Fu and Young. You couldn’t buy a better team than this one – they’ll do it all for free.
In short, I learned a lot at Startup Weekend Education New York City. I hope you’ve learned a lot by reading this, too. Can’t wait to come back next year… perhaps as a participant? =)
Lee Ngo was the facilitator of Startup Weekend Education New York and is a Regional Manager at UP Global, the parent organization of Startup Weekend. To learn more about UP Global and its efforts to spread the spirit of entrepreneurship throughout the world, you can email him at email@example.com.
To reach out or get involved with the Startup Weekend New York City community, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com specifically to contact the SWNYCEDU organizers.
Photos from this event courtesy of Frank Fukuchi and the organizers and volunteers of Startup Weekend New York City. All rights reserved.
More about Education Entrepreneurs
Education Entrepreneurs is the largest initiative in the world focused on helping people use entrepreneurship to improve education. Its suite of offerings include Startup Weekend Education, Startup Digest Education, Workshops, online resources, and a global network of Community Leaders. Spanning six continents, Education Entrepreneurs has created an unprecedented opportunity for anyone, anywhere to shape the future of education.
The organizers of Rochester Startup Weekend have to thank our excellent supporters and partners at the Farash Foundation and Excell Partners. There’s no way our ticket sales could support the scale of the event we put on. The people behind theseorganizations are truly our “angel investors,” and we greatly appreciate their investment in our Rochester startup community.