7 Lessons I've learned at Startup Weekend

Editor’s Note: This blog post is by Bicky Singh.  You can contact him on Facebook.

I have attended 5 Startup weekends in 5 different cities and they were all different, yet also all the same. Startup weekend has a special culture that is hard to find in everyday life, so make sure to take advantage of this event and experience this phenomenal weekend where you can turn your ideas into reality.

I have learned some great lessons from these weekends that I have applied to my own start-ups, one of which was actually formed at a Startup Weekend!Here are 7 important lessons that I’ve learned at Startup Weekends.

1.Startup Weekend is about execution!

While most people have good ideas, not all of them execute these ideas.Startup weekend is about executing these ideas, which means you are forming a business that can potentially be launched at the end of the weekend!At a startup weekend you can learn how to lay a solid foundation to your startup in only a weekend and set yourself on the right path to success.

Granted, while you may not have enough time to have a fully scalable product or service, you should still plan to have the foundation formed. You are offered all the resources so you can work on your Idea without interruptions. There is coffee, mentors, food, and other tools for you to use to have something ready by the end of the weekend.

2. Choose your Team Wisely

A good team is much more important than the actual idea behind the business. You need a team you can trust at a professional level in order to really thrive. From my experience, it’s best to have a geek, a designer, and a hustler on the team, but I have seen it work other ways.

You need a team that can work together and know how to make decisions together and keep moving forward. Also, be open to saying ‘no’ to people. You want to make sure everyone on the team is comfortable with each other and can work together really well.

3. Get Customer Validation

It is imperative to go out there and talk to your target audience. In the end, your audience will judge if you have made the right choice in terms of picking a product, selecting your marketing method and creating an appealing offer.

The judges and future investors will like you to have numbers to back up your idea and this will also make your product or service better because of the input of your target audience.

4. Be Resourceful

In order to be successful, you need to take advantage of everything that is given to you. For instance, if you have mentors around you, take advantage of their experience and expertise. Learn from people who know more than you and follow in their footsteps. Additionally, you can leverage the power of countless free tools that are available for you online. You can use Google Docs to stay organized and access all the work from any device on the planet or Google Forms to send out a mass survey. You can also use severaltools to create mockups and wireframes for your apps orto design a nice looking website. The options are limitless.

 5. Pivot

Out of the 5 startup weekends I have attended, there was only one we did not pivot in. You have to know it’s okay to change things up and pursue a different idea.  Many successful companies were planning on being something else, but pivoted and now are a huge success. Also, sometimes after thorough research on your competition or some input from your mentors you can realize that your idea is not going to work, so you may have to do something completely different, but it’s all part of the Startup experience.

6. Prioritize

In order to be truly efficient you need to know how to prioritize your tasks. There are some things which are urgent and important, and there are other things that are neither urgent nor important. You have a limited time each day, so try to solve those urgent and important things. You can postpone those less important tasks.

Being efficient is very important because you can easily start focusing on the details so much that you forget the big picture. Remember that you are there to pitch a startup in front of Judges and they have a criteria they judge by.

7.Most importantly, have fun!

You will learn a lot during the weekend and meet a lot of people; some may even be future co-founders. This weekend is a little glimpse of what the Startup life can be like and you should enjoy it! I have won every Startup Weekend I have attended and I made sure to have a lot of fun at every single one. Take a small break to play some ping pong with your team, grab some beer while you’re working, or make it a game out of market validation.








Tackling Business Models for EdTech Ventures

What business models work for edtech startups? Great question! Edtech entrepreneurs are on a constant search to identify new business models that work in education. This Monday, Startup Weekend Sacramento, in preparation for our EdTech Edition Startup Weekend May 15-17, is hosting a Business Models in Education workshop that will help you answer this question!

Our workshop will introduce you to current trends in education business models—from K-12 to college to life long learning. You’ll roll up your sleeves and work in a group on a business model canvas and see how innovation impacts all aspects of a business.

You’ll also have the opportunity to see an education entrepreneur’s business on the canvas –our special guest is Janine Yancey, founder and CEO of Emtrain, a successful Sacramento company that focuses on employee education. Janine founded Emtrain to give employees and managers direct access to expert HR and legal guidance and training. Their focus is to help companies develop the workplace skills and ethical decision-making needed to foster an awesome and respectful workplace.

If you’re already registered to attend Startup Weekend EdTech May 15-17 or if you’re just thinking about it, you’ll find this workshop incredibly helpful! The workshop is FREE if you have already registered for Startup Weekend Sacramento EdTech Edition. Check your order confirmation for the promo code or email us. This workshop is open to everyone else for just $3 to cover the printed materials cost. We hope you can join us!

Details:
Business Models in Education
Wednesday April 27 from 6-8 pm
Location: Hacker Lab, 1715 I Street, Sacramento, CA 95811
Cost: $3, free to Startup Weekend registrants
Register Here

Bonus: US Dept of Education just published the Ed Tech Developer’s Guide– an incredible resource for developers and education entrepreneurs. You can download it here.








Pre-event Pitch Practice Workshop on May 11

Startup Weekend EdTech Sacramento is hosting a pre-event workshop for attendees and non-attendees who would just like more info on Startup Weekend. At this event you will meet other Startup Weekend participants (which just might give you an upper hand) and practice your pitch before the event begins on May 15. We’ll have pizza wine, and beer! Get ahead of the competition and sign-up today.

(Psst… Past Startup Weekend Sacramento attendees who attended this workshop found it extremely helpful and have highly recommended it to other participants.)

When:

Monday, May 11 at 6:00pm

Where:

Capsity
2572 21st Street, Sacramento CA

Who:

All Startup Weekend Sacramento attendees are strongly encouraged to attend this pre-event workshop. This will equip you will the information you need to give a successful pitch. We also invite anyone who would just like a little more information on Startup Weekend EdTech Sacramento.

Price?:

This event is totally free!

If you are planning on pitching an idea at our event, it is important to be prepared!

Do some research into startup tools and best practices to get ready to rock the weekend – start with our database of resources at startupweekend.org/resources. Make sure you get lots of rest prior to the event, and finally – tell your friends! If you plan on pitching an idea:

  • Do as much research/preparation around your idea as you feel is necessary to give a persuasive pitch and attract a team.

  • Boil the idea down to the basics: with 60 seconds, you only really have time for a hook, so pull out the most attractive key points of the idea and forget the rest.

  • Practice your pitch using a timer!

We look forward to seeing you there! RSVP








5 Things You Can Do at Startup Weekend Education That You Can’t Do Anywhere Else

This is a repost from this Up Global blog post by Mandela Schumacher-Hodge

1. Meet people who are like you

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Are you fed up with current education offerings? Do you think there are better ways to teach and learn? If you answered yes, then you are going to feel very much at home at Startup Weekend Education (SWEDU). Over the span of just one weekend (Friday night through Sunday night), you’ll meet up to 120 other people who also believe there’s a better way to do education. And like you, these people aren’t just interested in sitting around in a circle venting about the problems; they’re go-getters too, who are ready to dive in and take action to actually devise solutions.

 

2. Meet people who are not like you

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It’s great that you’ve found “your people,” but that’s only just the beginning. It’s imperative that amongst these people, you find those who possess different skillsets than you. The fact of the matter is, you’re not going to build a successful edtech company with developers alone. Developers must be paired with educators, designers, business people, and other important stakeholders, in order to create the best possible solution. Just think, if you’re Steve Jobs, SWEDU is where you may be able to find your Steve Wozniak.

 

3. Learn from people who’ve already done it

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How many edtech companies have come and gone? I don’t have the exact number, but ask anyone in a school system who’s purchased edtech, or ask any investor who’s funded edtech, and they’ll likely tell you: it’s a lot. So how do we fix this problem? How do we create better companies that stand the test of time? Well, that’s a very complicated problem, but one thing that’s key is access to great mentorship. SWEDU pairs people with quality mentors from the very start of their entrepreneurial journey. Seasoned school leaders, edtech investors, edtech founders, etc. are on hand throughout the weekend to share their best practices, strategies, and “Do’s and Dont’s” of not just launching a venture, but developing a scalable and sustainable business model. Ultimately, the mentors help participants fail faster, hopefully avoid mistakes they’ve made, and even set them up to leapfrog the current solutions out there.

 

4. Turn an idea into a startup in 54 hours

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Buy a ticket, show up, listen to 3-5 panelists share their experiences and advice, try to get the moderator’s attention so that you can ask your question, mingle with a few other attendees, and go home. Sound familiar? Yup, I thought so. That’s the typical run-down of a meetup, conference, or summit, and this is currently what people are limited to if they want to engage with others who are interested in making a difference in education. (Don’t get me wrong: the Speaker(s): Audience format absolutely has its place in the learning, networking, and community building process, but this article is about SWEDU). At SWEDU we take a different approach that’s represented by our motto: No Talk, All Action. At our events, your success isn’t determined by how many notes you took, how many tweets you posted, or how many business cards you collected. Here, it’s all about what you actually built. The 54-hour timeframe gives you a bite-sized taste of what developing a startup looks and feels likes. At a SWEDU, learning by doing trumps learning by listening.

 

5. Fail faster

MARK CUBAN, DAYMOND JOHN, KEVIN O'LEARY, LORI GREINER, STEVE TISCH

One of the worst things an entrepreneur can do is build something in isolation and not share it with others who can potentially provide essential input. On Sunday night at every SWEDU around the world, the creations are assessed by a panel of judges, who represent important decision makers (e.g. funders, customers, users). By the end of just one weekend, you’ll know what industry experts think of your solution (for better or for worse), and you’ll be able to use that knowledge to inform your next move. This is important, because as Lean Startup founder Eric Ries highlights, “The only way to (truly) win is to learn faster than anyone else.”








Announcing our First Pre-Startup Weekend Workshop on April 22!

We’re excited to announce the first in a series of pre-Startup Weekend workshops designed to help you gain an edge on developing a company in just 54-hours! Our first workshop is Mobile Apps — From Idea to Execution to Explosion on Wednesday, April 22 from 8:45-11:30 a.m. This isn’t instruction on how to code an app but rather expert guidance on fleshing out your app idea and then succeeding in the marketing of it. The app economy is a complex beast, and it takes careful planning from idea to execution to make your app explode into the market. Our presenters, leading app experts Aaron Watkins (President, Appency) and Rich Foreman (CEO, Apptology), will show you tips, tactics and tricks that will help you succeed in the world of mobile.

And now for the sweet part! If you’ve already registered to attend Startup Weekend May 15-17 you can attend this workshop for free!* Not sure you’re ready to commit yet? We’ve got a deal for you too — just use promo code “swsac” and you can attend for the admission price of just $9 (regularly $40). Admission includes validation for 4 hours of parking and a continental breakfast. This is a fantastic opportunity whether or not you already have an idea for an app. We hope you can join us!

Visit the Workshop Page for all the event details and to register!

*Look for the discount code for free admission to this workshop on your registration confirmation or email us for the information.








Good news! Workshop on 11/10 to help you prepare for your pitch!

Startup Weekend Sacramento Women’s Edition is hosting a pre-event workshop for attendees and non-attendees who would just like more info on Startup Weekend. At this event you will meet other Startup Weekend participants (which just might give you an upper hand) and practice your pitch before the event begins on November 14. Get ahead of the competition and sign-up today.

When:

November 10th at 6:30-8pm

Where: 

ThinkHouse Collective
1617 18th Street, Sacramento CA
(Parking is free on the street after 6pm)

Who:

All Startup Weekend Sacramento attendees are strongly encouraged to attended this pre-event workshop. This will equip you will the information you need to give a successful pitch. We also invite anyone who would like a little more information on Startup Weekend Sacramento Women’s Edition.

Price?:

This event is totally free!

If you are planning on pitching an idea at our event, it is important to be prepared!

Do some research into startup tools and best practices to get ready to rock the weekend – start with our database of resources at startupweekend.org/resources. Make sure you get lots of rest prior to the event, and finally – tell your friends! If you plan on pitching an idea:

  • Do as much research/preparation around your idea as you feel is necessary to give a persuasive pitch and attract a team.
  • Boil the idea down to the basics: with 60 seconds, you only really have time for a hook, so pull out the most attractive key points of the idea and forget the rest.
  • Practice your pitch using a timer!

We look forward to seeing you there! RSVP








It's Not About The "Boy's Club" Anymore: 5 Lessons From Womens Startup Lab by Ari Horie

It’s Not About “The Boys’ Club” Anymore: 5 Lessons From Women’s Startup Lab by Ari Horie

This post, written by Startup Weekend Sacramento Women’s Edition’s Keynote Speaker, Ari Horie, originally appeared on Huff Post Blog on 5/15/14.

If you’re a woman in business, maybe you’re familiar with this story: You’re leading a meeting or driving a deal and when you’re face-to-face with a client, he approaches your male colleague as the decision-maker rather than you. Why is it that a business woman is often mistaken for the executive assistant, rather than the boss? It’s tough to admit that people still struggle with unconscious bias even during a time or industry many people consider to be progressive.

Guy Kawasaki, former Chief Evangelist of Apple, and now Canva, recently said at a recent Women’s Startup Lab Unconference, “The way to get Silicon Valley to this next paradigm on gender is to very simply realize it’s so difficult to create a successful company in general that you need to use all your weapons and to think that you are not using half your weapons because of gender really is ludicrous.”

I began Women’s Startup Lab because I believe in the power behind community, even when it comes to the competitive nature of early stage startups and new markets. Collective intelligence, designed in either an accelerator model or through one’s research, is the backbone to efficiency and learning the lessons without doing it the hard way, wasting valuable time, money, and may I add — emotion.

The innovative leader wants to be successful in his or her career and surround him or herself with other successful men and women. It’s no longer a zero-sum game because we’re all defining our own meaning of what success means to us and within our individual markets. While sexism still, unfortunately, persists in our culture, I don’t believe the general and open-minded thinker is “out to get” women.

Claire Cain Miller’s recent New York Times article “Technology’s Man Problem,” gave clear insight into the gendered outlook from the dark corners of the technocracy, whereas Claire Shipman and Katty Kay’s recent article, “The Confidence Gap,” in The Atlantic parses the difference between men and women’s competence verses confidence. Anecdotal and empirical studies survey that women generally score higher on competency across the board, whereas men are far more confident, therefore they get promoted and move ahead faster than women.

These trending articles make me ask: “Why are women trying to join the ‘Boys’ Club,’ when we can rebuild a culture where both women and men are at the bargaining table?” People hold an unconscious bias and as a society we need to wake up from our idle state and reinvigorate the workforce with new and inclusive standards to allow innovation to flourish, independent of gender.

Born in Hiroshima, Japan, I’ve built my professional career around the notion that your differences aren’t impediments, but powerful resources to bring to the table. At Women’s Startup Lab, we empower our business growth through community collaboration and here are some of the best lessons we’ve learned together:

1. Remember to collaborate even when you think business is about competition. Entrepreneurship is a lonely road, especially for women. Women founders face the same obstacles as all startups, such as fundraising, building a customer base, establishing business acumen, and communicating effectively. Women also deal with the added pressure of working with investors, customers and colleagues who address business differently. Women’s Startup Lab provides a place for women tech entrepreneurs to be members of a collaborative community, gain business and personal skills, emotional support, confidence, and build their network to develop the precise set of skills needed to start, run and grow a thriving startup. In all this, seek insight and community from those women who are experiencing the same struggles. By exchanging intelligence, you can learn solutions for future strategies, while also getting answers for your current problems.

2. It’s not just about “leaning in.” Sheryl Sandberg told business women to “lean in,” but it’s also important to remember that success in business has more to it than pushing yourself, but it’s about how you leverage opportunities, your skill set and your community. This is where The Hito Rule comes in, inspired by the Japanese character meaning “human.” Pictorially, the character is comprised of two arcs leaning against one another. Similar to collaborating, Hito reminds us it’s important to lean in, lean up, and lean on your community to better your business. There’s always an exchange; you’ll help someone out and they, in turn, will help you — which, brings me to the importance of networking:

3. Networking isn’t about quantity, but quality. Aim high to meet trusted and well-respected advisors and partners for future opportunities. Facetime is invaluable and strong connections are made by engaging with the same people more than once. Remember to be tactical with the events you attend. Don’t go to a free event because it’s free. Spend your time at specific events. For example, instead of going to a general tech startup event, attend a specific gathering like a Speakers Panel for Angel Investors in the gaming industry. By narrowing your scope, you’ll meet the right niche of people and begin to cement strong relationships.

4. There’s nothing like finding strength and accountability in a community that you’ve helped build. Community and understanding what a fellow founder is going through is invaluable, and Women’s Startup Lab has been critical in many women’s business development. All Cohort members contribute to the success, lessons, and culture to Women’s Startup Lab. As one founder noted, “Women’s Startup Lab makes you accountable, but it’s a different accountability than what you have with a Board of Directors.” Imbue meaning into your work by connecting with others as well as yourself. In business, it’s important to find your own color or song and you’ll resonate more with investors and your audiences.

5. There are always options. As a founder, you determine the path for your business success. Sometimes, the navigation takes a different route than what we see modeled in Silicon Valley, but that doesn’t mean it’s a wrong choice. Through mentors and hearing alternative ways of doing things, founders can learn how to incorporate new techniques to carve an alternative route to success.








Startup Weekend FAQ

What is a Startup Weekend?
An event in which people meet to work together to create a startup in 54 hours.

Why a women-focused Startup Weekend?
The entrepreneurial talent we see from women is inspiring, and we are excited about creating an event that will showcase it.

How big are the teams?
Teams of 2 to 5 should be formed.

What if I sign-up alone or don’t have a group? 
Don’t worry if you don’t know anyone attending. We will help everyone form teams and there will be lots of time to mingle and get to know other attendees. (The point is to meet and work with new people!)

Who is this aimed at? 
Community members of any age with programming, design, user experience, business or project management skills who want to learn the fun and fast world of startups.

What do I need to bring? 
A laptop, and a desire to contribute! You must be able to attend Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Can men attend? 
Yes, everyone is invited to attend and participate in groups. Only women will be pitching ideas and leading the groups.

Who owns the code that I write? 
You do, unless you’re using something that belongs to someone else.

I can’t code, can I still attend? 
Yes! In fact, a well-rounded team of different skill sets is what will help make this event successful. Including, graphic designers, programmers, marketers, business developers and anyone looking to learn!

I have an idea, can I pitch it? 
Absolutely! Women are encouraged to bring their ideas and share their ideas!

What if no one forms a team around my idea?
That’s okay! We encourage everyone to give it their best shot. If your idea is not picked by attendees, we still STRONGLY encourage you to participate on another team.

I’m still not sure if I should go… 
There is great opportunity for women to get more involved and test their ideas, this is an opportunity to reinvent our environment and build conditions for both women and men to thrive and do more of what they love.

What are you waiting for? Register now!