Here are some lessons from former Startup Weekend winners. Those winners share info on how they won Startup Weekend.
1. Designate a project manager from the get-go and define your methods of communication.
“Luckily, my team had a project manager who stepped up and got us organized within the first 15 minutes of getting to work. We added everyone to a Google Drive folder and created a comprehensive Google Doc to keep track of everything. We wanted to use a communication tool that everyone was familiar with and that could get the job done, quick and simple.”
2. Work backwards.
Thirty minutes into our initial discussion, our project manager interrupted our noisy chatter and asked: what’s the end goal? We stopped talking over and around one another and actually listed out our personal goals/expectations as well as went over the judging criteria in as much detail as possible. We created a road map.
3. Divide and conquer.
The first 45 minutes were rough. I honestly thought to myself, “Oh boy. I’ve never lead a team this big. I have no idea what I’m doing.” It was a nightmare trying to collaborate as a team of 8, especially with very different thinking mentalities. My team members had engineering, design, development, marketing, and finance backgrounds. This was great for collaborating, but it was also a challenge trying to get everyone on the same page.
We roughed our way through a hypothesis to the problem and then quickly divided the team based on skill set: Development/design; Business modelling and finance; and Customer validation/marketing.
4. Validate, validate, validate.
All of our features and pricing model were based on market research with our target audience. We knew it would be the key to our success so we focused our attention on it from the start. We created an online survey, approached strangers at a busy location where we knew our target audience would be and intimately interviewed 10 potential customers. It helped us paint a clearer picture of the problem we were trying to solve and how we were going to solve it (and make money doing so!).
5. Check in with your teammates.
Dividing and conquering and having a project manager to keep track of it all is great, but it’s so important to check in with your teammates. I constantly asked if they were still having fun (one of their personal goals for the weekend) and how they were feeling. Sure, this is touchy-feely and didn’t contribute to hard development, but it helped us become a unified team.
6. Take advantage of free advice, but be specific in your ask.
We requested two marketing coaches who were members of our target audience. We interviewed them and got testimonials then dove into questions about the business model. The development team requested a great coach near the end of Day 2, who showed them a WordPress theme that would make development a whole lot easier. It wasn’t that easy to transition to, but it paid off in the end and our developers learned A LOT about customizing
WordPress themes. 🙂
7. Show your team you trust them. Don’t micromanage.
I caught myself doing it on the first night. (I literally started typing on someone else’s computer, then shamed myself!). Take a leap of faith and let them take a stab at delivering. Then give them your feedback.
8. Laugh. Have fun.
When I walked by some of the groups to grab lunch, they looked so serious. We were a ‘punny’ group, and I highly encouraged any and all silliness. During crunch time, a teammate and I looked at a ‘Makes me Giggle’ Pinterest page for a minute, had a (really) good laugh, and then got back to work.
9. Be authentic.
Alice Reimer, one of the co-founders of Evoco (acquired by Accruent) gave an inspirational talk on pitching and one of her key points was to be authentic. You could tell she lived and breathed it, and she was truly inspiring. The final pitches that grabbed my attention (and stopped me from glancing at the #swyyc Twitter feed), were the ones where the founder was clearly passionate about the idea and it showed in their eyes.
10. Take care of your body: Hydrate. Eat well. And sleep, somewhat.
Drinking lots of water = lots of bathroom breaks = getting out of your chair for a brief burst of exercise. #Winning.
Don’t just stock up on the sugary treats and salty snacks. Eat lots of fruit, veggies, and get your protein. Thankfully one of our team members brought a 2lb bag of apples everyday. My dentist will be happy with the results.
Sleep is also really important. However, I can’t say I did much of it. I was running on pure adrenaline when I finished my pitch on Sunday evening. Yes, I may have laughed more than usual, but I was ok for the most part and got caught up on sleep the following day.
It was a hot day in Tampa. Craig Chavis was in his MBA program when his passion for travel suddenly hit him with an idea: he wanted to find a way to help locals on the ground better facilitate travel for tourists. He brought his idea to a Tampa Bay Startup Weekend in 2012 and was met with a shock; not only was his goal appealing to many of the members, it was chosen as one of the startup ideas to be developed that weekend.
Chavis was paired with a team of all backgrounds and even got some input from Tampa Bay Mayor Bob Buckhorn, a frequent participant at the event. Not only was it a memorable weekend, it was a conducive one for Chavis: Three of his team members went on to join him in operating his Startup Weekend idea into a full fledged startup called iNomadz.
Chavis credits the Startup Weekend experience to much of his growth as an entrepreneur, especially in the technology space. “Without the first Startup Weekend, I wouldn’t understand what is needed to develop a startup. I ran a t-shirt company and a DJ company but was completely new to technology — terms like front end, back end, MVP weren’t part of my line of thinking.”
After getting his feet wet in the Tampa Bay Startup Weekend experience, Chavis has continued to be a frequent participant in the Weekends — in addition to another weekend in Tampa, he has also participated in a Startup Weekend in DC and another weekend in Birmingham.
Chavis currently runs a startup called Visajump, an application that aims to provide real time tourist visa information in less than 30 seconds from 252 countries, territories and inhabited islands. Not only has he met one of his co-founders through a Startup Weekend, he has used many of the principles in the development of his new startup. As soon as he had the idea for Visajump, he quickly moved to create a clickable prototype without second guessing every part of the process, a skill nurtured in Startup Weekend.
What advice does he have for people doing Startup Weekend for the first time?
“Go with the flow,” Chavis explains. “Whether your idea is selected or whether you are part of a team, enjoy the process. You don’t actually have to be the one pulling all the strings to gain from Startup Weekend — even joining a team and bringing a new perspective to an idea can be a huge win.”
Inspired by Craig’s story? Find a Startup Weekend near you and make some magic: https://startupweekend.org/
Yes, you read that correctly – Google! We are so stinking excited to announce that Erin Bemis will be our speaker Saturday afternoon at Startup Weekend Evansville 7.0!!! Yup, your ticket that already gets all your meals for the weekend and gets you all the entrepreneurial education and access to thousands of dollars worth of business and legal coaching now also grants you access to a trainer from Google’s Get Your Business Online program!
We want as many people to participate and enjoy SWEVV as possible, but we know some of you have other commitments that weekend. If you cannot participate in the whole weekend, you can attend the Google presentation on Saturday. Tickets are only $25 and includes your lunch! So don’t delay – get your tickets today!
About the Program: Get Found on Google Search and Maps
Join us as an expert from Google’s Get Your Business Online program teaches about getting found on Google. Explore Google My Business, a free tool for local businesses, who want to connect with customers on Google Search and Maps. Get hands-on help creating or updating your listing, and take advantage of a free website.
About The Speaker: Erin Bemis
Erin is a speaker for Google’s Get Your Business Online program. She has spent the vast majority of her career working for and with small businesses and nonprofits in a variety of roles. Her passion for small business began with her family owned businesses. After college she learned the ins and outs of nonprofits, earning consecutive titles of Midsize Chamber of Commerce of the year as it’s executive. In recent years, she’s been working with marketing and technology companies like Constant Contact and Google, whose products make digital marketing easier for small businesses.
Erin has educated tens of thousands of attendees across North America in both small and large groups. A small business owner herself, she promises that you will leave today with simple, easy tips to immediately improve your marketing program. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Marketing and Business Administration, along with a minor in French.
With Startup Weekend just days away, it’s time to get psyched! If you missed the chance to purchase a full event ticket, don’t worry, you can still join us at the pitch event on Sunday! You’ll be able to see the progress that each team has made over the weekend as well as mingle with the participants and mentors at the Give a Damn after-party. Listening to the participating teams pitch their ideas is exciting, and many of the ideas presented go on to become full-fledged products and companies.
One of our successful participants, Jeston George, spoke with us about the impact of Startup Weekend on his idea. Jeston is the CEO and founder of Apptegy, a company providing a platform that allows schools to sync all marketing and communication efforts together seamlessly into a single mobile app. Jeston pitched in the 2014 Startup Weekend in Little Rock, and although his team didn’t place, he’s expanded on his pitch to create Apptegy. Jeston met several of his core employees during Startup Weekend and he still consults with several other Startup Weekenders. Jeston wholeheartedly recommends Startup Weekend and says that it’s a great way to meet like-minded people. Startup Weekend provides a platform, as well as resources, for budding entrepreneurs to flesh out their ideas and receive valuable feedback from seasoned pros.
Speaking of pros, one of our Startup Weekend mentors, Corey Boelkens, CEO and founder of RaftUp, will be speaking at Sunday’s pitch event. Corey was a participant in the 2015 Startup Weekend, where his team placed second. According to Corey, Startup Weekend was an integral part in launching his company. With mentors there to help facilitate a buildable and pitchable idea, the process helps validate and lend confidence to the participants. This year, Corey plans on helping participants focus quickly and effectively on their ideas so they will be prepared to pitch on Sunday.
The first person who comes to my mind when I think of a true maker is my dad. Before he had computer software readily available to generate 3D drawings, I watched him measure and create sculptures from poster board. Fast forward 30 years, he now owns a welding and fabrication job shop capable of making just about anything out of metal.
What does this have to do with the upcoming NWA Startup Weekend? We know that not everyone’s ideas will be software solutions or apps. Some innovators may be interested in making physical products, and still want to have a minimum viable product (MVP) by the pitch event on Sunday. For this subset of aspiring entrepreneurs, the NWA Fab Lab will have extended hours to open specifically for Startup Weekenders.
The NWA Fab Lab is an official makerspace that hosts equipment such as laser cutters, 3D printers, woodworking tools, and a 3D body scanner. They use open-source software that is available to the public and host trainings led by community volunteers. Both individuals and groups are invited to utilize this community resource, located just right off of the Fayetteville square. Under the direction of the Fayetteville Chamber, their vision is to encourage entrepreneurship, advance science and technology careers, contribute to the resurgence of American innovation and create a new generation of entrepreneurs, inventors, and artisans.
Whitney Green, Director of the NWA Fab Lab, told us a bit about products community members have prototyped using the Fab Lab’s equipment. One example she shared was a new drinking utensil. Their 3D printers are the same type Startup Junkie‘s Michael Iseman used to print over 25,000 board game pieces for his Kickstarter launch.
Not only will the Fab Lab be available for Startup Weekend participants to work from during the event, they have also donated a 6-month membership to the team that places first in the “Best Maker” category. At the last NWA Startup Weekend, we had engineers modifying drones. What will our participants come up with this year? Attend the pitch event Sunday afternoon to find out!
Well here is the rundown of what the judges are looking for.
- Business Model
- How will your business be successful?
- What problem does your idea solve?
- Who is your competition? How do you compete with them?
- Have you considered how you can scale your business, get customers, make money?
- Customer Validation
- Will people want this idea/product?
- Do you understand what customers need?
- Did you talk to potential customers?
- Execution and Design
- Have you created some sort of product/or mock up over the course of the weekend (hardware, software, etc.)?
- Is your product user friendly?
- Are you able to show your product is functional?
Get ready for the competition! #SWMU18 is right around the corner so come excited and ready to create!
Parking is limited so arrive early for best chances!!
Attendee Free Parking:
30 N 1st Street, Phoenix, AZ
Surface lot. Entrance is off 1st Street just South of Adams (North of Washington St). The entrance to this lot is directly South of Hanny’s restaurant. Ignore all the no-parking signs, this lot is reserved for The Department’s use. See attached Parking Lot Map
Don’t worry! Don’t discount your business idea if you have one, you can pitch it to us Friday night. If you don’t have a business idea, or one you want to develop, we need you just as much as those with big ideas! We need people who are great teammates, communicators and students with a variety of skills such as programmers, designers, engineers etc.
Tips for pitching:
- Keep it short (60 seconds)
- Make it easy for others to understand
- This will help ensure that your potential team members fully understand what the idea is
- Explain the problem you are solving with your idea
- Be personable and approachable
#SWMU18 is quickly approaching! If you haven’t already signed up, do so now and be a part of this amazing experience.
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