What are the judges looking for at Startup Weekend?

Did you know that Startup Weekend Las Vegas is not only ran by volunteers, but the mentors, coaches and judges are volunteers as well? We will dive into each one of these groups as we progress closer to the event, but let’s start with a little bit about what the judges look for and how they play an important role in Startup Weekend.

Startup Weekend typically has 3-5 judges who will evaluate your final presentation on Sunday evening. Many of the participants will be pitching an idea for the first time, so judges play an integral role in providing valuable feedback to teams. There are three things that judges will keep in mind during your pitch, and so should you as you build out your business or prototype:

Customer Validation
Did your team build something that people actually want? How well do you understand your customer and your customer’s needs? Did your team get out and talk to customers? What is the value proposition to customers?

Execution and Design
Has your team established a minimum viable product (MVP) for the weekend, such as software or hardware, etc.? Did you build the minimum set of features needed to start collecting data? Does it deliver a compelling and captivating user experience? Were you able to demo something functional?

Business Model Validation
How does your team plan on making this a successful business? Have you thought about (either solved or identified problems) competition, how to scale, acquiring customers, your revenue model, etc.? How will you acquire your first 100 customers?

Startup Weekend Las Vegas 2017


From What Have I Done? to I Am All In!

If you are anything like me, you love a good challenge. However, there is a little piece of self-doubt that tries to deter me. My self-doubt does not cause me to cave to the normal and comfortable though, most of the time it pushes me to try something new. This is how we learn and grow, explore and meet new people, hone our strengths and overcome weaknesses. So, why is this important? Because by changing my mindset, I had an amazing experience that I want to share!

How in the world did I end up at Techstars Startup Weekend Columbus and now find myself as an organizer for Techstars Startup Weekend Muncie??

Here’s my story.

A year and a half ago I was looking for a career change. So, while at my job as a property manager for a student housing apartment complex, I received a text about a position at Ball State a friend thought I would enjoy. Not one to pass up an opportunity, I applied and got the job! I was going to be the Program Coordinator at the Ball State Entrepreneurship Center.

Now let me be honest: I knew nothing about this program or entrepreneurship. I could not spell or even pronounce entrepreneurship and spent many evenings practicing for my interview. I realized I’d be learning an entirely new specialty with new lingo, new contacts, and would have to unlearn many things I thought I knew about business. I was about to be immersed in the entrepreneurial community and life would never be the same.

Fast-forward to the winter of 2017-18, when I found myself in a conversation about sending a handful of entrepreneurship students to participate in a Startup Weekend.  Being a person who believes you never stop learning, I was immediately interested in this opportunity. So, as a plan took shape to provide this opportunity to our students, I decided to blindly ask if I could go along to learn about the process of putting together and facilitating Startup Weekend. After some consideration, I was on my way to Startup Weekend Columbus.

Initially, I was so excited for this opportunity! However, as our departure grew closer, I became more and more nervous about my decision to attend. How was I going to keep up with the pace of building a business over a 54-hour weekend? How would I benefit a team in building a business? What in the world was I thinking? I was nervous about interacting with people I didn’t know. As we got into the final week before Startup Weekend, I decided I was just going to go and observe how the weekend was run, but I wasn’t going to join a team.

Boy, oh boy, was I wrong.

The anticipation of the weekend had my adrenaline pumping as we caravanned to Columbus, Ohio.  When we arrived, you could feel the entrepreneurial aura in the air. Just after dinner, things kicked off and I truly began to understand business in a completely new light.

We gathered as a group to do icebreakers and have a little fun. I got further into those icebreakers than I would have imagined and they opened me up to being optimistic and ready for the weekend. After a few of these activities it was time for pitches. The atmosphere was electric, energetic and fun. You could not help but get swept up in the moment.

I watched and listened as each participant stepped up to give 30-second pitches about their idea. A few pitches that caught my attention: a dating app called Work For It, an app for planning with friends, and a virtual reality application for hospitals. I just could not believe all the ideas!

During voting, I originally spread my votes across the ideas, but found myself back at Work for It giving the rest of them. This was where I truly wanted to be and something I was already feeling passion for. All three of my original favorites were selected, but I stuck like glue to my desire to help build Work For It into a viable business before Sunday.

I introduced myself to Felicia, the original entrepreneur, and sold myself on why I would be a great asset to her team. Shortly after, we had a team and I had a new network of business friends! Felicia was our fearless leader; Ben, Alex K. and Dave worked on the tech side; Alex S. and Vega did market research; Bennett and I laid out the business plan.

We spent the rest of the first evening getting to know each other, making a game plan for the days to come and scheduling to meet at 7:00 am the next morning to
get started. All my doubts about attending and participating in Startup Weekend Columbus had melted away and I felt comfortable in my decision to dive in headfirst.

On Saturday, we met for coffee and got straight to work building a business, hashing out ideas and working toward an app that everyone in the group would be proud to be a part of building. We went through mockups and name changes. We ebbed and flowed with information from surveys. This really was a crash course in entrepreneurship with successes and failures.

We continued all of Saturday and into Sunday. We ate at our station so we didn’t lose precious time away from our business. Even after hours, we were busy in group chats with ideas for revenue streams, features and benefits. The pressure was on to finalize our plan, get a prototype and website finished and polish the presentation for the judges. I can still feel the excitement of the final hours now as I type this. The adrenaline, the fatigue, the stress, the joy, the fulfillment of making it to the end.

Felicia presented our plan to the judges and it was amazing to see what we and the other teams had created over the course of a weekend. We ended up taking home the prize for Crowd Favorite and I could not have been more proud to be a part of this team.

I started with a chip on my shoulder and a commitment to observing instead of participating. I finished Startup Weekend with a passion for entrepreneurship and have stayed in contact with my team. If you love to learn and love excitement, you should join Startup Weekend Muncie. If you have an idea you want to pitch, great! No plan? No problem! Just come for the experience (and food) of Startup Weekend Muncie. Grow your network, learn more about business and be part of the fun! Cannot wait to see you there.

A Successful Startup Requires All Professions

Rapid technological advancement has created a strange association with the word ‘innovation.’ People hear this word and assume that the ‘innovation’ must have been technological in nature.  The same could be said about the word ‘startup.’ Media fixation with HBO shows like Silicon Valley, as well as a fixation with the actual Silicon Valley, CA with its thousand of tech startups, leave many thinking these entrepreneurial opportunities are geared for programmers, engineers, and research scientists.
This is not entirely true.
A number of the 10 Top Up-and Coming Startups are non-tech in nature. In fact, startups.co notes in their article that Will Schroter, CEO of Fundable, as identifying a major trend of moving away from tech-only startups and apps. This means the origin of innovation can come from any profession–artist, chef, farmer, postal worker, etc. Alice Rawsthorn makes this point in her 2016 TED Talk Pirates, nurses and other rebel designers. The innovations she highlights comes from the most unexpected sources (Blackbeard, really?). Instead Rawsthorn focuses on the traits necessary to implement innovation: bold thinking, vision, and persistence.
Fairbanks Startup Weekend is about gathering all the visionaries in one room and unleashing all that bold thinking and persistence into a 54-hour mission to build a viable business model. Intense? Yes. Super fun? Super yes! And the best part is that you won’t be alone. There will be a facilitator, mentors, and coaches to help you a long the way. So regardless if your product is tech-based or not, it’s more important to have people who are passionate about contributing their skills to unified vision.
Bring your ideas to our Friday pitch session, join up with a startup team and develop an idea on Saturday, and present your business model on Sunday. We provide everything (like food) to keep you going throughout the weekend.

What is Startup Weekend?

Startup Weekends are weekend-long, hands-on experiences where entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs can find out if startup ideas are viable. On average, half of Startup Weekend’s attendees have technical or design backgrounds, the other half have business backgrounds.
Beginning with open mic pitches on Friday, attendees bring their best ideas and inspire others to join their team. Over Saturday and Sunday teams focus on customer development, validating their ideas, practicing LEAN Startup Methodologies and building a minimal viable product. On Sunday evening teams demo their prototypes and receive valuable feedback from a panel of experts.
Watch this “Startup Weekend for First Timers” to learn more!
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What to expect at Startup Weekend Mansfield

Startup Weekend is coming to Mansfield for the very first time. As your dedicated organizers, we’ve been busy organizing what we hope will be a wonderful and exciting event for everyone involved. Given that we’re so focused on making this a great weekend for all those participating, we want to make sure that you know exactly what to expect from this energetic weekend. First, the logistics.


Participants arrive between 5 and 7 PM on Friday and begin networking while having dinner. After a brief ice-breaker game and a brief introduction by the Facilitator, Dan Manges, a local entrepreneur and CTO of Root Insurance, will share his story of entrepreneurship.

Then the pitching begins! Anyone that wants to pitch will have 60 seconds to give it their best try. No presentations or props needed here; just you and a mic. After pitches are finished, all participants will vote on their favorites and these votes will be used to select the top ideas to be worked on over the weekend. If your peers like your idea, great!

Some ideas will survive the vote, others won’t. People organically form teams around their favorite ideas (usually around 6-8 per team)  and get down to business until the end of the evening.

Remember, we will provide you with breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks for the entire weekend!

Teams will work all day on Saturday with the occasional breaks to eat, do a quick group check-in on everyone’s progress, and listen to a short talk from Marquise Stillwell, founder of Openbox. We’ll have mentors walking around to provide advice in the field of their expertise for any team that needs or wants it.

Sunday is crunch day! Teams will work uninterrupted from morning until mid-afternoon. They’ll begin wrapping up their product/prototype and presentation around 3-4 PM so that there’s time remaining to do check if their technology works and rehearse their final pitches. Final pitches to the judges usually start around 5 PM. Each team typically has 5 minutes to present plus 2-3 minutes Q&A from the judges. The judges will select the top teams, give out prizes, and the event ends (and celebration begins!)

Startup Weekend is going to be a lot of hard work but, above all, it’s going to be an extremely fun weekend. We’re doing this for you. We want you to know that there is a space where you are positively encouraged and supported to work on those ideas that have always been brooding in the back of your mind. We want this to be a memorable experience for you so that you keep going to Startup events here in Mansfield or elsewhere in the country. Because at the end of the day, what’s work without play?

What are we supposed to have accomplished by the end of the weekend?

On Sunday, the judges will use the following criteria to judge your idea:

  • Customer Validation (Have you done customer research for your idea?)
  • Execution and Design (What did you build? Do you have a minimum viable product?)
  • Business Model (Do you have a plan for the future?)

It’s most important that you have some sort of a minimum viable product (prototype) to present to the judges. Regarding presenting, here are examples of the most common presentations:

  • Wireframes or fully developed website
  • Mobile Apps (from mock-ups to skeletons to fully functional)
  • Slide decks (Powerpoint, Keynote, Prezi, etc.)
  • Videos (i.e. product demonstrations, etc.)
  • Live product demos

That said, this doesn’t mean that your idea must be a tech idea. All business ideas are eligible, whether for-profit, ‘social’ enterprises, nonprofit organizations, etc. We don’t want to place restrictions on the types of ideas you present at Startup Weekend. We just strongly recommend that even non-tech ideas focus on a tech-related deliverable (i.e., website, app) by Sunday.

An open space for learning

Please don’t leave just because your idea wasn’t picked on Friday! You can always join another team and work on a different idea! This weekend isn’t about proving that your idea is better than everybody else’s idea. This weekend is all about learning.

Learning how to use an entrepreneurial mindset to find a problem and bring it from thought to a reality. Learning how to think through problems with the build-measure-learn feedback loop, which is a process in which you make something that you think solves a problem, gather feedback from customers, learn from this feedback, and change your product accordingly. It’s simple; your customers tell you what they want, and you make the product so that it’s exactly how they want it.

At the end of the day, what you can really expect from Startup Weekend is an open space where every idea gets a chance to be heard. This is not a place where only billion-dollar tech ideas get a voice. We want Startup Weekend Mansfield to be a place where every idea from every industry and every solution to every problem is represented.

Because at the end of the day, that’s all we really want. To be represented.

Check out the Frequently Asked Questions for more information!

Marion Desmazières, Facilitator

We are happy to announce Marion Desmazières is our Fairbanks Startup Weekend Facilitator for the 2018 event! She is an experienced Startup Weekend organizer, and energetic facilitator. Marion is quite the entrepreneur herself, though she currently spends her days working  as a tech business developer based in Seattle, WA.

Marion runs developer education partnerships for Alexa, the voice service powering Amazon’s popular Echo devices. Before joining Amazon two years ago, Marion coordinated Global Startup Battle in 2012 and managed partner relations for Startup Weekend HQ in Seattle. She holds a Master’s in Business Management from EDHEC Business School and an MBA in Technology Commercialization from the University of Alberta. A Startup Weekend veteran, Marion has facilitated 20+ events in France, Canada, the US, Algeria and Morocco.

Sign up for Fairbanks Startup Weekend at go.startupweekend.org/fairbanksand gain insights from Marion and others while developing your own startup from the ground up!

Meet Your Mentor – Tom Wszalek

Meet Tom Wszalek, Partner & Founder of SW14 Group. Tom is returning for the second year in a row as a Startup Weekend Las Vegas mentor! SW14 Group provides management consulting services to help businesses – from startups to small and medium size firms – unlock new avenues of profitable growth. The consultation process includes researching areas of opportunity such as: strategy, customer culture, organization structure, operation processes, and the utilization of digital technology.

Tom has C-level operating executive experience across a range of industries including: media/entertainment, technology, e-commerce, hospitality, retail, and consumer products. His professional experience also encompasses analog and digital companies, US and international assignments, and Fortune 500 as well as small, medium and startup firms.

Do you have what it takes to join Startup Weekend Las Vegas and build a company from the ground up in 54-hours? Register today with our early bird discount code SWEARLYBIRD for 70% off. This offer only lasts until September 14th, so make sure to take advantage of this offer ASAP! Register through our eventbrite page, here.



Why Your Next Adventure Should Be This City On The Rise

Attending a Techstars Unsummit in Tucson will give you a glimpse into a diverse community on the rise, a place that has been around for thousands of years and is still reinventing itself and defining the ecology of our startup environment. We’ll discuss the process of being built in real time, tips and tricks for building a startup ecosystem, and an opportunity to share your own experiences with this budding community.

As creative and entrepreneurial people, we’re in the weeds. But as businessman and media mogul Gary Vaynerchuk would say, we have to be in the clouds as well as in the dirt. The Tucson Unsummit is designed around helping you zoom back out to 30,000 feet, relax and rejuvenate while taking in the sights, sounds, and smells of the American Southwest.

A lot of the weekend is up to you – if you could have a chance to take a deep breath, what are some things you would want to talk about with entrepreneurs and creatives from the region? What are some things you need to keep growing and scaling the initiatives you have going?

The other part of the weekend is up to us – not only do you as an individual and a company/initiative need to grow in the right direction, but you need a community around you that is thriving as well. That’s something we’re happy to share our struggles and successes with, so that you can go back to your community with a path for holistic organizational and community health.

And about the Southwest? We’re known as a City of Gastronomy, a creative cultural hub with miles of the best Mexican food you’ll ever have. We have professional party planners preparing to throw you a big dinner party on Saturday, tour guides ready to show you our city as an easel for murals and community art, a ride on our streetcar through our university and downtown to one of the oldest neighborhoods in all of the United States, and more.

But you don’t have to take our word for it. We’re one of the most affordable and friendly places in the country, so why not check it out for yourself?

There’s a lot we can learn from each other in 43 hours – are you in?!

Startup Weekend: Judging Criteria

The Startup Weekend judging criteria is broken up into three sections. Teams are judged according to the following 3 criteria (weighted equally):

  • Business Model

    • How does the team plan on making this a successful business? Have they thought about (either solved or identified problems) competition, how to scale, acquiring customers, their revenue model etc?

  • Customer Validation

    • Are teams building something that people actually want? How well does the team understand their customer and their customer’s needs. Did the team get out and talk to customers? What is the value proposition to customers?


  • Execution & Design

    • Have they established a “Minimal Viable Product” for the weekend (software, hardware, etc.)? *Note: an MVP is the minimum set of features to be able to start collecting data. Does it deliver a compelling and captivating user experience? Were they able to demo something functional?

Build a diverse portfolio of connections with us!

You know that phrase “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”?

Yeah, it’s cliché, but anything that sticks usually has some stock to it.

While we do believe WHAT you know helps you in your success, knowing the right people and getting connected also helps. (Side note: we can’t wait to see what you know at Startup Weekend Laramie.) When it comes to networking, we often make the best connections with those similar in age, education, professional status and other traits. It’s easy to make those connections. During Startup Weekend Laramie you can plan on making close connections with all types of individuals from different backgrounds.

Networking with a diverse group of individuals can increase your awareness of how others think and expand your portfolio of connections. This can help you as a person, employee and entrepreneur.

Making an effort to figure out how someone thinks not only helps you understand them, but also opens doors for yourself when solving problems. Say you have a great business idea, but you don’t know how to budget, after chatting with an accountant for an hour, you might have the knowledge of where to start. Or possibly it’s more abstract than that. You might have issues when it comes to communicating about problem solving at work, after a weekend of working with a group of people—each with their unique communication style—you can discover what you like and what works best for you.

Each unique connection you create can be an added resource when it comes to starting up a new business or continuing to succeed in your career.

Techstars Startup Weekend Laramie is the perfect opportunity to find your diverse network and connect with people you might not usually get to. Meet accountants, business coaches, venture capitalists, technology experts and more. Get your tickets at the early bird price through Sept. 1: http://communities.techstars.com/events/13161