How to Crush it at Startup Weekend

NOTE: This post was written by Notion Theory and originally appeared on their website.

If you’re the type who’s interested in startups, entrepreneurship, or the tech scene, Startup Weekend can be an awesome crash course in what it’s like to launch a company. Granted, it’s more the fun part of doing a startup–pitching a product, deciding which customers to target and how much to charge–but a crash course, nonetheless.

Just like in the real world, though, startups are competitive; and winning a Startup Weekend sure isn’t easy.

So, with the next Startup Weekend DC fast approaching, we asked ourselves (as we always do at NotionTheory) “how can we help you, the aspiring entrepreneur or side hustler, crush it this weekend?”

We certainly didn’t have to look far for the answer.

One of our core team members, Brian Sacash, has attended 4 different Startup Weekends, participated in Startup Weekend Next and the Global Startup Battle, and won twice (a solid hit rate!). We asked him what advice he would give to any Startup Weekend participants, and here’s what he said.

1. Solve a Problem

Brian’s most successful Startup Weekend by far was when he and Jeremy Frisch worked on Fuelicity, which is a gas delivery service for car owners. Even though they were confident about the problem they were targeting, they wanted to challenge their assumptions.

So, to validate the idea, they spent the first 12 hours visiting gas stations and talked to potential customers. From these customer interviews, they learned that a) everyone generally disliked having to go the gas station, and b) women often hated going to the gas station more than men.

Having done these interviews, they didn’t have to guess whether they were solving a real problem–they challenged their core assumption that people disliked visiting the gas station and validated the customer’s need for an alternative solution.

2. Keep the Scope Small

There will be an endless list of features your team will want to add to the core idea. Remember you only have 54 hours to build a company. Stick to one core competency and execute on it well.

For Fuelicity, this core competency was on-demand gas delivery. During the weekend, ideas for adding car washing and even oil changes came up, but they pushed aside the add-on services and stuck to the core problem that they had identified. Their clear focus on solving one problem for one customer was ultimately rewarded with first prize and bragging rights over the other teams.

3. Have a Clear Revenue Model

It doesn’t matter how innovative your product is, if customers aren’t willing to buy, your product will likely fail. So, make sure you have a very clear way your product or service will make money. For most of the judges, saying that you’ll monetize your product through advertising is taking the lazy way out. If you’re solving a real problem, then people should be willing to pay for your solution.

Fuelicity decided they would charge their customers a nominal service fee on top of each fill-up. This approach worked very well with the judges because the value exchange between the customer and company was clear, intuitive, and immediate.

4. Prove that People Want your Solution

Based on their early customer interviews, the Fuelicity team knew that they were solving a real problem. Just like a real startup, though, identifying the problem is only half the battle.

By the end of the weekend, Fuelicity had collected 20 email addresses, phone numbers, and in-person signups for the service. (They also had a Twitter handle and a Facebook page, but you already know to exclude vanity metrics.)

They proved that people wanted their solution because they made people give something up to get access. That’s the point of asking for an email address or a phone number: you’re asking your customer to part with something of value in order to get your solution.

5. Have Fun

Startup Weekend is a great way to meet new people, learn new things, and create something impactful. Make sure to have fun while doing it.


If you think about it, the points that Brian laid out will serve you well beyond just the Startup Weekend experience. Listening to your customers, favoring simplicity, and reminding yourself to have fun are all things that you should be doing once you launch your startup for real–and we certainly hope you do.

For now, though, we hope you crush it this weekend and have an awesome time at the event! If you have any questions about those ideas that have been brewing, then feel free to drop us a note at We’d love to hear from you.

#CvilleSWEDU = 54 Hours of Amazing Food too!

Did you know Charlottesville SWEDU comes with free food?? Christian’s Pizza, Zoe’s Kitchen, and Greenberry’s will be providing healthy and nutritious options for participants all weekend!

Who doesn’t like pizza?  Who doesn’t like Christian’s Pizza?  No one.  That’s right – The best pizza in Charlottesville will be served for Pitch-Night dinner on Friday.

Start your SWEDU mornings off right with Greenberry’s coffee and treats.  We will have lots of Greenberry’s goodies.  Don’t worry tea drinkers – We have you covered too.

Zoe’s Kitchen is hooking us up.  Awesome sandwiches for lunch on Saturday.  A Mediterranean feast fit for a king or queen on Saturday night.  Sunday’s lunch will have lots of salads and mini pita sandwich options.  Extras will include fruit, pita chips, cookies, and cake.

SWEDU will provide tasty snacking options to keep you energized throughout your 54 hours.

Vegetarian? No problem, we’ve got you covered too!

Be sure to thank these fine establishments the next time you’re in!


Cavalier Inn @ UVA Becomes Host Hotel for #CvilleSWEDU

Traveling to Charlottesville for the EdTech Startup Weekend and Hardware Hackathon and not sure where to stay? We’ve got you covered! The Cavalier Inn at the University of Virginia will be offering discounted rated for CvilleSWEDU participants. Call 1.866.332.3590 to book and use code “Startup Weekend EDU”.

Win one of 3 FREE tickets to Startup Weekend Blacksburg

Attend the Crafting a Successful Mobile App talk on Wednesday, October 1 at 6 PM at TechPad for a chance to win one of three FREE tickets to Startup Weekend Blacksburg, Oct. 3 to 5, courtesy of Mindsense. All attendees will also receive a promo code for a discounted ticket to Startup Weekend Blacksburg ($30 off student ticket, $24 off regular ticket). Alexander Obenauer (CEO of Mindsense) will be sharing the steps he takes to turn an idea into a successful app.  Organizers will also be on hand to answer questions about Startup Weekend Blacksburg, Oct. 3 to 5.  It is a great opportunity to learn about Startup Weekend and to meet others preparing for Startup Weekend Blacksburg.

Free and open to the public. RSVP for the Crafting a Successful Mobile App bootcamp by Clicking Here.


Win a FREE ticket to Startup Weekend Blacksburg

Attend the Art of Pitching boot camp on Tuesday, September 30 at 6 PM at TechPad for a chance to win a FREE ticket to Startup Weekend Blacksburg, Oct. 4 to 5.  Bob Summers (Chief Geek of Fitnet) will be sharing his knowledge on how to deliver the perfect pitch.  Organizers will also be on hand to answer questions about Startup Weekend Blacksburg, Oct. 3 to 5.  It is a great opportunity to learn about Startup Weekend and to practice your pitch for Startup Weekend Blacksburg.

RSVP for the Art of Pitching boot camp by Clicking Here.

A guide to Startup Weekend Blacksburg

If you’ve bought your ticket to Startup Weekend Blacksburg, Oct. 3 to 5, and are curious about what to expect or how to prepare, boy do we have a resource for you.  The Welcome to Startup Weekend guide provides a road map for the event and information on team building, project management, idea validation, team tools, and judging criteria.  If you haven’t gotten your ticket yet, get too it already!

startup_tools_doc_USA(1)Will you be there? Tweet (#swbva14) us or Facebook us and let us know!

Top 10 reasons to attend Startup Weekend Blacksburg

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Startup Weekend Blacksburg 2014 (Oct. 3 to 5) is just a week away and it’s time you jumped in. Want to know why? Here is our list of the top 10 reasons you should attend the event.  Be sure to get your ticket today!

1. You’ll meet awesome people!
Entrepreneurs. Developers. Designers. Marketers. Product managers. Startup enthusiasts. Tech guys. They’ll be there, and they want to meet you. Startup Weekend is more than just a place to give your idea wings—it’s a place to plug into a community of talent.

2. Access to blazing fast internet!
Startup Weekend Blacksburg will have a gigbit network connection via TechPad.  A gigabit network connection is 100 times faster than the average Internet link and can boost productivity by 10X or more for those who create in the cloud.  You’ll not only have access to the fastest internet in Blacksburg, but it is among the fastest in the world.

3. Less talk, more action!
The weekend is not some long, drawn-out business plan that will bore your team to sleep. This is fast paced, get ideas on the table, get them in production, see if they stick, and move on to the next task. Want to learn how to prototype an app? We’ll hold a mini-class on Saturday morning to show the non-tech person how to use free prototyping tools. Want to become a social media maven? This is the place to put that book learning to work. Mentors, fellow participants, tools and the Startup Weekend experience provide a rich hands-on learning experience.

4. Food!! Swag!! Stuff!!
That’s right, you get food at Startup Weekend! Startup Weekend Blacksburg costs $99 ($50 if you are a student) to get involved, but you get a of sweet stuff.  All attendees receive a snazzy T-shirt, free .co domain, $100 Amazon Web Services gift card, and  $500 Google Cloud Platform gift card.  They also have their meals and snacks covered throughout the weekend and access to an awesome set of mentors.

5. You get major face time.
Local tech and startup leaders will be at Startup Weekends as mentors and judges.  Get some one-on-one time with the movers and shakers in Blacksburg and the New River Valley.  Just look at our judging panel, it’s made up of two investors and three successful entrepreneurs.

6. Co-founder dating.
Startups are about more than just an idea—it’s about the team behind it. Startup Weekend is the best way to find someone that you can actually launch a startup with. Thinking about launching a startup with someone right now? Bring ’em to the event and give the working relationship a test drive. It could save you years of heartache.

7. It is a great resume builder.
Startup Weekend is a global community with over 100,000 alumni, all on a mission to change the world.  Attending a Startup Weekend is a great experience and a perfect resume builder because its brand is recognition around the world.

8. There are some sweet grand prizes!
The winning team at Starup Weekend will access to NuSpark (including workspace and mentorship services) through the end of the year, a branding package from Venveo
(including logo, business card and letterhead design), a legal consultation with the Mitchell Law Firm and a 4-month membership to TechPad coworking space following time at NuSpark.  The second and third place teams will receive a three-month membership to TechPad.

9. You’ll be part of the innovation wave in Blacksburg!
Blacksburg has a rich startup community. Hundreds of avant-garde companies chose to make Blacksburg and the New River Valley home thanks to its energetic and authentically supportive culture that encourages and breeds innovation. Be a part of this growing movement, and launch a startup here in the greatest community in the country!

10. What else are you going to do…seriously?
Sit on the couch and eat potato chips? Naaaaah. Make your move. Take advantage of this weekend and sign up for Startup Weekend Blacksburg! Register for Startup Weekend today. Stop sitting and start making things happen!

Will you be there? Tweet (#swbva14) us or Facebook us and let us know!


RVA Startup Weekend Recap



What a weekend! 54 hours of brainstorming, building, researching, local food, fun and some of us did Yoga in the middle of it all! On Friday night we started with 38 pitches and on Sunday night we ended with 8.

All of our teams worked really hard building their start-ups and making the most out of our 15 mentors from within the Richmond community. Between exercises, mentoring sessions, countless sticky notes, who knows how many lines of code, online surveys and talking to people on the street, businesses were validated and pitches were built. In the end, there were four teams who took home prizes.

SimplixityGrand Prize: Simplixity

Simplixity is a system for replacing all of the paper forms you have to fill out at the doctor’s office. This app will allow you to load all of your information to it and send it to your various physicians without having to go in 30 minutes early to fill out paperwork. The Simplixity team didn’t just win prizes from us, one of our judges, Ting Xu, came armed with her checkbook that night. She wrote the team a $10,000 check!

Best in Show and Best MVP: Doctor’s Orders 10665373_595350763909783_8869917156112549243_n

Doctor’s Orders won two prizes Sunday night: Best in Show (Best Design) and Best MVP. Their app helps you remember all of your doctor’s orders through an easy to use interface that sends push notification reminders and keeps track of all of your to dos. Not only did this team come up with a great design, their pitch included demonstrations of what the app looked like as a patient and as a physician.


Most Community Impact: It Takes a Village

It Takes a Village gives parents a platform to help each other with childcare needs. The easy to use app allows you to send requests for things like pick-ups and babysitting out to your contacts and notifies you when someone can help out. Your contacts can also make requests of the community that allow you to help out as needed. It’s really no wonder why they won most community impact – it really does take a village to raise a child and get everything done!

Most Likely to Scale: Occupied

This app, who started as “While I Poo” won Most Likely to Scale but judge Todd Nuckols noted while announcing the win, there were also probably “Most Likely to Catch on Fire”.  Occupied is an app that keeps you… well… occupied in your moments of solitude with things like doodles, anonymous confessions and humorous content. The app originally started as “While I Poo” and after several different ideations became Occupied to cover ALL of you moments of solitude… not just while you’re in the John.


Other Pitches:

Branch, an urban tree planting concept that grows trees upside down to conserve water and save our sidewalks (and the people who have to walk on them) from roots.

Indigo, an Xbox app that uses Xbox Kinnect’s biometric technology to allow you to shop online while suggesting clothes that fit your body type.

Couresly, a college course discovery and review website that helps you choose courses based on peer reviews and other metrics.

It was a long weekend! While all 10 teams didn’t make it pitch night, everyone did a fantastic job!


Who should attend Startup Weekend Blacksburg?

If you’re wondering if you should attend Startup Weekend Blacksburg 2014 (Oct. 3 to 5), here a some examples of people who should sign up.

1) Entrepreneurs or people with a great business idea! If you’ve thought of a great business but you haven’t been able to get it off the ground on your own, Startup Weekend is a great place to start. You’ll have a team of people all helping you create and launch a successful business, all in 54 hours.

2) Software Engineers, Coders and Developers. If you don’t have an idea, but you’re a developer, you should attend! Almost every business idea needs a developer (or two) to help get it off the ground. Not to mention that Startup Weekend Blacksburg will have a gigabit connection via TechPad.  That means you’ll be able to build apps using connection speeds that are 100 times faster than the average Internet link and can boost productivity by 10X or more for those who create in the cloud.  Incentive enough for any developer to attend!

3) Marketing enthusiasts. If you love marketing and can think quickly on your feet, come to Startup Weekend! During the event, you’ll work quickly to reach out to the community to see if your team’s idea is viable. Teams do on-the-spot market research, creating surveys and putting them out on social media, and then analyze the data to help define and form their business. Marketing professionals also play a huge role in how the business will be branded and talked about after launch. You’ll go back to work on Monday exhausted, but excited to bring some new ideas in to what you already do.

4) Graphic Designers. Whether it’s a product or a website, Startup Weekend teams need designers to help with this process. By the end of the weekend, teams should have a functioning website and/or a product model to show the judges!

5) Lovers of All Things Startup. Maybe you don’t have an idea (or maybe you have too many), but you love the world of startups. Whether you have experience with startups or not, every team needs people who are excited about startups and who will help motivate and inspire.

Be sure to get your ticket to the 2014 Startup Weekend Blacksburg, held October 3-5, today!  Will you be there? Tweet (#swbva14) us or Facebook us and let us know!

The RVA Startup Weekend Teams Need Your Help

rvasw-logoOur teams are hard at work doing research to validate their ideas and build their start-ups! Can you give them a hand?

Take a few minutes to provide some customer feedback and be a part of the magic of RVA Startup Weekend!

Doctor’s Orders:





While I Poo:



It Takes a Village:

Don’t forget, Sunday night is Pitch Night! Come hear what the teams have built, do some networking, and have some dinner and drinks! Get your ticket today.