Anurag Maloo (Techstars Regional Manager, South & Central Asia) was facilitating both the Startup Weekend Kazakhstan and supporting the local startup communities in India and Asia Pacific.
Within two weeks, there were two Startup Weekends in Kazakhstan. SW Almaty took place at MOST Business Incubator, Almaty from September 23rd through the 25th and SW Astana took place at INO.HUB, Astana from September 30th to October 2nd with the support of the German-Kazakh Business Hub (GKBH).
This is just the beginning of building a strong startup community and entrepreneurial ecosystem in Kazakhstan. It is also just the start of the movement to make it the hub of the Central Asian Innovation ecosystem.
I am happy to see the winning teams from both of the SWs getting incubation and mentoring support from the local startup incubation programs in both cities – I’m excited to see the founders grow in their entrepreneurial journey. Thanks to all the attendees, mentors, organizers, judges, institutions and sponsors who are helping us build the startup ecosystem in Kazakhstan.
This is a story from Dilya and Shukrat, founders of the winning team at SW Astana, on their experience at Startup Weekend. Best wishes to them in their startup journey.
On Friday morning, we had no idea that on we would be in Astana taking home first place at a Startup Weekend the following Sunday.
It was a normal Friday until we got a message from a friend informing us about the Astana Startup Weekend. We had no prior knowledge about Startup Weekend and had no clue what to expect. We had a couple of ideas and had been contemplating on how to implement them for a while – they seemed quite raw, so it was really difficult to comprehend how we could possibly turn them into something within 54 hours!
There were also a number of issues to resolve before we could attend the event. There was a remarkable distance we needed to travel (1200 km distance between Almaty and Astana), we had to find a place to stay in Astana and figure out who could take care of our kids. Luckily, all of these issues were quickly resolved and we began our journey to the Startup Weekend.
At Startup Weekend Astana, we experienced full immersion in the atmosphere of innovation, aspiration, creativity and teamwork.
We were lucky to have a great facilitator, Anurag Maloo. He masterly used his energy and enthusiasm to inspire participants to voice their ideas. Our idea made to top 9 out of 26 ideas announced!
Saturday and Sunday were full of challenging and interesting work with our teammates and mentors. It was invaluable to have such excellent mentors all in one place, sharing their expertise and specific insights for our idea. The fact alone that we had the opportunity to network with such great professionals had meant a lot for us.
Our team had some eye-opening experiences during the weekend. For example, we had some concerns about voicing up the idea. Many people feel the fear of their idea being stolen. This event demonstrated to us that the idea itself is worth nothing if no action is pursued.
Brainstorming and actions are more effective and fun when they are done with the help of a team and mentors.
During the weekend, our progress was immense compared to what we had managed to achieve for the past couple of months keeping the idea to ourselves.
Another example was a validation exercise. When we were asked to validate our idea with other participants or even strangers, we learned that our vision about the value of our product is not necessarily the same as potential customers. Validation helped us to understand how we need to reshape our product and what we need to do to stand out from the competition.
During the weekend, we also learned how to effectively pitch the idea in a five-minute presentation. The feedback that we had received from mentors was quite beneficial for our idea.
After 54 hours of challenging work and collaboration with others, our idea ended up winning first place in the Astana Startup Weekend! Having experienced the innovative atmosphere of the Startup Weekend, we encourage all to take their idea forward and take action. Startup Weekend is the best place to start!