Prepping Your Friday Pitch

One of the most important parts of Startup Weekend is the Pitch Fire session on Friday night. Anyone who wants to pitch gets 60 seconds to convince the crowd that their business idea is interesting, feasible, and meaningful. Teams will form around the top ideas pitched, so your pitch has to be one of the best! Sound intimidating? It doesn’t have to be. Check out a few of our tips to help you craft the perfect pitch.

6 Elements of a Good Pitch

1. Focus on the problem you want to solve

How does your business idea solve a problem for you customer? Why is this an important problem to solve? How did this problem inspire you to create a business idea? This is usually the most important part of your pitch!

2. Mention how you think the problem should be solved

What’s the solution to the problem? What product or service are you planning to create? Only spend a few seconds on this! You have to entire weekend to work through a solution.

3. Talk about your secret sauce

What’s unique about your product or service? Do you bring any special skills or knowledge to the table?

4. Tell us what you already know

Have you already done a little work on your business? Market research, customer validation, a business plan?

5. Showcase your winning personality

Show your potential team members how awesome you’ll be to work with! People want to be on teams with passionate, motivated, and interesting leaders.Be open and welcoming of new ideas.

6. Show up with an idea that does something meaningful

How will your business make your customers lives better? Will your business make the world a better place to live?

4 Pitch Pitfalls

1. Don’t go into too much detail about how your solution works. That’s what the rest of the weekend is for!

2. Don’t spend too long on your personal background, this pitch is about the problem you’re solving.

3. Don’t be boring, make people remember you and make sure you seem fun/good to work with

4. Don’t leave the stage without telling the crowd who you need on your team (designers, developers, marketers, etc.) and make sure to name your pitch/idea!Something people can remember later.

Anatomy of a Pitch

A pitch should be unique to you, but some structure never hurts as a place to start. A simple template may look like:

[10 sec] Introduce and sell yourself
[20-30 sec] Describe the problem you want to solve
[10-20 sec] Describe your solution (e.g. explain the product)
[10 sec] What do you need to be successful during the weekend? ( people, skills, tools, etc )

We hope this helps you get prepared for SW Btown! We’ll see you next weekend.


Startup Weekend Volos: Demitrios Pournarakis as a Mentor


Demitrios is the head of product design and a co-founder of
nimbata (, an enterprise analytics company
specializing in call tracking and voice applications on the cloud.
He has previous 5 year working experience in the private sector
as an IT consultant at IBM, while currently being a Research
Associate at the Athens University of Economics and Business, ISTLab.
He holds a BSc in Business Administration from AUEB, an MSc in Information Systems
from City University London and an iMBA from AUEB and is currently in the 2nd year of
his PhD at AUEB, specializing on Brand Equity and Social Network Analysis.
Open to discussion on Web Design (HTML, CSS, Inkscape), Data Analysis (SQL, R),
Digital Marketing, Product Branding and Social Network Science.


Eight Quotes of Encouragement for Entrepreneurs

Every year, I have the privilege of engaging with thousands of people around the world, as they embark on a unique journey to develop their very first startup. In this day and age, it’s no secret that launching a startup is one of the most arduous undertakings one can pursue. As a former startup founder, I know all too well how difficult the path of innovation, product market fit, team cohesion, and scaling can be. However, as a former startup founder, I also know that it can be an incredibly worthwhile and life-altering adventure, if you let it be.

Rather than publish another “Crap! This is really freakin’ hard!” article emphasizing how not-fun and not-easy entrepreneurship is, I decided to take a different approach. Below are eight quotes and tidbits of wisdom to help entrepreneurs approach their journey with a bit more optimism and perspective. And trust me, you’re going to need it.



Startups Are Worthwhile

You have to remember that startups are a worthwhile pursuit. It’s going to be an incredibly hard undertaking, but it’s totally worth it! The opportunity to solve long-standing and far-reaching problems, create things that never were, make a massive impact, positively change lives, and push our society forward. The possibilities are endless and the experience is priceless.


Appreciate the Process

Be patient people – with yourself and with others. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and in order for you to build the company of your dreams, you’re going to need to become the person that is capable of leading such a company, and that takes time. Some things happen when you want them to, and some things happen when they’re supposed to. Learn to trust the process.



Always Do Your Best

Yes, things aren’t always going to go smoothly. Yes, you may be questioning where you are right now, but do remember that it is critical you give your all to what this moment right now is requiring. You never know which experience may be that big break, so treat them all as though something great can come of it. Expect that good things will happen, and align your actions to be ready to receive them.



Invest in Relationships

A startup is a business, and a business is operated by people, and in order for your business to succeed, you have to be good at enlisting, investing in, and supporting others in their own personal journeys. There is no one who’s gotten to where they are on their own, so turn down that Beyonce “Me, Myself, and I” track, and go out and invest in building great relationships.


Keep it “100”

Why do it, if it doesn’t serve who you truly are? Sure we all make concessions at times to fit in and be accepted, but it’s up to you to decide where you draw the line. Who am I, really? What do I sincerely want? Get clear on those answers and choose to pursue ventures and work in places that align to that. Afterall, what’s the point of being here, if you’re not at least going to allow yourself to fully enjoy it by being the person you really are.



Be Courageous

Now that you’ve gained a bit of clarity on who you are (and also who you’re not), it’s time to act. There’s no point in knowing, if you’re not going to act on that knowledge, so buck up, speak words, and carry out actions that align to your authentic self.


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Have Faith

This comes into play most when you start questioning your choices. Am I 100% sure this strategy will work? Am I positive this is the best person to hire? Am I sure this is the right investor to partner with? None of us can predict the future, but you can do your best to make a decision based off what information you have in this moment. Accept that there is only so much you can know at a given time, and trust in your decisions at that time.


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Take Personal Responsibility

At one point or another, things are going to hit the fan – it’s called life and it happens to all of us (sorry I didn’t write the rules; I’m just a messenger). A competitor may beat you to the punch, launching a feature your team has been working on for several months, a personal emergency may arise that requires you to step away from work for longer than you’d ever want to, or a key team member may leave, deciding this is no longer the path they want to pursue. Whatever the situation, recognize the power you do have to decide how you react to that situation.

As an entrepreneur, it can often times feel as though building a business is a never-ending cycle of obstacles to overcome. Sure it can be seen this way, or it can be seen as continual opportunities for personal growth and expansion. How you see it is your decision to make. Ultimately, life happens to all of us; it’s how we react to life that differs.

Know of any more great quotes or advice that should be shared? Add them in the comments section below.

Startup Weekend Volos: Michael Tsaoutos as a Judge

michael tsaoutos


General Manager at EPSA S.A.

Michael Tsaoutos was born in 1965 and grew up in Volos. He lives in Athens with his wife and three daughters. He holds a degree in Electrical Engineering & Computer Engineering from National Technical University of Athens (NTUA) and was awarded a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Warwick Business School.

Since 2010 he is the General Manager of EPSA Soft Drinks. EPSA produces soft drinks since 1924 and its products are available all over Greece. Exports are building up and currently EPSA exports to 15 countries, including Australia, China and USA. During the last few years EPSA introduced innovative products into the market, namely Organic Lemonade and Orangeade and the “EPSA light” series, where sugar is replaced by sweetener from the stevia plant. 

Before EPSA, Michael had worked for more than two decades in Lambrakis Press. He started in 1988 as a Technology Editor for Apple products in RAM magazine. Later he became Editorial Editor for BHMARAM newspaper insert, for bit magazine and inLife magazine. He was a member of the team that started portal and organized all paid subscriptions of From 2003 until 2010 he became General Manager of (Lambrakis Press’ e-commerce site). Until recently he worked as a technology consultant for RAM and HiTECH magazines. When time permits, he still plays around with various Apple devices.

He was a member of the Greek national ski team, Greek national water ski team and represented Greece in Camel Trophy 2000 and Land Rover G4 Challenge. For the last few years he enjoys running long distance races and participating in triathlon competitions.

Startup Weekend Volos: Harry Kalogirou as a Mentor


Harry Kalogirou studied Computer Science at the University of Piraeus and did his masters in Software Engineering at the University of Ioannina. He possesses a wide range of interests and experience, from web development and databases to operating system design and implementation to 3D accelerated graphics and high performance algorithms. Since 2010 he founded the company “nlogn” and has produced and published three successful and award winning video games, across 4 mobile platforms.

Startup Weekend Volos: Nikolaos Nanas as a Mentor

Nikolaos Nanas (@nancast) graduated in 1997 from the department of Civil Engineering of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and after two years of research in Knowledge Management at the same university, he moved to the U.K. for his MSc in Intelligent Systems at Sussex University and his PhD in Artificial Intelligence at the Knowledge Media Institute (KMi). Since 2006 he is a researcher at the Institute for Research and Technology Thessaly (IRETETH) in Greece (academic blog). As part of his PhD, he developed a unique, biologically inspired profiling model and spent the rest of his academic career studying, experimenting with and building research prototypes based on this model.
In 2010, he decided to turn his academic work into a real world product and an accompanying business. Together with his ex student, Christos Spiliopoulos they started working on developing NOOWIT in September 2011. Nick’s  research on Adaptive Information Filtering, and Web Personalization, lies at the core of NOOWIT’s computational capabilities and design. Nick is responsible for NOOWIT’s product design, front-end development, project management and business strategy.


Startup Weekend Volos: Faye Orfanou as a Mentor

faye orfanou

Faye Orfanou studied Law in Greece (Athens University), Germany (LLM in private law at Frankfurt University), London (LLM in banking and finance law at King’s College London).  She worked for 10 years (1997 -2007) as attorney-at-law in Athens Law Firms, for both international and Greek clientele in the areas of corporate law, contract law, banking and finance law, administrative law, tax law as well as in the areas of city planning and environmental regulation. For 2 years (2007- 2009) she worked as legal consultant for the Managing Authority for EU Funds of the Ministry for Public Works.

In 2009 she was appointed Special Secretary for EU Funds in the Greek Ministry of Education, a position she held for almost 3 years until July 2012. As Special Secretary for EU Funds she had the opportunity of policy design and policy implementation in the areas of education, lifelong learning and research. She designed or re-designed numerous innovative actions in the fields of education and lifelong learning.

Since 2012, making use of the knowledge, experience and networks she acquired as Special Secretary, she has developed an activity as technology transfer coordinator, mainly through Add2value pc (, a company she has co-founded, while also she has been working as legal consultant in selected projects.

At the same time in order to support people in entering and progressing into professional life she co-founded the non profit organisation “αέλια – working life lab”(

Throughout her professional career she has been an active volunteer in environmental NGOs (mainly WWF Greece) as well as in social ventures. Due to her activity in support of youth entrepreneurship during her Secretariat office term, she was selected and appointed as member of the Committee for Institutional Interventions of the Greek Federation of Hellenic Associations of Young Entrepreneurs (“ΟΕΣΥΝΕ” and she offers services as a mentor for the Athens University of Economics and Business and the Orange Grove of the Dutch Embassy.

She speaks fluent English, French, German, Spanish and Italian and has basic knowledge of Portuguese, Russian and Turkish.

Startup Weekend Volos: Makis Antypas as a Mentor

Co-founder and CIO of Viva Payments (, Makis is in charge of technology, operations and new services development at one of Europe’s most innovative mobile payments companies. He holds a BSc in Industrial Management from University of Piraeus and an MSc in Information Systems from the University of Sheffield.

A member of the TEDxAcademy organizing team since 2010, he took part in the organization of 5 successfull TEDx events in Athens and several parallel activities like the Rising Stars mentoring program, the Call to Innovation contest in collaboration with Singularity University, and the #dialogue4change TEDxSalons.

Talk to Makis about ideas in mobile payments, electronic money transactions, open data, technologies in home automation, the internet of things, music and contemporary architecture.

Interview with Startup Weekend Alumnus: Peter Jaap Blaakmeer

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Peter Jaap Blaakmeer
Age: 27
Work: elgentos ecommerce solutions
How much Startup weekends attended: 6

When and where was your first Startup weekend?
My first Startup Weekend was Startup Weekend Amsterdam 2011. It was pretty exciting! I came there totally oblivious to what SW is all about and kinda jumped in on recommendation of one of my friends, then an organiser (Vincent van Leeuwen). I was giving up my weekend to attend so I figured I wanted to work on something fun and I wasn’t really there to start a start-up. That was my initial thought when hearing about SW; that the goal of the weekend is to start a startup. Turns out, my initial idea of just having fun and not aiming for something so ambitious was perfectly aligned with what SW is aiming for; the goal is not to start a start-up but to get you excited about the possibility of starting a start-up, whilst having a lot of fun. I quickly joined teams with Dan Fennessy and together with 6 other guys we quickly launched ‘Party with a Local’. It’s still going strong with Dan being the driving force behind it. He’s launched an iOS app and an Android app along the way and is getting a lot of rightfully deserved attention nowadays!

What is the most important thing you learned during startup weekend?
That starting a start-up is all about the team. The idea could be fun, worthless, boring or worth millions, or a combination of these and more, but that’s just what it is; an idea. To turn an idea into a business you need execution and for that, you need a team. Pivoting (changing focus or altogether changing the product itself) happens a lot during Startup Weekend and is usually a great thing; recognising something doesn’t work (by customer validation!) and shifting gears could be detrimental to success but the thing that stays constant throughout this process is the team itself.

Also, Nick can’t drink. (Editor: Here is being referred to Nick Stevens, the facilitator. Do challenge him for a drinking game)

What is your favourite SW-project?
I think my favourite was a project that came to be born on the Sunday of one of the Amsterdam events. The guys were working on something that didn’t work and eventually didn’t want to pitch it on Sunday. But they did have a time slot available for pitching so they came up with a brilliant idea named ‘Cube‘. The idea was simple; really rich people buy fancy sports cars all the time and don’t drive in them but just look at them. But they are stored in a garage somewhere! Cube offered a great service to these extremely wealthy car lovers; they will buy a really expensive car (like a Bugatti Veyron or a Porsche 918 Spyder) and they will put it in a car crusher, making a cube out of it. Then they will put up this cube on a pedestal for displaying purposes in house. Awesome! They never executed it unfortunately… it’s not just for really rich people, I would have loved to have my first car ‘Cubed’!

If you have to convince someone to join #SwGro14 in a few words, how would you do that?
You won’t regret going. I don’t know what you’re going to do, who you’re going to meet and how much partying you’ll do (as opposed to working) but you’re definitely going to think it was well worth the weekend! Go in blind!

Anything else you want to say about Startup weekend?

Reward Dragon Helps Local Business Owners Increase Word-Of-Mouth Sales

Reward Dragon is web-based referral marketing software that helps local business owners increase word-of-mouth sales. It uniquely combines testimonials, social endorsements, and referral rewards into a continuous, automated marketing campaign. In September, Rich Cunningham, CEO of Reward Dragon, came to Verge to pitch his company.

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Cunningham says that the biggest problem facing startups and referral marketing is that so few companies use testimonials and referrals to their benefit. He states that most companies do not have a dedicated system in place to bring referrals into their company as customers.

According to research conducted by Reward Dragon, two-thirds of customers plan on recommending a company to others, however only one in three actually follow through. Reward Dragon helps them by providing easy-to-use referral software. By providing referral rewards, Reward Dragon hopes to incentivize more people to refer companies they are pleased with.

Companies will receive a testimonial gallery page on Reward Dragon to show potential customers their reputation. An example of such a page is Reward Dragon user, Puptown Indy, a dog daycare and boarding facility in Indianapolis. The page shows all of the referrals and comments that customers have made about Puptown in the past.

By combining Reward Dragon and GetSayDo companies are able to better understand how they are viewed by the community. GetSayDo offers transparent business feedback that can help startups better understand where they need to improve in their business. Using that information, owners can then increase their amount of referrals and build a larger customer base.

Reward Dragon
Reward Dragon

Summing up Reward Dragon

  • Sets up in seconds
  • Default Testimonial invitations
  • Default new-customer coupons
  • Default referral rewards coupons
  • Operates on any mobile or desktop device
  • Simple testimonial widget to embed on your web site

If your business depends on positive word-of-mouth and customer referrals, get started with your free Reward Dragon account, today. Sign up now!