After writing a piece on Exeter as a startup hub, I was invited to a Startup Weekend. To my delight, I wasn’t simply there to document the event, but was registered as a participant to get involved and team up with the entrepreneurs at the event.
The participants ranged from second year university students to company owners, and even a lawyer who wanted to try something new. The event went something like this: Pitch – Vote – Test – Form Team – Brain Dump – MVP.
We were lucky enough to have the director of Startup Weekend, John Beadle, who had flown in from America to facilitate the event. Alongside 6 coaches and mentors, a panel of judges made up of 5 startup experts and The Innovation Centre at the University of Exeter, it was clear that any one of our ideas could become a reality thanks to the support and facilities.
Entrepreneurs; if you want to kick start an idea, then you need to get involved in a Startup Weekend. 12% of teams at Startup Weekend actually go on to forming their own company. Not convinced? Check out my highlights video and read the breakdown of the event below to get a real flavour for what this is all about.
Friday 10th June: Getting Started
Official registration time was at 5:30pm. After your name was ticked off, you had a lanyard around your neck and a Startup Weekend T-Shirt, you were ready to mingle. Dinner and ‘networking’ ensued (more like friendly chatting) before the welcome presentation and keynote speakers launched the whole event.
This is where the fun began. The welcome talks by John Beadle (Director of Startup Weekend), Jim Hill (Immersify) and Laurence Oakes-Ash (Exeter City Futures) got us buzzing. A few team exercises followed before the 60-second pitches.
Now, the great part about the pitches was that you didn’t have to come prepared. If you’d had an idea there and then, you could get up and pitch. Within the pitches, you had to highlight the problem, your idea of a solution (which could be very vague) and what skills you needed in your team. Everyone was then giving 3 sticky notes to vote on their favourite pitches and to start to form teams.
At 9pm, we could start work. We were all supplied with business canvases to help us structure our ideas.
Saturday 11th June: In the Middle
The bulk of the work was done on Saturday. With Immersify giving us challenges and encouraging us to do some field research in the city of Exeter, our ideas really started to take shape. All the groups left the University campus at one point or another to talk to their target demographic.
Lunch was served at 12pm – note, all meals were included in the ticket – and coaches arrived just after lunch to start getting down to the details of our business plans.
Long hours of work led to our 6pm dinner, and the day finished at a time that was dependent on the team. My group only wrapped up for the day at 9:30pm.
Sunday 12th June: Crunch Time
Sunday was crunch time. We had to power through to compile our research, get our designs and business plans to a good stage and work on our 5 minute presentations. At about 3pm, we had tech checks and practice pitches before the 5:15pm final presentations.
The judges, Laurence Oakes-Ash, Tom Langdon-Davies, Richard Eckley and Georgie Hazell, deliberated and came to their final decision. The best pitch from Friday – awarded an iPod Touch – and the top 3 teams were announced with the winning team getting a fun prize. Most importantly, some of the judges put forward their interest in helping certain teams move forward – that’s how good some of these ideas were.
We then had a celebratory dinner, exchanged our last business cards and bid farewell to the participants, the organizers, the judges and the coaches. It will be interesting to see which teams take their ideas forward and bring them to market.
Less Talk, More Action
It is important to realize that this event isn’t about identifying a viable startup idea by crowning a winner, but a learning curve for all involved. The teams worked hard on their individual business plans for the final presentation, getting to a ‘proof of concept’ stage in just 54 hours. This normally takes months.
Not only was this an educational experience, but a fantastic networking event too. Making friends with a diverse set of people was a great aspect, but finding potential co-founders and experts as well as contacts for the future was an unbelievable opportunity.
My team was incredible (runners up in the competition), the other participants were inspiring and the feedback given by coaches, mentors, volunteers and judges alike was priceless.
Thank you Nat Collard for inviting me to such a spectacular event and good luck to those who are going to take their ideas to the next step.
The Exeter Startup Weekend, the third of its kind, returns this summer with its continued commitment to looking for ideas that could change the world. Set across three days (June 10th – 12th) in The Innovation Centre at the University of Exeter, the Exeter Startup Weekend will act as a hub for nurturing creativity, design and entrepreneurship.
Partnering with the Univesity of Exeter, Exeter City Futures, The Innovation Centre and SETsquared Exeter, this Exeter Startup Weekend is sure to build on the successful format of previous years and offer a number of different ways to learn how to apply entrepreneurship to your daily life. With prizes of mentorship and investment to be won from The Innovation Centre, SETsquared and Exeter City Futures, there’s absolutely no reason not to get involved!
What’s the Focus of the Exeter Startup Weekend?
Following a familiar structure to former Exeter Startup Weekends, the event will give entrepreneurs the chance to pitch an idea to the audience, with the top ten ideas getting voted through. These ideas will then be the ones that are worked on over the 54-hour weekend.
This year will have a particular focus on:
- Products and services which have the potential to enrich the quality of life and environment in the city of Exeter.
- New business ideas that help with the city’s sustainable needs, with the specific aim of reaching zero congestion and zero carbon emissions by 2025 in the energy, transport and health sectors.
However, any and every entrepreneurial idea is welcomed over the weekend, whether this is for profit or social good. The weekend is about discovering hidden talent, world-changing ideas and receiving expert mentoring with a focus on ‘less talk, more action’. By bringing together a large group of like-minded individuals, this is sure to be a fast-moving, high-powered weekend that produces some amazing startups.
What’s On Offer?
Tickets start at £25.00 for students and £35.00 for everyone else.
The weekend itself will run from 5:30 pm on Friday 10th until 8:30 pm on Sunday 12th, and will involve presentations, meetings, speakers, networking and, of course, food, so get ready for a jam-packed weekend! With the event now in its third year, the timetable has been tailored to ensure each and every attendee gets the most out of every day.
Can Exeter Become Britain’s Next Startup Hub?
It’s no accident that this startup weekend is placed in Exeter; the city is quickly becoming one of the main creative hubs in England. With the local councils placing an increased focus on innovation and backed up by some of the country’s most successful universities, Exeter is now home to some of the best and brightest entrepreneurs. This event is not the first of its kind, with the similar Google Startup Weekend also hosted here in 2015.
With the University of Exeter being ranked 93rd in the world and a vast network of investment, grants and funds being supplied throughout the city, Exeter is attracting talent from all over the world to help nurture this entrepreneurial flair. The aim of the Exeter Startup Weekend is to go further with this and to put this entrepreneurship to work to benefit others in just 54 hours. With the success of previous years, and the guaranteed success of this year, Exeter, with the help of events such as the Exeter Startup Weekend, is quickly becoming firmly placed on the world map as a hub for innovation.
[Source infographic image via the embed code at the bottom of https://www.companyformations247.co.uk/blog/exeter-student-start-up-extraordinaires/#Infographic ]
The Exeter Startup Weekend is open to anyone who wants to make a difference, regardless of sector, career or age. If you believe you’ve got what it takes to be one of our next ten investable startups, get your tickets here or get in contact with us at firstname.lastname@example.org