12 Things to Consider for your Techstars Application

Over the last few years, I’ve reviewed the good, bad and ugly of thousands of applications for startup programs all over the world. With six new Techstars city programs open for applications, providing some hints and tips seemed timely.

In no particular order, here are some things to consider:

 

1. Do a bit of digging into the program, the mentors, the MD and the partner and target your application accordingly. Do your due diligence on us and don’t be afraid to talk about it when we’re chatting. If you want to work with a particular MD because of their background or a program because of its mentors or corporate partners, then it’s a sign that you’ve done some research – which is great. For example, it’s unlikely that our Fintech programs would be interested in an Uber for pooper-scoopers. It’s always brilliant when we talk to companies who understand what we’re looking for, and who tailor their replies accordingly. We’re pretty clear on what matters most to us. There is a lot of detail on how we pick teams and why we don’t in our FAQ – well worth a read.

2. We ask people to make videos one minute long for a reason. It forces you to focus your thinking. Obviously, we can live with a little flexibility +/- 60 seconds, but not a huge amount!  

3. Learn how to demo your product. Everyone should be able to do this. It can be as simple as a one minute screencap with you narrating the story of your incredibly technical, but not public-facing infrastructure start over slides. Don’t know how to make a screencast? Now you do. On the team video front, Alex Iskold wrote a great piece about how to make your application stand out, including some examples of great team videos. It’s definitely worth a read.

4. If you are applying at the idea stage, or if you don’t have a designer or developer on the team, you’d be amazed at how easy it is to create and impress folks with simple prototypes. Here’s how anyone can build one. This is also something you can use in your demo video. For Bonus Points this can also be used to show potential co-founders and employees that you’re not building vaporware…

5. Be careful if you use placeholder videos in your application. You’d be surprised how many people forget to replace them. Be wary of using copy and paste – I’m looking at the person who shared something rather more adult than they intended in an application in the past. Also, don’t rickroll us in the video sections. 😉

6. Be precise. I wrote about the importance of words a while back. This is important. Short sentences that get to the point can help. Long rambling ones (and I recognize I’m guilty of this) don’t.

7. Don’t play the politician. We’ve all seen the trick they do – ignoring the question they were asked and instead answering the question they wanted to be asked. We ask specific things for specific reasons. If you don’t know the answer, that’s fine. Saying you don’t know something is not just ok, it’s actually great.

8. “I’m sorry I wrote you such a long letter. I didn’t have time to write you a short one” is one of my favourite quotes ever. Spend time on your application. Subtract the obvious and add the meaningful. Your goal is to get us sufficiently excited about your company to ask for a call or a meeting. Essay type answers to questions are tough to read and even harder to follow. Make it short. Make it to the point. Make it clear and easy to understand.

9. Create a Google Doc and collaborate with others on your answers. I’ve reviewed enough applications to know a thoughtful one from a cobbled together one almost straight away. Well prepared applications stand out. Get someone to review yours. Spelling, syntax, grammar and clarity are not deal-breakers, but precision in applications is a strong signal that you can take a systematic approach in other aspects of your business. Find someone who doesn’t know what you’re doing and get them to review it for clarity.

10. If you’re finalizing and submitting your application, just do a quick check on all of your social channels and website to make sure they all a) work and b) are active. You don’t have to have hundreds or thousands of followers on Twitter, but if I go to a social channel and see that the last update was shared 6 months ago and there hasn’t been anything posted on your website for a similar amount of time, I’m going to see a miniature red flag. Also, make sure that the www and non-www version of your URL both work (my inner-SEO nerd says don’t forget to pick a canonical domain).

11. Be honest. If you say people work for your company, make sure they actually work for your company. I reviewed an application recently that said that a pretty prominent person had joined a company in a C-level role. I was impressed. Until I talked to that person (who I happened to know). They had met the company once for coffee and had a very preliminary chat about an ad hoc advisory position. Lies have a funny way of finding their way into the light.

12. Update us. Once your application has been submitted, you can access the update field in F6S. The selection process can sometimes take several weeks or months – particularly if you apply early. Keep us posted on your progress. Show us traction and momentum. General excitement helps. A lot!

 

That should give you some food for thought. If you’ve got questions, queries, comments (or if you want to apologize for that NSFW link), you can find me on Twitter and all the other obvious places, or leave your comments below.








Pasos para innovar, emprender y cambiar el mundo

Startup Weekend

1. Si lo imaginas, ya existe.

Es verdad que todo comienza con una buena idea. Pero ¿qué la transforma en un emprendimiento social? Creemos que una idea inicial se debe co-crear con los usuarios, iterar con tu equipo e implementar en un prototipo de baja fidelidad en muy corto plazo para probar la propuesta de valor. No tengas miedo a equivocarte, la primera idea casi siempre es incorrecta.

2. Enamórate de los desafíos, no de las ideas. 

Un emprendedor no debe comprometerse solo con una posible solución. Lo más importante es el desafío y comprender bien la necesidad que se intenta satisfacer o la oportunidad que se quiere aprovechar. El emprendedor debe mantener siempre un espíritu de curiosidad.

3. Fallar también es avanzar. 

Para bajar los niveles de riesgo, es necesario iterar de manera permanente. Debemos equivocarnos mucho antes de llegar al modelo final (producto, servicio y modelo de negocios). Además recuerda: tus errores puedes iluminar a muchos otros emprendedores. Fracasa, pero siempre fracasa mejor.

4. Co-crea con tus usuarios y clientes. 

Debes sumergirte en la vida cotidiana de tus potenciales usuarios, clientes y/o consumidores en busca del valor oculto y la esencia del problema y/o necesidad que intentas resolver. Es importante realizar entrevistas en sus casas y lugares de trabajo para registrar finalmente su día a día. El objetivo principal no es validar y convencer al usuario, sino lograr instancias de co-creación donde sientan propia tu proyecto y recibas el mayor feedback posible para validar tu propuesta y modelo de negocio.

SW

5. Mide tu impacto

Cada ciertos periodos es necesario analizar si se está avanzando en pos de las metas fijadas, establecer indicadores cuantitativos y cualitativos. Si bien estos pueden variar en tiempo, es fundamental fijar metas desde un principio para determinar si el proyecto va por buen camino o es necesario re-diseñar la estrategia.

6. Tu equipo es clave

Ninguna buena idea puede ser llevada a cabo por una sola persona. Elige a las personas que trabajarán en tu proyecto con tiempo y dedicación. Inspira y motiva a los integrantes de tu equipo y se convertirán ellos también en embajadores de tu sueño.

7. Tu pasión vende

Esa es la principal característica que enamorará a un inversionista. Debes transmitir energía y entusiasmo en tu pitch. No es menos importante mostrar rápidamente tu modelo de negocios, a quién esta dirigido y cómo lo llevarás a cabo. Debes mezclar sabiamente una buena historia que inspire y argumentos concretos que convenzan.

8. Capacidad de surfear

Como emprendedores debemos estar abiertos a modificar nuestros planes y decisiones en tiempo real, sin miedo al cambio. Surfear la ola es una de las grandes habilidades que debe tener un emprendedor para llegar de manera exitosa a sus metas.

Click the image to see entire album

9. Tener los pies en la tierra

Un emprendedor social debe innovar y emprender para las problemáticas que nos rodean en el día a día. No hay que aspirar a un laboratorio en Silicon Valley; el mejor campo de prueba son tus usuarios.

10. Desafía los paradigmas existentes

Los verdaderos cambios no solo son buenas inversiones, también son nuevos planteamientos frente a situaciones que parecen no poderse cambiar. No olvides que las empresas del futuro ya están latiendo.

Para seguir conectado con la comunidad de emprendimiento de Techstars, síguenos en redes sociales.

 Socialab.com








How To Conquer the Emotional Rollercoaster of Startup Weekend

After 9 Startup Weekends in three years, I’ve come to the conclusion that it is one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life (in fact, I’ve written previously that I might be addicted to it). However, for some that the journey could be really intense at times, and not everyone makes it to the finish line feeling the same way.

Recently, I facilitated Startup Weekend Miami: Diversity Edition, where I was taught the concept of “la pasión,” which is Spanish for “people in Miami are really, REALLY emotional.” I was tasked to harness la pasión in a community that had a plethora of it, in a way that would make everyone come away from Startup Weekend Miami feeling as wonderful as I had 8 times before.

Below is a list of lessons and tips for a facilitator, organizer, or volunteer to apply that would help maintain a sense of stability to an otherwise potentially chaotic event.

1. If you’re an organizer or volunteer, your mission is to execute the event as orderly as possible

In Startup Weekend, Murphy’s Law generally applies – anything that can go wrong will go wrong. It is vital that every organizer and volunteer is informed of the weekend’s tasks and can easily communicate with one another to correct any situation that arises.

Otherwise… this will happen…

Best practice: Print up a universal task list that specifies each delegation and giving a copy to all your volunteers. That way, even if they don’t have an assignment, they can look at the list to see if someone else needs help with something.

2. If you’re the facilitator, your first priority is to take care of the lead organizer

I got your back, Paula.

Generally, lead organizers shoulder the most burden, and the stress can be overwhelming. They should be acknowledged especially for their months of hard work leading up to the big show.

E Pluribus Unum, people.

Facilitators should check in with them hourly and make sure they’re fed, hydrated, and as relaxed as you can get them. If necessary, give them a hug (more on that later).

That'll do, senorita. That'll do.
That’ll do, senorita. That’ll do.

3. Communicate to people on their level – perhaps even in their language

Startup Weekend is an educational event at its core, and the most effective way to teach is to contextualize it with abstract reasoning that they understand. Learn more about them to understand their thinking processes.

Just being honest here.
Just being honest here.

An added challenge for me: most of the attendees of Startup Weekend Miami speak Spanish as their first language. I do not – except for what I’ve learned on TV –  so when people weren’t looking, I’d review my Dora The Explorer Lessons on YouTube and bust that out randomly. You’re welcome, mi amigo/as.

4. If teams are arguing without end, facilitate a scrum

Inevitably, disagreements occur in a competition, but they become difficult to resolve when people are not talking in a respectful, orderly fashion.

This was not that far off from the truth.
This almost happened at the event. More on that later.

To resolve this, get them to stand up and talk in a circle, one at a time. Here’s a quick video to teach you how to run a proper scrum – a very popular method of coordinating large, diverse teams.

(The key lesson starts at 6:32)

I did this with one team in particular. More on that later.

5. Have a quiet space – one for volunteers, one for participants

"Let me answer that question once I'm done with this Tweet."
“Let me answer that question once I’m done with this Tweet.”

We all need to decompress, so give your people a place to rest, nap, socialize, and blow off some steam. Don’t go so far as create a distracting place such as a game session – you still want people to focus on on the main goal.

6. Throw in a dance session or two (you’ll have to start it)

I'm going to regret this once people stop listening to "Uptown Funk" by Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars.
I’m going to regret this once people stop listening to “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars.

It was a foregone conclusion that I’d be dancing in Miami. It was just a matter of how often. I like to keep the music playing in a common area for attendees to come out, relax, and practice their salsa.

It is possible to have more rhythm than a native Argentinian, apparently.
It is possible to have more rhythm than a native Argentinian, apparently.

Dancing is a great way to stay loose and relaxed, and it’s probably less terrifying than, say, public speaking.

7. Prevent “hanger” by providing snacks and insist that everyone drink water frequently

Startup Weekend is a high-energy competition, and with brains working on overdrive, they’ll need to be replenished. I try to have a bottle of water and a protein-rich snack on my person at all times. Keep your people well-fed, and they’ll be well-tempered, too.

8. Give out hugs and high-fives whenever possible

Paula could not stop hugging me. I do not blame her.
Paula could not stop hugging me. I do not blame her.

I’m a big fan of Simon Sinek‘s recent work Leaders Eat Last, where he describes the importance of establishing physical contact to build relationships and trust among people.

At a hyper-networking event like Startup Weekend, these physical embraces lead to lasting connections that you’ll appreciate long after this experience.

9. Plan to finish your event as soon as possible…

This crowd will turn on you otherwise.
This crowd will turn on you otherwise.

Things might get delayed, so try to move as quickly. Here are a few tips I’ve learned while facilitating for NYC and Orlando:

  • Links only: Instead of letting people present and demo on their own laptops with varying file types, have them send cloud-based links to both and put them in a single document. This moves things along quickly in between Q&A sessions.
  • 4:3 presentation model: Limit presentations to 4 minutes with a loose 3 minutes for judges’ Q&A works well, too. Judges average about 45 seconds per question, so a group of 3-5 judges works well.

Why do we do this?

10. … so that everyone will go to the after-party

Yay! We did it! exha *0981231
Yay! We did it! (exhales…)

I love the idea of an after-party, but often Startup Weekends run too late, and who can really stick around to party on a Sunday night? However, if you aim to end your event around 8pm or earlier, and your event was a rousing success, you’ll have a great time.

Also, try to have ALL of your parties in Miami, regardless of your own location. Here’s why:

We got a pool!
We got a pool!
bouncy-castle
A bouncy castle for adults!
A photo booth!
A photo booth!

However, despite all of these tips, I should say that there needs to be some room for la pasión in a Startup Weekend. For example:

When a team that nearly imploded on Saturday night…

Team BreakinBread was a fun project for me. Constantly bickering in Spanish over every single detail, I was positive that they would implode and disband by Saturday night.

Serial entrepreneur and LiveAnswer CEO Adam Boalt guides a team of future entrepreneurs.
Serial entrepreneur and LiveAnswer CEO Adam Boalt guides a team of future entrepreneurs.

To fix this, I made them do a scrum. By getting them to talk in turn and truly listen to one another, they realized that they were actually a well-rounded team that agreed on one thing: they had communication problems.

What a difference a day makes!
What a difference a day makes!

Afterwards, they delivered a beautiful presentation that impressed the judges. The rest is Startup Weekend Miami history: they won first place.

Or when a team that won 2nd place got a standing ovation…

Team HandyCab
Team HandyCab

Meet Ernie.

Ernie struggles to get where he needs to be due to the lack of convenient transportation options for the disabled. His dedicated friend Juan pitched an idea:

Not too shabby! By Adam Leonard of Happy Fun Corp.
Not too shabby! Artwork by Adam Leonard of Happy Fun Corp.

An “Uber for the differently-abled,” Juan wanted Ernie to have access to the ride-sharing technologies that dominate the startup marketplace today (e.g. Uber and Lyft). They found great validation by tapping into people’s good nature – an uncommon approach for a Startup Weekend team.

Once I announced their second place win, Ernie stood up and made his way to the main stage. With every step, more and more people rose with him and applauded his victory with deafening cheers of support.

Diversity includes everyone. EVERYONE.
Diversity includes everyone. EVERYONE.

When Ernie took the microphone to say how happy he was to have made the difficult trip to attend Startup Weekend, I was indeed full of la pasión as well (i.e. TEARS OF JOY.)

Or when I could not stop smiling when I was presented with this amazing certificate

drama-certificate

The text reads:
“A special recognition for surviving your
MIAMI DRAMA INITIATION
Let all who view this document know you survived Miami. We are diverse, speak at the same time and have a rollercoaster of emotions, but at the end of the day, we’re all family and end the night laughing with J’s (JAJAJAJA). You rock!”

Perhaps I had been a bit of a curmudgeon the whole time…

Yeah, I can be a bit.... yeah.
Yeah, I can be a bit…. yeah.

I was deeply moved by the relentless love I received towards the organizers, who should be named (in no particular order): Paula Celestino, Pia Celestino, Ryan Amsel, Gaby Castelao, and Anas Benadel.

Hey, sponsors! We love you!
Hey, SW Miami sponsors! We love you!

In short, Startup Weekend is indeed a roller coaster (it’s designed that way), but for a small minority, that can be an unpleasant experience. Emotions are meant to run high, but there are ways to keep it balanced yet still exciting.

I hope these suggestions serve as a way to hold someone’s hand to make them feel safe right before they take the deep plunge into entrepreneurship.

Good luck, and thank you, Startup Weekend Miami: Diversity Edition!

Lee Ngo is a community leader based out of Pittsburgh, PA.








Startup Weekend Latino and Hispanic Markets: Goals, Lessons & Future Plans

latinoOrganizing a Startup Weekend can mean different things to an organizer: a chance to build a network and make connections, a way to be a part of a fun and transformational experience, or even a way to promote entrepreneurship in a community.

One of the reasons I organize Startup Weekend is because it represents a way to build and shape the community around me. In my most recent event, I was part of a team taking a small step toward making Seattle a place to celebrate Latino cultures in the local entrepreneurial community.

Seattle is a wonderful, intelligent, and passionate city. I’ve been involved in the Startup Weekend community here in some form or another for the last few years, and I noticed some things:

  • The people I was seeing at the events were generally from the same demographic.
  • There was an opportunity to spread entrepreneurship to neighborhoods and cultures beyond the downtown urban core.

If you aren’t from Seattle, you should know that our city is reasonably sized, but much of the entrepreneurial energy and support is concentrated near the downtown core. There are various cultures in other parts of Seattle that don’t enjoy the same energy and whose stories we don’t hear regularly.

That isn’t to say that there aren’t efforts to engage other communities and social groups in our city. In September 2014, we saw an incredible Hack the CD event to engage the African American community in the Central District, but we should be doing more.

A few other organizers and attendees I had met through various events realized we had something in common: we all loved our city, we loved entrepreneurship, and we loved our shared Latino heritage.

This gave rise to the idea that became Seattle’s first Startup Weekend Latino and Hispanic Markets event. In this post I’ll share our goals, lessons we learned along the way, and what plans we have for engaging diversity in entrepreneurship in Seattle.

latino3

Vision and Goals for Startup Weekend Latino

Creating an event to highlight a culture is an interesting prospect. Entrepreneurship cuts across cultures, beliefs, and opinions in a way that is incredibly powerful. We wanted to celebrate a culture that means so much to us, as well as invite others to experience it.

We decided our event would be special and distinct from any other Startup Weekend in 3 ways:

  • Latino Entrepreneurs would feel welcomed in a way they may not have felt before
  • We would share our culture with those who had no connection to Latino cultures, giving them a chance to experience and consider another culture as they build their ideas
  • We would create a space for the Latino community to share and celebrate its culture in the context of entrepreneurship

We designed our event to celebrate and share fun parts of our Latino cultures. This included things like:

  • Salsa contest for pitch order
  • Inviting smaller Seattle Latino restaurants to the event to feed our attendees
  • Having parts of the event in Spanish, or providing translation help where needed
  • Latino music throughout the weekend

We also sought to include representatives from the Seattle startup community across cultures and industries. In addition to our standard partners from the Seattle Startup Weekend community, we reached out to Latino cultures to find sponsors, mentors, and judges. Ultimately, we wanted people to come away knowing there is a thriving Latino community in Seattle interested in the success of its entrepreneurs.

Lessons Learned

Organizing a unique Startup Weekend event means encountering new situations. Here is what we learned.

Diversity is Exciting and Fun!

My favorite part of the event was just how many cultures and nationalities were represented there. Beyond North, Central, and South American Spanish-speaking countries, we had attendees representing Asian, European, and African cultures. This was a delightful opportunity to experience entrepreneurship with new friends and faces. More importantly, we saw that an event dedicated to celebrating other cultures was interesting to so many people.

Marketing and Messaging

We knew at the start of the event that we’d have to be careful with our messaging and marketing to be clear that the entire community was invited to participate. Success would look like balancing a specific culture focus with an open invitation to all of Seattle. The clarity in messaging also makes an impact on how judges and coaches formed their expectations. We used language like “All Are Welcome” in event promotions, and emphasized our goals to all people involved in the event. However, this is an area we want to improve upon for next year.

Meals and Catering

We committed to partnering with local Latino restaurants for all our meals. This resulted in amazing meals throughout the entire weekend, but it was actually quite difficult to find smaller businesses that had the capacity and experience to cater for a Startup Weekend event. Moreover, we should have realized that having an event so close to Cinco de Mayo would limit our selection of available restaurants.

Engaging Existing Latino Groups

There are plenty of Latino organizations around Seattle, but we didn’t know who they were when we were planning and marketing our event. Frankly, this is just a symptom of this being a nascent effort. We expect we’ll build on this momentum to build a more cohesive network of communities within our city.

Plans for the Future

As most Startup Weekend events do, this was a great starting point upon which we can continue to build. We intend to build more connections to other groups and create more opportunities to engage as a community. With the small cohort of attendees from our event, we can create more connections and strengthen our ties.

The best part is that we’re not alone in this. Portland will host its own Startup Weekend Latino event in June, and we have been interacting and supporting each other as organizing teams.

Hopefully, by this time next year, we will have a groundswell of momentum that we can showcase in another Startup Weekend Latino event. In the meantime, you can follow along and get involved in the following places:

 








Get inspired by winners of Startup Weekend of this year!

Startup Weekend Eindhoven is coming up in three weeks. One of the questions you might have is: Does Startup Weekend produce any real interesting… well… Startups? One could say simply yes, and point to our own Eindhoven success story of Proxible.

Old news? So let’s see what new startups have been created at other startup weekends around the world in 2015. And wow, there are some amazingly simple but brilliant ideas. We did some research and found some really cool ones! Read some of them below, with a question to get your own stream of ideas flowing.

 

Startup Weekend Stamford winner is SlipShare.

8 Great Reasons to Attend SWStamford

One that could have been Dutch: They created an app to help yacht owners find dock space while cruising the coast. So, while still sailing they can reserve a spot in the marina. This app exists for car parks but with a small change they made one for boats, but hey, why didn’t you think of that?

What great existing idea can you introduce into another market?

From Startup Weekend Charlotte comes Pantrea.

SW_Charlottesville

Pantrea aims to provide meal plans and grocery lists tailored by dieticians for individuals’ health needs. Health is a growing potential market. Not only do more and more people suffer from allergies to milk, many people prefer to eat vegetarian, but also the amount of people that are fasting is increasing. Obesity is on the rise; the amount of diabetes are patients growing. These are big trends which have been there for a couple of years but apparently no “foody” has really acted!

Which health trends can you think of and what technology can connect with that?

At Startup Weekend Grand Rapids Hex was born.

 

Hex is a weather resistant Bluetooth controller. It has large rubber controls tied in with a rugged but simple design that gives you very discernible feedback from the buttons. It allows you to easily access all your music or phone controls without removing your device from your pocket. Solving the problem of using fragile, high tech devices in sticky, phone destroying, situations!

Which great technical solution could use some extra usability?

 

Startup Weekend Eindhoven
We could really use that Hex in the Dutch weather (not recently with all that sun). But there’s more reasons why we like it: it’s technically simple and well designed. Hey, isn’t that what Eindhoven is all about? Next edition especially?








Career Goals For 2015

Sort yourself with a new organisational system. Get your emails arranged into folders, file your important paperwork and get a diary and planner on the go. It’s not glamorous stuff but you’ll be pleased at how much more efficient you’ll be. Your career can easily get off track if you allow yourself to slip into sloppy practises – but you can address this in 2015.

Update your CV. Even if you’re not applying for a job it’s always worth keeping on top of your CV. Not only will it mean that you keep an important document up to date but it’ll also force you to reflect on what you’ve achieved and what, if anything, you want to do next. You’ll also be primed and ready should the job of your dreams pop up on Jobstoday. Tie this in with creating or updating your LinkedIn profile – which can be a useful shop window and a way of picking up useful tips to further your own career. 

Challenge yourself to raise your game. Performing well in your job is one sure-fire way to get noticed and move your career on. Set your sights on one particular aspect of your job and zero in on that. Look at how you can improve and set your own personal targets to do better. 

Create your own personal website or blog. The world wide web has room for everyone to showcase their own personal talents. A website or blog can be a useful way of proving your worth to a potential employer as well as giving you an outlet to write or upload information about a passion or hobby – and also a way of people getting in contact with you. It needn’t be expensive or too time consuming either. 

Enter yourself into a suitable training programme. Find out what courses you can take on in your company or with an outside body and use them to develop your skills and add another string to your bow. It’ll boost your career and give you a fresh challenge to get your teeth into. You might also be able to become an expert in a particular field and be someone others turn to for help and advice.

Engage in a discussion about pay. Don’t bottle up any concerns you might have about your salary – book in a chat with your boss and get it off your chest. Keep the conversation professional and courteous and listen to what they have to say. You might want to offer to take on more responsibility in order to earn more. If you don’t ask you might miss out, pick your moment and get this done in 2015.

Downtime is vital – make more space for it in your schedule. Your home life and career are not completely disconnected. One way to succeed in your career is to strike a healthy work/life balance. If you’re not going in to work fresh because you’ve been agonising over work for hours at night you will struggle to succeed. It’s tough to get this right so factor some time in your diary for leisure activities and stick to them.








Tips For Tapping into Your Local Startup Community

This post is written by Emily Payne and featured in Launchable Magazine. 

One of the great beauties of startups is flexibility. Yes, you will likely work yourself crazy, but much of the work can often be done anywhere from the isolation of your bedroom to the free Wi-Fi at the mall. Not taking advantage of everything a startup community has to offer will hurt your business, though. By nature, startup entrepreneurs are passionate, hard-working, and dedicated. Tapping into this network will not only benefit your own business, but you can likely contribute something unexpected of your own.

At the very least, networking is sure to bring plenty of free drink opportunities.

startup-communities1

Be A Follower

The easiest way to get your feet wet in the startup community is through good old fashioned research. Get the names of the biggest startup successes in your area right now or even rising stars that intrigue you and your startup. Now follow them. Read their posts, tweets, and blogs—more importantly, participate. Share the articles, respond to their authors, and make a little noise in your community.

Networking and forming online connections isn’t only about promoting your own business. People love to talk about themselves: learn to be a listener. When you make a new connection, think first about how you can help them, rather than what they can give to you.

“Pro-actively giving may seem like a cost, and it may require you to be a little extra patient as well,” says Andrew Hoag, founder and CEO of Black Drumm, “but in the end, the reciprocal support I receive, simply by offering to help people who aren’t asking for it, is overwhelming. It builds tremendous loyalty and respect.” While it may seem cliché, a little good karma goes a long way

Close The Laptop

Building an online presence can only do so much without face-to-face connections. Events, big or small, can help to put a face to a name and leave a much more lasting impression with the community.

Meetup is built on the principle of learning and sharing with neighbors. Search “startup,” “entrepreneurship,” or even “networking” and find groups of like-minded people either holding lectures, networking events, or simple hangouts. Meet as many people as you can—talk about your ideas, talk about their ideas, and innovate together. Not enough meetups in your area? Use those connections through the online community you’re building and start one yourself.

Not everyone, and especially not busy startup entrepreneurs, has time to commit to the plethora of events out there, let alone organize them. It may be more efficient to get a little narrower in the search: Startup Digest compiles events for startup entrepreneurs specifically. Squeeze an event in with lunch or dinner. After all, everyone has to eat.

Pitch Yourself, Not Just Your Company

If you haven’t already mastered your elevator pitch, now is the time. Create your story. Practice it. Reword it. Perfect it.

People remember stories better than titles or company names. When you’re networking in a room full of entrepreneurs, you’ll need a little something extra to stick in people’s memory. Stories promote authentic connections, whether it be business-related or not. Connections build relationships, and relationships build networks.

Start with the basics in a simple formula, and color it from there: “I have a background in X, and I’m currently working with X, but I’m actively getting involved in X through my new business.” Or, “I attended university for theater but found my passion for new media through a volunteer project, and now I’m CEO at X publication.”

Get Personal

While attending events and chit chatting over appetizers is important, seeking out individuals themselves will create an even stronger connection. Find a local entrepreneur that you admire and ask to buy them a cup of coffee for a few minutes for their time.

“Becoming immersed in the entrepreneurial community can yield a variety of benefits . . . Go on coffee dates, attend conferences, and don’t be afraid to ask for help,” advises Alison Pincus of One Kings Lane. You’ll be surprised how far a simple email request can go. Keep the request short and sweet, and avoid talking business as much as possible. Open a conversation, develop the relationship, and the benefits will follow later.

There’s really no excuse not to, with apps such as Coffee the App that can do most of the work. All you have to do is swipe left or right to indicate interest, and you’re automatically set up to converse with those who reciprocate.

Cowork, Co-live, Co-everything

Networking can also be integrated completely into working time: coworking.

With the enormous rise of startup entrepreneurs and the sharing economy in the last decade, these shared work spaces have been popping up around the world in interesting shapes and sizes. There, you can simply pay a monthly fee and use the shared office space whenever you need. You will be held accountable for your productivity, not only by the fact that you’re paying for the space but by the people around you who are creating and accomplishing, as well. Naturally, innovation and collaboration flourishes.

For coworking enthusiasts and those available for complete immersion, co-living space is its own community within the community. Krash offers co-living spaces in Boston, NYC, and DC, boasting speakers, group dinners, and getaways for their members. To put it in their own words, co-living at Krash “is like getting a back-stage tour to the local start-up and innovation economies.”

Take Your Time

It’s important to remember, lastly, patience. A reputation with and integration into the startup community won’t come overnight. Take care with each interaction, and stay personal. Sending out too many LinkedIn requests or demanding too much of the community can make you appear to be desperate. Build relationships through sincere interactions and relevant conversations. Your community will grow from there.








3 Social Media Tips for organizing your Startup Weekend

swvienna1I am co-organizing the Startup Weekend Vienna happening at sektor5 this weekend. I am taking care of all the social media things happening on Facebook and Twitter. And I’m trying to make people use the right hashtag. It’s #swvienna. You make me very happy if you don’t use anything else.

If you are organizing a Startup Weekend here are three tips I want to share with you.

Maybe you will also find them useful if you just want to learn more social media community management and social media marketing basics.

1. Use one Hashtag everywhere. Really. Everywhere!

If you want to find all the tweets people write about your event make sure they use one hashtag. Make it public as early as possible and also make sure it’s a short hashtag. So instead of #startupweekendvienna use #swvienna. It’s not only easier to remember but also leaves more space for all the other important content people want to share in one tweet. Since there is this 140 characters limit on Twitter.

Make sure to share the hashtag on your FB page (Even mention it in the about section. Don’t hide it! People won’t scroll to look if there is a hashtag hidden somewhere.), on your Twitter profile, on all the goodies for the event (such as stickers, T-shirts, pens, notepads) and on banners and posters.

If you reach out to the press ask them to mention the hashtag in their articles as well.

Use the hashtag in every tweet. Be a role model and show people that it’s a good thing to use the hashtag all the time. Also your tweets will show up in the Twitter search if people search for the hashtag (or click on it in their own tweets).

We’re putting together prizes for the winning team: @FounderTalks generously offered to give 2 tickets to their conference! Yay! #swvienna

— Startup Weekend VIE (@swvienna) December 26, 2014

If you are a dedicated social media enthusiast get yourself a fancy social wall. Don’t worry. You don’t have to build one by yourself. You can use Walls.iofor example and even customize it. With that you also get analytics and see when people used your hashtag (I love that part!). And of course you will see EVERYTHING people share in one place.

Use other monitoring tools (such as TweetDeck) that show whenever someone tweets about “Startup Weekend XYZ” or uses the hashtag of your event. This makes it possible to get back to people even quicker because you don’t have to search for their tweets by yourself. Of course you can also have a look if people use the hashtag on Pinterest, Google+ or Instagram. But in my opinion Twitter and Facebook will be the most important social media channels for your Startup Weekend.

2. Have a content plan.

You decided to create a Facebook page and a Twitter account for the event? That’s great!

After these first steps you can invite some of your friends to like the page (but choose wisely and don’t spam random people who are not intersted in your event at all), boost a post (yes, Facebook ads!) and create an ad for your page (It’s all about good targeting. So for example if you have an event in Austria make sure to reach out to people in Hungary, Slovakia and Germany as well.) But before you do that upload content to your page. There’s nothing more disappointing than visiting a Facebook page for the first time and all you can see is a profile picture and an uploaded cover photo.

First of all during the event there should be one person who takes care of all the social media things (yes, this means this person will be busy all day long). Like sharing pictures, posting updates, telling people when the next break is happening, announcing all the winners or even say thank you to the sponsors (Make an Excel sheet for that! Otherwise you will forget someone or something. And trouble shooting afterwards is probably something you want to avoid.).

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What else can you share before and after the event? First of all think about what you are looking for when you browse a Facebook page or a Twitter profile of an event. Where will the event take place? How much does a ticket cost? Are there any discount codes? Are there Early Bird tickets? How can I get to the event location? Is there a parking lot? Is it easy to go there by public transport? When should I be there? What should I bring? Will there be food and beverages? Do I have to bring any money? How long can I stay there in the evening? It’s my first time in the city, where are the nice places? Any hotel recommendations? How do I form a Startup Weekend team during the event? What happened during the event? Who was there? Did they record any interviews?

There are so many possible questions. Find an answer before people ask. Share blogposts and articles about other Startup Weekends (that’s great that there are so many of them!), share interesting things about your city and tell people more about your own event.

Again: Create a Google Spreadsheet which you can share with all your other team members and list all the things you want to share (on FB and Twitter) and mention when as well. And probably most important: Make sure who in your team will share what and who will do all the community management things on your page. Because it’s so bad if you and your Co-Organizer answer the same question twice. That’s really unprofessional and shouldn’t happen. So make sure you take care of that.

What else can you do on Twitter? Retweet and favorite tweets talking about your Startup Weekend. Create lists with mentors and jury members or even with the organizers. Follow people who are talking about your event, follow sponsors, coaches, mentors, jury members and journalists. Follow people who could be interesting for your event.

3. Be there to help people.

There is no such thing as a stupid question. And please respond as fast as you can. People don’t want to wait. Just like you don’t want to wait.

Since you figured out who in your team will do all the community management: Do it! Have an app installed on your mobile phone that pushes you every message people write. Like direct messages sent to your Twitter account or your Facebook page. Make sure to answer them as fast as possible. If you don’t know the answer write someting like “I’m sorry, I don’t know that yet. But I will ask and get back to you as soon as possible.”. The not knowing things thing is ok. It’s just not ok to be silent (on the Internet).

Oh and by the way: There might be a shitstorm because you forgot to mention something and people had wrong expectations. Or something doesn’t work with the tickets. Or one mentor everyone wanted to talk to is sick and now people are disappointed. Well. Take it easy and be nice. Apologize and be there. Often enough people who are complaining on your Facebook page or shitstorming on Twitter only want someone who listens to them. Someone who says sorry and tries to help. And that’s perfectly fine. Say sorry, be nice, always try to help. And honestly even if you made a mistake: Everyone makes mistakes. Try to make it better next time. And tell people that you will try to make it better next time.

Enjoy your Startup Weekends!








10 tips from mentors at the #SWDub

Startup Weekend Dublin attracts a very high calibre of coaches and mentors with expertise and background in design, business, and technology. We reached out to 10 of them for tips and here’s what they said.

10. Don’t ask prospective customers if they will use your product. They almost always say Yes. Instead, ask about their experience, find the pain points and see if what you offer is really a solution – Louise Caldwell

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9. Co-Creation is very important when it comes to execution – David Tighe

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8. Never be afraid to ask – Lisa Domican

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7. Always remember to know nothing – Conor Nolan

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6. Tell a story, goddammit – Ed Fidgeon Kavanagh

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5. Have a killer tagline – Chico Charlesworth

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4. Kill every bias and expectations; and when it comes to coding, less is more – Adrian Mihai

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3. People are lazy and will keep doing the same thing, so build software that’d help them do things efficiently –  Ian Lucey

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2. Forget about the tech today and just focus on the consumer’s needs – Alex Beregszaszi

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1. Focus on one thing and keep it simple – Paul Watson & Serena Fistch

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All Photos credits to Compfight CC








5 tips going into Startup Weekend

The June edition was my first experience with Startup Weekend Dublin and it was worth my while as you can find in my daily recaps here, here, and here.

It’s great to be back this time as a co-organizer working along side a team that allowed me develop both an idea and myself under 54 hours. So in retrospects, here are 5 tips I’d like to share with you going into the weekend to start something amazing.

 

1. Be open to new ideas

My favourite ideas pitched at the last Startup Weekend where those that were thought up during the weekend, so be open to coming up with and listening to people with new ideas. It’s definitely easier to have a new team excited about an idea they all chipped in to form than another just one person brings to the table with an attempt to get a buy-in from others.

 

2. Be friendly and get talking

Smile. Walk around. Say hello to people. The weekend is meant for more of collaboration than competition. Get talking to other people, volunteers, organizers, the photographer, and the chef. They may just be the future customers that will validate your idea or give that priceless feedback. Everything to gain and nothing to lose by being friendly.

 

3. Leave the building

I cannot stress this enough. Get out of the building and get talking to prospective customers. If possible go ahead and make a sale. One thing you want to get out of Startup Weekend is to validate your idea and business model. So spend a good time having customer interviews. Call people up for feedback  and cold call to make sale if need be.

 

4. Network with mentors

These folks are industry leaders, technical superstars, business gurus, growth hackers, and more – and they will be hanging out with you all weekend. Use them! I remember last Startup Weekend when just a 2 minute conversation with a mentor cracked open the code on our business model.

5. And most importantly, have fun

No matter what happens this weekend. Don’t forget to have fun. Work hard but play harder. Don’t go running home and missing out on after-drinks. Take a break, ride the seesaw and try the gaming console. There’s also a #swdubselfie competition so don’t miss out on that.

That’s all for now. Follow @swdub on twitter and vine and share your experience with the hashtag #swdub.