I attended Startup Weekend in Ogden Utah November 1st-3rd, 2012. Check out the website, it’s a very cool global meet-up.
I’ve read for years about small groups building products over a weekend, getting some recognition, and some even getting funding to push the product further. I had a hard time believing they had a product worth investing. And that was my naive view, and lack of understanding. What I experienced at my first Startup Weekend was the complete opposite.
Startup Weekend is like a tech conference with a rocket ship attached. From idea to product, your team build the framework of a business, including product, marketing and sales in 54 hours. What a rush.
There were so many great ideas, it was hard to pick just one. Several didn’t make it past the first few hours. Other projects started from the dust of the fallen. Some didn’t stay after the first day. Others changed projects (it happened to my project). Everyone wants to succeed.
Getting There Early
Those getting to the event early are smart, they get to do a little interviewing, get a feeling for those who will ultimately become team mates. I didn’t understand that, and made a few mistakes when it came to introductions.
My recommendation is to arrive early and network. You won’t have any time to do it once the event starts. Get to know who is there to pitch ideas; who are the developers, creatives, marketer and business guys.
I also recommend staying at the hotel of the event if possible. This will give you more time to work.
Takes notes during the pitches
I’m sure this part of the event will vary at each location, but the one I attended, everyone who wanted to pitch an idea was lined up and given sixty seconds to convince us they were the project to be part of. This was another mistake I made. With 50-60 pitches, I quickly lost track.
Once the pitched are finished, everyone gets 3 votes. After 20 minutes of voting (hearing more details of projects), votes are tallied, and the project pool is announced.
Now the fun begins. Project leaders are asked to create a project team, and get started. There was a lot of recruiting, a lot of explaining, and interviewing. This is a serious process which I wasn’t expecting to be so quick. Within 30 minutes pretty much every project had a team of 5 or more developers, designers, and business folks.
Why are you there?
My original thought was to show up, learn a little, see how the process worked, watch from the fringe. But that isn’t how it works. Everyone there fell into one of three different buckets; developer, designer, everyone else. So of course I fell into the developer bucket.
I recommend showing up with an agenda. Look for a project that you can relate with, and decide before hand what you want to get out of the event. Do you want to act as a developer/designer, and contribute to a project. Do you want to pitch an idea and put together a project team. Or can you help a project team with sales and marketing? Great opportunity for sales and marketing gurus to become part of a startup. We really needed more of this skill for sure.
I’m not 20 any more and find it difficult to work at a high level for 24-36-48 hours straight. But some can do that. I need some sleep, water, food, and simply getting up and walking around.
Pacing your self will not only give you the ability to go the distance, but give your team better work. I promise that after 50 hours, you will be burnt out. You will want to walk away.
You’re there. Do it all. get excited. Help. Encourage. Build relationships. Network when possible. Alex Lawrence, the guy who put together the Ogden Startup Weekend did it right. He had prizes (I didn’t win a thing, I never do at these things), contents, guests, mentors, and entrepreneur judges.
It’s definitely a culture.
Wrapping it up
We were fed well. Hydrated well. And created some great technology. I was so amazed at what was accomplished by everyone in 54 hours. Most of the work was early stage, minimal viable product, far enough along that we could see results. But nearly every project has miles to go.
If you ever have a chance to attend a Startup Weekend, I highly encourage it. The experience alone will get your creative juices flowing. And you get to meet some incredible people.
Have you attended a Startup Weekend? What was your experience?