What Is Startup Weekend

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This article is dedicated to Lorin Toepper who passed away Friday January 3rd.  Lorin was the Chairman of Startup Weekend Madison and an all around great guy.

I attended Startup Weekend Madison in 2013.  It was a fantastic experience and I plan on attending more Startup Weekends. Before I attended I only had a vague idea of what I was getting into. I would like to explain in my own words what the event entails to help others decide if it is something that they would like to do.

What is Startup Weekend?

The elevator pitch?

It is a weekend long business pitch competition where anyone can pitch ideas. Attendees vote on the business pitches, and the top business ideas form teams. The teams work on those ideas from the inception of the idea to as far along in a business as they can manage until the final pitch in front of the judges on Sunday evening.

The detailed explanation:

Friday

Friday night you arrive at the event, find a table and hopefully chat with those around you.  The MC will introduce themself, give a brief overview of the weekend and then invite anyone and everyone to come pitch ideas.  You will have one minute to pitch your business idea.  Each pitch is written down on a large piece of paper and slapped up on the wall.  You do not need to pitch an idea. You are encouraged to do so, but don’t feel bad if you don’t have an idea, or aren’t comfortable pitching.

After the pitches are complete attendees are each given three stickers to vote on any of the business ideas.  You can place all three stickers on one idea if you really love it, or you can distribute them as you see fit.  Once that is complete the top pitches will form their teams.  Each person who pitched will stand next to their idea on the wall, and others may approach them to inquire in more detail about their business idea, or to offer their skills to that team.

Once everyone has formed into a team work begins

Saturday

At this point the team needs to self-assess and determine what strengths and weaknesses the team has.  Who will take on what roles?  The three typical core roles are: Business person, developer, and designer.  Your team will probably have more than three people and that is a good thing.  You will need to have a leader that keeps the group focused and on track, you’ll want someone dedicated to pitching the idea to the judges at the end, you may need a web developer, perhaps a mobile developer, someone to validate the business idea by doing research and talking to customers is also very important.

Saturday everyone works on their part of the business.  This should include regular check ins by the business leader, and even brief team meetings to make sure everyone is on the same page, and that a finished product of some kind will be completed by the Sunday pitch.

Sunday

Sunday you keep doing what you were doing.  At some point (don’t wait until the last minute) you need to make sure you have something to show to the judges.  Whether it is a web site, a mobile app, or a slide show.  Be sure you have something visual.  Also be sure that whoever is pitching the final pitch to the judges has practiced his pitch numerous times.  In this writers opinion a good designer and a solid pitch are worth their weight in gold.

Early in the evening the pitches will be given to the judges and after deliberating the judges will announce the winners.

While winning may be great, just attending the event is awesome in itself.  You will meet wonderful people, learn a lot about yourself in a startup business environment and, learn a tremendous amount about what it takes to get a business off the ground.

Follow through

People often ask if they will be expected to work on this project once Startup Weekend is over.  The answer is no.  Some teams may want to try to stay formed and keep the idea going, but they will not expect it of you.   However, if some or all members are interested in continuing the idea outside of Startup Weekend that is fantastic.

General information

Food and drink is supplied and is part of your entry fee.  You don’t need to worry about a thing.   Show up and work on your business.  Breakfast, lunch, and supper are included.  Drinks are out all the time.  Need some OJ, or maybe a Mountain Dew to keep you going.  It is there.  All the time.  Just grab something, and keep on truckin’.