Startup Weekend: How to prepare? (Day 0)

A couple of months ago we asked you “what to expect?” and “how to prepare” for a startup weekend. Several readers replied and we are pleased to start sharing their responses. This is the second instalment of the startup weekend series (#1).

These posts can help others maximise the ultimate experience of building a early startup within a condensed period of time (while having fun!). The content may apply to any other accelerator weekend or hackathon.

Here are some tips for before the event:

1. Get Registered

The frequency of events is on the rise. However the popular events sell out quickly. Make sure you set a reminder and register early. If you miss out – join the waiting list or beg. If you cannot attend as a participant, maybe you can help out as a volunteer or mentor; or watch the final presentations.

2. Check the Schedule

Get hold of an agenda from the event or previous events. The typical format maybe:

Friday – Networking, ice-breaker, pitch idea, vote for top idea, form teams.
Saturday – Plan, design, discuss. Start building.
Sunday – Finalise product/prototype and presentation. Pitch to the judges. Prize giving.

3. Who are you?

The weekend has a strong dependency on you and your abilities. You don’t need to be a guru but you should be clear on where and how you can help (technically and interpersonally). Think about your strengths and don’t limit yourself. You may not know how to code, but you may be great at motivating the team or using Google. Every bit of enthusiasm and positive thinking helps during the 54 hours.

4. What do you want to learn?

Be clear on what you want to learn from the weekend. Look out for opportunities to gain that new skill. You will be exposed to a diverse range of experts and people working in the field. Utilise the chance to ask these guys some tough questions.

5. Networking

The event brings together a pool of talented and driven individuals just like you. A startup weekend gives you an opportunity to meet and impress like-minded people.

Get some business cards (name, phone number, email and twitter handle are sufficient). Check out the social media sites. Start speaking to those attending before the day and stay in touch.

6. Homework

Startup experts like Blank, Ries and Osterwalder have developed frameworks to plan and implement your idea or concept. Check out some startup methodologies and be prepared to draw on this knowledge.

The key things to know are how to generate an idea, evaluate an idea and perform some kind of customer validation. The Ash Maurya’s Lean Canvas and Jason Cohen’s articles on customer Validation.

7. Pitching – Part 1

This deserves a separate post. It can be nerve racking but ultimately prepares your for future pitches and gives you some control over the weekend (if you attract enough votes).

At some events half the room will pitch. The most business viable proposals are often forgotten. Designers and developers are keen to work on interesting and creative projects. Pitch something that will gain the interest of a team, rather than funding. Concepts that will utilise popular technology are always popular.

i) First, brainstorm your ideas down on a piece a paper by considering the following:

- Problems – What things do I see everyday that I want to fix?
- Pain Points – What really annoys me? What is totally inefficient?
- Random – Whatever else is on your mind?

Add:
- Customer – Who is your target market?
- USP – What is your unique selling point/proposition (USP)?

An example of a simple template – Four boxes for each idea (Problem, Segment, Pros, Cons).

ii) Second, pick you favourites and attempt to apply a solution. Think about how the prototype will look and what elements it will incorporate:

- Web based application,
- Mobile based application,
- Social networking site,
- Location based,
- Game based.

You will dive deeper into the product once you form a team.

iii) Thirdly, combine these thoughts and pick the best one or two.

Discuss these ideas with your friends, family and/or colleagues.

8. Pitching – Part 2

Now you have your idea(s), it’s time to build the pitch. Commonly you only have a minute to sell yourself and idea. Split your 60 seconds into these sections:

- Who are you? (5-10s)
- What’s the problem? (10-15s)
- What’s the proposed solution? (10-15s)
- Who are you looking for? (5-10s)

Remember to smile and be enthusiastic. Keep cool and don’t forget your in a friendly and open forum. You are not the only one a little nervous. Standing out will help people remember you. Silly hats or body paint may help.

At the end of all the pitches you should be given an opportunity to summarise the pitch on a piece of paper. Make sure it stands out and simply explains the main elements of your idea. Finally the audience will vote.

You may need to hustle people to get their votes or combine with others to gain enough votes.

Don’t get upset if you don’t get enough votes. Join a team where you can show off your skills and learn new things. After all, the weekend is all about learning and networking. The idea is not as important as the process.

9. Pack Your Bag

Pack a pen, paper, iPad, laptop, business cards, sleeping bag, enthusiasm… Get ready for an exciting 54 hours.

10. Resources

If you need more information, checkout the organisers website and social media pages (including YouTube). The below links may help as well.

- Startup Weekend FAQ – A set of helpful question and answers.
- Pitching advice for Startup Weekend – Simple and effective tips for preparing your pitch.
- Podcast with the CEO of Startup Weekend – An insight of the Startup Weekend events and organisation.
- More Startup Articles – Read more of our posts on startups.

Good luck and drop us a line. We would love to hear from you.

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You might also enjoy:
+ The Startup Dictionary – Learning the Lingo #3
+ Learning From Other Startups – 6 Real Life Stories
+ Startup Myths – I shall not be fooled again by gurus
+ The Bootstrap Challenge – Walking the Talk

Welcome new readers! If this is your first time here, you might want to start with a new article or read through our older submissions.

Where to next? Check out a random article.

Stay in touch: Check us out via RSS Feed, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

Join the conversation: Leave a comment or this post.

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