Launching a business, getting face time with thought leaders, extending your practical skill set, building a network of similar minded people and meeting potential Co-founders are probably listed under the “long-term achievements” of your to-do list, aren’t they? Now imagine checking those things off within a weekend! Blasting idea, and also feasible thanks to a series of events, called “StartUp Weekends”.
The idea is to offer an environment for developers, business managers, marketing gurus, graphic artists and startup enthusiasts to share ideas for new startup companies, form teams, develop prototypes, and launch startups. And this within 48 hours. Starting in 2007, the events organized by a non-profit organization based in Seattle, have spread to more than 35 countries, gaining worldwide popularity in the field of education and proliferation of entrepreneurship.
This year in Germany, StartUp Weekends were held in Berlin, Nuremberg, Hamburg, Stuttgart and Munich, where I attended. On 24 June 2011 over 100 students and professionals came together at the Stratscheg Center For Entrepreneurship to join a startup team or get their own business idea transcribed.
Each StartUp event is structured similar:
Friday: After registration and welcome speeches, every attendee has the chance to pitch his business idea, from which the 10 most voted ideas have the permission to get executed. This is when the teams start forming, discuss the ideas and begin working.
Saturday: Saturday is all about developing the business plan and building a prototype. Mentors from a variety of fields help teams one-on-one. It is up to the teams, whether they work through the night or not.
Sunday: On Sunday the teams have time to complete their work and also held their final presentation in front of the judges who then will award the winners. Awards will be given for the best pitch, most innovative idea and the overall winner.
After the StartUp is before the StartUp.
My team’s startup is called CloseGuru (http://closeguru.com/) and connects people with certain skills who are willing to share their passion with people who want to learn new skills and get inspired. Find like-minded people and enhance your skills by teaching while getting paid! Thanks to our skilled team and the coaches who understood to solve our initial communication problems, my team was awarded for ‘Best Pitch’.
Lessons I learned from the StartUp Weekend:
Communication is essential. Especially when your team consists of 9 members, coming from a business and computer background. Seeing a business idea from two totally different angels can lead to two different visions of the business. Constant communication brings all team members to the same level.
- Understand your product. It’s like in the real VC world: only one try, only a few minutes to convince investors that your product is awesome. For those 5 minutes, you have to pick the most important aspects of your business.
- If it wasn’t StartUp Weekend, I would have probably spent my weekend with overthinking the theoretical potential of the business instead of just building it. So just build it, just go!
- “Was ich nicht weiß, macht mich nicht heiß!” You will only get judged on information that you are telling the jury. Simply leave information about already existing models away and get honored as being most innovative. (That’s what some other participating startups did at least and it unfortunately worked)
- At the end it’s all about time. The fact that you have only 48 hours to launch a startup is an immense productivity booster. You stop worrying about the outcome and start building the desired product.
- After the StartUp is before the StartUp. Although I decided against keep on working on CloseGuru, I made a little step towards my own potential StartUp. Speaking with so many passionate people is very inspiring and motivating.
Attending a StartUp Weekend was definitely the right choice. I gained valuable experience, had interesting conversations and established new contacts. If you want to attend an StartUp Weekend in the future, make sure to check out the official event map.