What is Triad Startup Weekend?
Triad Startup Weekend is two and a half days of structured chaos. It means long days with little sleep, a lot of stress and a whole lot of frustration. That may sound unappealing to some, but to me it was a wonderful experience and here’s why.
The first day of Startup Weekend
Startup Weekend kicks off Friday evening with a bunch of strangers gathering together for the sole purpose of pitching their idea in the hopes that they can further expand on it. There are also people there that may not have an idea of their on, but want to help out other people.
There is a welcoming, speakers from the industry and a brief outline of the what Startup Weekend is, so you know what you’re getting yourself into (or so you think you know.)
And then all the people that have an idea line up to pitch. They have one minute to tell you who they are, what their business is, what problem they want to solve and what they need help with.
You then put your ideas up on the wall for everyone to go around and vote on the project they would most want to work on. You may have 20 pitches, but all of those ideas aren’t going to stick. The voting process eliminates the ones that have the least interest. Instead of 20 ideas, you may end up with only 5 that go to the next stage. You naturally form teams by migrating towards the idea that stuck and that you are still interested in.
Now it is time to get to work! You now have a team that can take your idea and give different perspectives and begin the refining process.
The second day of Startup Weekend
Hopefully you got some rest because it is going to be a long day. If you’re like me, then you slept very little because you were up half the night trying to figure out a good name for your product and if the idea is viable.
The second day of Startup Weekend begins bright and early with more brainstorming about what you plan to do that day.
One of the most important things you can do when starting a business is to validate your idea. You do this by talking to people. No, not yourself. Talk to potential customers. They are the ones that are going to tell you if they would want something you are offering or not. If you spend a lot of time and resources working on a concept and then on one wants it then you just wasted a lot of time and resources. Instead, take that idea out early and let the public help mold your idea.
What happens if no one likes your idea? Give up? Of course not, you pivot in a different direction. If a large quantity of the people you surveyed said they didn’t like your idea, but might would like it if you did X and Y then you should look into doing X and Y. Then re-validate your idea. Go back out and ask. Rinse and repeat until you have something that people want.
Halfway through the day you should hopefully have what your product is and now you begin executing it. There are a lot of things you need to figure out now, but if you’ve managed to figure out something people actually want then you should look at how you plan to make money off of it. If you have an awesome idea that everyone wants, but it can’t sustain itself, then your company isn’t likely to last long. Or you’re going to be shuffling trying to figure out all of this much later than you should have.
It is a pretty good idea to end the second day with the idea solidified and a decent chunk of work on a prototype. You don’t want to wait until the third day to change everything or it might sting a little.
The third day of Startup Weekend
Now it is time for the mad dash because even if you planned really well and have done good so far there could be an unexpected wrench thrown at you. Last minute pivots are not easy to swallow. Trust me, I know.
But, hopefully, the last day will be spent refining your presentation, practicing your pitch and getting some last minute advice.
Practice, practice, practice. If you’re up there pitching and there is a hiccup time doesn’t stop. You are still on the clock, so you have to roll with it. Practicing beforehand will decrease your chances of having a hiccup or at least help you recover more easily if you do.
And then it is time to pitch in front of a panel of judges. They are judging you off a set criteria, which you are given and should hopefully be able to fulfill with your business idea and within your pitch. Follow this with a brief intermission while the judges deliberate. And then the announcements! Hopefully you win, but even if you don’t, don’t get discouraged. If you managed to validate your idea through potential customer interaction then it can still be a viable idea. Maybe you just need to put a little more thought into it to make it a success.
Lastly, what I got out of Startup Weekend
I had a lot of frustrating moments and moments where I wanted to curl up on the ground and pass out due to the lack of sleep.
But! I met a lot of great people, with wonderful ideas, that are passionate about their ideas. I met like-minded individuals that could potentially be lifelong partners in business or people that could help me succeed at my goals. I learned a lot about starting a business and got to see a good chunk of the process in a short period of time. I made new friends and networked. I got to get out of my comfort zone and try new things. I got to help someone else refine their idea, teach a few things and hopefully inspire others.
I took part in something that I will never forget. And that is why Triad Startup Weekend was a wonderful experience.
If you are interested in starting a business and you have a Startup Weekend in your area, then go for it. You won’t regret it.
I’d also like to thank the Greensboro Partnership and Co//ab for hosting it, the judges and of course all of our coaches and mentors who put a lot of things into perspective and helped steer us in the right directions.
Meet me in person
By the way, I’ll be attending the Burlington Mini Maker Faire – April 25, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. at Holly Hill Mall. Stop by, say hello and pick my brain. I’ll be there talking about my robots, why I do what I do, how I do what I do and much more. Plus I’ll have crayons, coloring pencils, scissors, glue and plenty of paper for you to make your own little robot creations.