Startup Weekend Basics (Guest post by Kyle Mulka)

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SWLansing 2.0 isn’t far off – for those who have been asking some questions on the nature and purpose of Startup Weekend, hopefully this will clear somethings up.  I’d like to introduce Kyle Mulka – An incredible developer and veteran of the Startup Weekend scene to share some of his wisdom.  He’ll be speaking at SWLansing on some of his cooler SW experiences – Get Excited!

And now… Kyle!

This post is going to contain a lot of my opinions about Startup
Weekend, what its purpose is in the scheme of things, and how to get
the most out of it.

Let me make a confession. I’m addicted to Startup Weekend. If there
was an AA for startups, I would probably be in it. I can no longer
count how many I have been to. I think its something like 6. My first
Startup Weekend was in Seattle. Back then, the model was that everyone
in the room worked on one startup. We had about 100 people in the room
and about 50 developers. Imagine trying to ship a product in a weekend
with 50 software developers. It was fiasco. The founder(s) of Startup
Weekend learned from this and now teams are usually between 5 and 10
people.

What is Startup Weekend?

It’s pretty simple. You try to get from an idea to a minimum viable
product [link] in a weekend. Most of these startup ideas are web apps
and mobile apps, but some people try to do hardware devices or other
types of businesses or even non-profits.

What happens during a Startup Weekend?

The weekend starts with Friday night, everyone (who wants to) pitches
their idea to the whole group. Everyone votes on which idea(s) they
want to work on during the weekend. The list gets whittled down to
maybe 10 ideas, each idea getting hopefully between 5 and 10 people to
work on them. Once the top ideas are picked, people get to choose
which one of those they want to work on. Teams get formed,
introductions happen, and work gets started. Not a lot of work gets
done Friday night other than maybe a name for the startup if there
isn’t one already and choosing which technology platform(s) you are
going to build on. Saturday is the big work day. You have pretty much
all day to work on your product. The only interruptions are meals and
maybe a couple speakers giving you startup advice. For example, I’ll
be speaking at Startup Weekend Lansing on Saturday. Sunday is the day
to wrap things up. Make sure your pitch and demo are practiced and
polished. At the end of the day on Sunday are the demos. The demos are
usually coupled with a pitch designed for an investor. You usually get
5 minutes for for the demo and 5 minutes for Q&A either from the
judging panel and/or the audience.

What is the purpose of Startup Weekend?

First of all, a majority of teams from Startup Weekend will not
continue to work together after Startup Weekend. This is perfectly
normal and acceptable in my opinion. I don’t actually think Startup
Weekend is a good venue for starting startups. Please don’t go into
Startup Weekend expecting that the team of random, self-selected
people who have chosen to join your team are going to all continue
working on your startup idea after the weekend. It just doesn’t
happen.

So, if the startups that are created during the weekend don’t actually
continue after the weekend, what’s the point of Startup Weekend? It
sounds like a failure. Wrong. In my opinion, the point of Startup
Weekend is to work with people that you may start a company with in
the future. Startup Weekend is a great venue for working on a project
with someone to try to figure out two things. One, if you like working
with them, and two, if they are good at what they do. So, if you can,
try to join a team with a person or people that you have always wanted
to work with, but haven’t been able to.

How do I get the most out of the Startup Weekend experience?

So, there are two ways to approach Startup Weekend. One is with an
idea. I think everyone should come to startup weekend with an idea.
What are you passionate about? What would you want to work on for a
weekend?

Everyone should pitch an idea at Startup Weekend. I mean that. I’m
talking to YOU! It doesn’t even matter whether the idea is good or
not, the act of thinking about how to convey a concept in a very short
period of time is critical for entrepreneurs. Practice makes perfect.
Even if you don’t have a good idea now, thinking about how to pitch it
and actually going through the process now will help you in the
future.

How to choose an idea to pitch at Startup Weekend?

It needs to be something that you can make a prototype for in a weekend.  [Eric: Or something that you can make significant progress on.  If you want to wrangle a team together to write and publish an ebook, launch a non-profit, or set up an online store for a product – Go for it!  Get experimental, and see what you can do!]