Before the Weekend
- Is this event for me?
Startup Weekend attendees’ backgrounds are roughly 50% technical (developers, coders, designers) and 50% business (marketing, finance, law). What unites all attendees is a common interest in entrepreneurship: whether a serial entrepreneur or new to the startup scene, every attendee is interested in working with a like-minded, motivated and skilled team to develop a product or business in one weekend. If this sounds like you, this is the event for you!
- Can I attend without participating on a team?
At most Startup Weekends, a “Sunday Presentations Only” registration option is available for those wishing to view the teams’ final presentations. (Please check the registration page of your city’s website for availability.)
However, apart from Organizers, selected Mentors, Speakers, and press, everyone who attends the event is expected to participate on a team. This is important not only to preserve the ‘vibe’ of the weekend (“no talk, all action”) but also to minimize distractions/disruptions for working teams.
- How do I register?
- Why do I pay?
The majority of your ticket price goes towards paying the 7 meals, snacks, and drinks that we provide over the weekend. In fact, ticket sales rarely cover even such basic bottom-line costs! We rely on local sponsorships to help keep ticket prices low while keeping the value of the event high.
- What do the multiple ticket types mean?
As Organizers, we strive to maintain an event ratio of ‘Technical’ (i.e., those whose skill-sets include software development or coding, graphic design, etc.) and ‘Non-technical’ (i.e. those with backgrounds in business, marketing, finance, etc.) participants. One of our most consistent pieces of feedback is that this ratio is of the utmost importance to ensuring a high-quality event for everyone.
Therefore, we ask that you only purchase tickets in the category which describes your background.
- What should I bring?
- Power cord
- Business cards
- Camera – take pictures and video!
- A second monitor, keyboard, etc…. set yourself up to be productive!
- Lots of creative energy!
- How do I prepare?
Do some research into startup tools and best practices to get ready to rock the weekend – start with our database of resources at startupweekend.org/resources. Make sure you get lots of rest prior to the event, and finally – tell your friends!
If you plan on pitching an idea:
- Do as much research/preparation around your idea as you feel is necessary to give a persuasive pitch and attract a team.
- Boil the idea down to the basics: with 60 seconds, you only really have time for a hook, so pull out the most attractive key points of the idea and forget the rest.
- Practice your pitch using a timer!
- Can I have a refund?
If you request a refund a week prior to the event kickoff and food/drink has not been ordered, you may be eligible for a refund. If either of these conditions isn’t satisfied, however, we likely won’t be able to process your refund. If this turns out to be the case, we strongly suggest passing on your ticket to someone else!
During the Weekend
- What happens on Friday, Saturday and Sunday?
Friday: Participants arrive between 6-6.30 PM, begin networking, and eat dinner. After an ice-breaking game and a short introduction by the Facilitator, there will typically be 1-2 short speeches on practical topics ranging from Pitching Best Practices to Lean Startup Methodology and more. Then the “Pitch fire” will commence: anyone intending to pitch will have 60 seconds (this varies occasionally) to give their best pitch. After pitches are finished, all attendees will vote on their favorites, and using these votes the top ideas will be selected to be worked on over the weekend. Teams will form organically, consolidate, and begin working.
Saturday: Teams will work all day, with the occasional breaks to eat or listen to 1-2 short talks. Mentors will be circulating to provide concrete advice in the field of their expertise for those teams that want it.
Sunday: Teams will work uninterrupted from morning until mid-afternoon. They’ll begin wrapping up their product/prototype and/or presentation around 3-4 PM to do tech-checks and practice their demonstration. After all Judges have arrived presentations will begin: each team typically has 5 minutes plus 2-3 minutes Q&A from the jury (this varies occasionally.) The jury will select the top teams, give out prizes (if applicable), and the event ends (and celebration begins!)
- What types of ideas can I pitch?
Any business ideas are eligible (whether for-profit, ‘social’ businesses, non-profit organizations, etc.), however the event is strongly tech-oriented. Approximately 95% of all ideas are mobile or web focused, and given the short time-frame, we strongly recommend that even non-tech ideas focus on a tech-related deliverable (i.e., website) by Sunday.
- Can I pitch more than 1 idea?
Depending on the number of ideas pitched and the schedule, you may or may not be able to pitch multiple ideas. Prioritize your ideas: pitch your best idea (and the one you have most prepared for) first.
- Can I pitch my existing business?
No. Startup Weekend is designed to be the most effective platform for growing new businesses from the ground up over the course of a weekend. A key facet of the weekend – and a central value for participants – is the spirit of complete collaboration, buy-in and ownership. We’ve found that having existing businesses in the mix undermines this spirit, in addition to creating an imbalance between those ideas that are truly ground-level.
- How do I protect against people stealing my idea?
The short answer is that you can’t. If you’re very concerned, you can limit your pitch to the rough outline of the idea without giving away key information.
The longer answer is that this is not something worth worrying about. Unless you are confident your idea is a ‘key-in-hand’, easy-to-implement innovation that hasn’t yet been thought of (which it almost surely isn’t), the advantages gained from getting
broad-based feedback and a strong team motivated by collective ownership far outweigh the remote risks of someone stealing and executing on your idea. The truth is that over 90% of ideas pitched at any given Startup Weekend have already been pitched – probably many times – in the past. This doesn’t imply that the idea isn’t a good one, but rather that what truly matters is how well you and your team execute the idea.
“One can steal ideas, but no one can steal execution or passion”
- What if my idea doesn’t get selected?
The purpose of the Friday crowd-sourcing isn’t to exclude certain ideas, but simply to highlight the most popular/high-potential pitches and end up with a manageable number of teams – ensuring that each team has a variety of backgrounds/skills. If your idea isn’t selected but you’ve formed a team around the idea, you’re welcome to work on it over the weekend. If you decide to do so, however, please tell the event Organizer, as this may be an issue regarding your teams’ eligibility for prizes.
- Am I expected to work nonstop for 54 hours?
No. At some events, certain teams will decide to work all through Friday and/or Saturday night, but this is by no means obligatory or expected. Whether or not you are allowed to work at the venue at night depends on the venue’s opening hours – please ask your event’s Organizer.
- What resources/assistance is provided over the weekend?
A key part of every Startup Weekend is the valuable advice and assistance provided
by the event’s Speakers and Mentors. In the spirit of “No Talk, All Action” we try to keep talks short and sweet, focusing on practical issues (i.e. “how to give a persuasive pitch”, “best approaches to customer validation”) that can actually help you and your team better achieve your weekend goals. Mentors – community experts in various fields ranging from entrepreneurship, software development, marketing, finance, law, and more – dedicate their time to providing advice and actually rolling up their sleeves and working with teams.
In addition to the most valuable resources at the weekend (the people), we’ve also put together a list of some of the most useful resources in all startup-related fields, for both before, during, and after the weekend. Check out startupweekend.org/resources for more info.
- How do teams address the issue of IP/ownership?
As with any startup, the team decides. Startup Weekend doesn’t support or take part in the signing of any legal documents at the events themselves, and while Mentors with legal backgrounds are often present and able to give general advice, they are not permitted to give specific legal counsel.
While it doesn’t hurt to be clear about your individual expectations from the start, we’ve found that teams who don’t spend time addressing this issue until it actually matters (i.e., there is a tangible product to have ownership of) are much more productive and successful than those who do.
- What are we supposed to have accomplished/present on Sunday?
While there are no specific requirements in terms of what teams should have accomplished by Sunday, it’s in your best interest to plan your execution around what you’ll be judged for on Sunday: Customer Validation, Business Model, and Execution (see below).
As far as presenting goes, some of the most common presentations include any combination of the following (in no particular order):
- Wireframes or fully developed website;
- Mobile Apps (from mock-ups to skeletons to fully functional)
- Slide decks (Powerpoint, Keynote, Prezi, etc.)
- Videos (i.e. product demonstrations, etc.)Live product demos
- What are the judging criteria?
(NB: This judging criteria may vary from event to event depending on the particular Startup Weekend’s focus)
Teams are judged according to the following 3 criteria (weighed equally):
1. Business Model
The heart of it all. If you haven’t got answers to these questions, you’ve spent too much time on frills & features and need to get back to the basics:
Who is your customer? What is your core value proposition? What are your key activities? What are your revenue streams? What is your cost structure? Who/what are your key partners/resources? What are your distribution channels? What is your roll-out strategy?
2. Customer Validation
Have you taken the proper steps to ensure that the people who matter (your future customers) support and reinforce your assumptions? Think of Customer Validation as ‘evidence’ to back up the core structure of your ‘theory’ (your Business Model). The more feedback you gather (quantity), the more this feedback comes from your specific target market (quality), and the more you’re able to actually integrate this feedback into the Business Model and product development (execution), the better.
The nitty gritty: what has your team been able to actually build over the weekend? Even the strongest of Business Plans are useless in the hands of those who can’t properly execute on them. Getting as far as possible in the development of your product/prototype not only helps give Judges a tangible vision of what the final product could be, but proves your strength and skills as a team. This is what truly matters: investors don’t invest as in ideas so much as teams.
- What is the purpose and benefits of the competition?
Competition is not a central theme of Startup Weekend, and this is often reflected in the broad, horizontal allocation of prizes and general flexibility/leniency of the event ‘rules.’ If and when the competitive aspect comes into conflict with the positive atmosphere we try to cultivate, we consistently choose the latter.
We do believe, however, that friendly competition is beneficial to all parties and, most importantly, more accurately reflects the realities of startup life. Just as it’s important to gather ‘real-world’ feedback over the weekend, it’s also important to have real-world pressures and obstacles.
After the Weekend
- Are teams expected to continue after the weekend?
Whether or not you continue to work on the idea with some or all of your team is completely up to you. Approximately 55% of Startup Weekend participants continue working on their idea with all of their team, and 23% with only some members of their team.
- What kind of support can startup weekend provide to help my team get to launch ?
First, we can help point you in the right direction: check out startupweekend.org/resources for a list of useful tools and resource to help you take your startup from Sunday to launch.