It’s not often you get the chance to build a startup in 54 hours. But at Startup Weekend, that’s exactly what goes down. This year, Startup Weekend Fargo sold out fast and is now just around the corner.
On the eve of Friday, March 27, nearly 100 people will gather at the Offutt School of Business at Concordia College and brace themselves for a weekend of little-to-no sleep, intense brainstorming, and unforgettable teamwork.
But what can you do until the moment it all begins? How do you prepare for such an experience? We’ve talked to some of the past pros about the event and they’ve offered up their advice. Listen up for 7 ways you can start preparing for Startup Weekend 2015!
1. Start brainstorming NOW!
The action doesn’t have to begin when the timer does, you can and should be brainstorming possible ideas to pitch, right now! Startup Weekend organizer Andy Christensen recommends not only brainstorming ideas, but also knowing what kind of team players you’ll need to make that idea a reality. For instance, he says, show up early to the event to meet other participants and scope out your audience.
2. Get comfortable speaking in front of other peeps.
When you’re on the clock, you gotta know how to speak up. Jon Walters, past participant and member of the second place winning team, the Handles Mug Co. startup (they created a double-barreled beer mug), said this is a key component to success.
“Learn how to effectively discuss topics in a group format,” he said. “Your team will do a lot of conversing back and forth, and it is crucial to ensure you can get through the conversations quickly, and effectively.”
Additionally, if you already are planning on giving a pitch, start practicing that pitch in front of people. The more comfortable you are now, the more comfortable you will be on stage.
3. The clock is ticking – what do I do?!
Delegate! As Walters can testify, it is important you define team roles and responsibilities from the get-go.
“Find out what everyone’s strengths are in your group, and pair people up accordingly,” he said. “Use a Scrum board to assign tasks and find out what needs to be done, what is being done (and by whom), then what is done. Assigning roles and tasks makes everything much easier.”
4. Practice the 80/20 principle.
This, from Walters: “The 80/20 principle simply means that 20% of your efforts will result in 80% of your final product. Get as much done with the least effort as possible, as time is of the essence. When you first get into your groups, there will be a lot of great ideas! Unfortunately, you might not have to incorporate all of them. Write all of the ideas down, then pair them down to get your MVP (Minimum Viable Product). You can always add on at the end if time allows, but a simpler product/concept that is well thought out will do better than a robust product that doesn’t work.”
5. Redbull. Vitamins. Sleep.
When there’s only 54 hours to create a startup, you often hear of people who haven’t slept a wink all weekend. Past participant Sarah English said that she stocks up on Redbull and vitamins to stay awake – but also that you should get a little shut eye, too.
“Startup Weekend’s all about focusing on the most important things and letting other things stay on the back burner,” she said. “You can’t do it all, and those limits of brevity are good for us.”
“And you really should sleep at some point,” she added.
6. Know the next steps (the BMGC!)
Startup Weekend events are pure fun, but they have also produced some successful startups. Here in Fargo, Saurabh Tyagi’s startup Medytex emerged as a past winner and continues to grow, with Tyagi working on it full-time. From Women’s Startup Weekend, Courtny Evanson started as a single mom and emerged with a patent and a prototype, and recently won Entrepreneur of the Year at 1 Million Thanks.
In order to fully profit from a weekend like this, Christiansen recommends getting familiar with Business Model Generation Canvas. “It’ll help you conceptualize how to turn an idea into a business,” he said.
7. Don’t forget the golden rule.
Naturally, the point of Startup Weekend is, to have fun. It’s easy to get competitive and that’s a good thing. But in the end, the real success is just having a blast.
“Be Calm. Be Confident. Be Creative,” Walters said. “Startup Weekend is the beginning of the rest of your life!”
Read more about Startup Weekend Fargo 2015, here!