Start a business in a weekend? To many that may seem like crazy talk, but Startup Weekend has designed a successful concept based precisely on that idea. The company describes Startup Weekends as:
“Fifty four hour events where developers, designers, marketers, product managers and startup enthusiasts come together to share ideas, form teams, build products and launch startups!”
CrunchBase explains that Startup Weekend is a foundation that was designed in 2007 with entrepreneurs in mind, and the foundation was built with the aid of the Kauffman Foundation. The organization has achieved some notable successes. One of the most important ideas behind Startup Weekends is to learn if an idea is likely to be viable or not. In rooms that are a fifty-fifty split of business people and those with technical backgrounds, everyone gets in on inspiring one another.
Understanding what goes on during a Startup Weekend is for most important to being able to decide if it is worth signing up for one or not. The process starts on the Friday with “open mic pitches” where people share their great ideas with one another, with a goal of motivating others to get involved with their team. Later on in the weekend there is more of a focus on the practicalities, looking at customer development, further idea validation, how to use LEAN startup methodologies and how to create a product that is minimally viable. Finally, on the Sunday evening each team offers a demonstration of its prototype, and experts provide feedback on what has been produced.
Once you start thinking about how the weekend works, the idea doesn’t sound so crazy after all. Some businesses really do startup during the course of that Startup Weekend. The foundation itself claims that more than a third of those businesses are still up and running with momentum after three months have passed. Even better, 80 percent of the people that attend a weekend continue working with that team long after the weekend has passed. But there are also other important benefits of attending a weekend. Attendees generally report finding that the weekends offer a fantastic opportunity for networking – and not just on a fleeting basis. Some of the relationships built on the back of a Startup Weekend last into the longer term, and some go on to become co-founders together, sufficiently confident in what they have learned about each other to be able to build a success. The weekends also offer a great opportunity to test out an idea among thought leaders who really have a good idea of what will work and what won’t and why. This can save you months of time and agonizing about whether to proceed with an idea or not by testing it out with people who know.
Of course, as Howard Greenstein (2011) reporting for Inc.com explains, it is important to go into the process with a degree of common sense. Greenstein says of the Startup Weekend concept:
“No one can expect to have a fully baked company at the end of 54 hours—there’s still more work to be done”.
While this seems reasonable, and expectations should be realistic on the part of the participants, there is nonetheless an excellent opportunity to significantly accelerate an idea by attending such a weekend. By being exposed to all of the different kinds of people that could help bring the idea into reality the idea can be brainstormed and fine tuned to the point where it does become a viable prospect, worth following up on. And some companies have thrived after their Startup Weekend experience, so maybe Greenstein is in fact wrong.
This short YouTube video explains concisely how this concept works:
Startup Weekends http://startupweekend.org/ are not free to attend, but at anywhere between $75 and $150 depending on geographical location they are not bad value either. For that price you’ll get seven meals as well as the promise of “as much coffee as you can drink”. You’ll of course also get the value of having spent the weekend with driven, motivated people who are energised to succeed, and you’ll be able to learn a lot from them, which creates all kinds of value for you.
Paula Newton is a business writer, editor and management consultant with extensive experience writing and consulting for both start-ups and long established companies. She has ten years management and leadership experience gained at BSkyB in London and Viva Travel Guides in Quito, Ecuador, giving her a depth of insight into innovation in international business. With an MBA from the University of Hull and many years of experience running her own business consultancy, Paula’s background allows her to connect with a diverse range of clients, including cutting edge technology and web-based start-ups but also multinationals in need of assistance. Paula has played a defining role in shaping organizational strategy for a wide range of different organizations, including for-profit, NGOs and charities. Paula has also served on the Board of Directors for the South American Explorers Club in Quito, Ecuador.