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(I’ve divided this into 3 parts: basically my thoughts before the event, during the event and after); part 1 is here and part 2 is here.

Startup Weekend!! Wooo!!

Can’t believe we won!! (insert a hearty AWWWW YEAHHHH!! here)

When I think about it, the 54+ hours just sped just like that (the sound of someone snapping this fingers)… but let’s start from the beginning!

Startup what?

I first heard about Startup Weekend (henceforth termed as SW or SWKTM onwards) in early December from a past teacher who was also one of the organizers. He said that it was 54-hour event where people get together and make a business plan and that me and my friends should go for it (me and my friends being MBA students).

At that time, I had just quit my job from and was looking forward to some RnR and the thought of spending 54 frantic hours pounding out a business plan with strangers didn’t seem quite appealing and it slipped from my mind.

Then one day my friend asks me if I want to attend Startup Weekend; this kind of got to me (since he’s not the type of person to waste time on pointless things) and I looked it up again. After reading the SWKTM’s semi-blog, I also looked up the main site.

Startup Weekend has a fixed schedule and program which is same for any event at any location:

  • Everyone registers by 5pm on Friday
  • It starts with participants first pitching an idea (60 seconds) they wish to convert into a business
  • Voting begins after dinner (only participants can vote) with each person  being allotted 3 votes (no you cannot vote for yourself) for any idea they like
  • The top 10 to 15 ideas get picked (depending on the number of participants) and the idea originator goes on stage again to explain the type of people he needs to develop his idea (e.g. “I need 2 designers, 1 finance guy and 1 marketing person!!”)
  • Teams are formed with people joining the ideas they want to work on; sometimes organizers will help people find what they need (groups can be up to 3 to 7 people again depending on numbers)
  • Teams start working!! (by this time it will probably be around 930 pm or later)
  • Teams continue working through Saturday & Sunday; there will be visits from professionals from various industries who you can ask for advice (a schedule will be provided)
  • Around 3pm on Sunday (i.e the 3rd day) you will be allowed to practice your final pitch once to mentors available; you will also be allowed to do a tech check where you can check if you laptop or other equipment for presentation works with the venue equipment
  • At 5pm final pitching starts (a schedule will be prepared), this time voting will be done by judges
  • After all pitches are finished, the votes are tallied and the top 3 teams are announced (in SWKTM there was a tie for 2nd place so 4 teams won)
  • Dinner

The time allotted for any pitches from the first pitch is 60 seconds ONLY. For the final pitch you are allowed 5 minutes. This is inspired by the concept of the “elevator pitch” where you have a very short amount of time to persuade an investor.

By this time, it had already been almost two months since I was unemployed; I had been passing the time practicing my photography and hiking which were both enjoyable but I wanted to do something more. As I read more about Startup Weekend, I became more convinced that it was something that would benefit me, especially since I had wanted to implement my own ideas into a real business for the past few years. However, I had never taken the plunge since either I did not know the people with the right skills, or I was afraid to share my ideas or I wanted to try to do it myself or… the list goes on and on.

Packing my bags

Once we had registered and made the payment, being the methodical person that I am, I wanted to read about other people’s experiences and learn what was ACTUALLY expected of you.

In a way, this post is also intended to help other first-timers learn about what happens at SW just like those other people helped me with theirs so I’ve tried to include information about the event if needed:

On the morning day of event I also came across a video on Vimeo by a college professor which talked about how startups can create a business plan and also introduced me to the Business Model Canvas. This was a multi-part video but I was able to watch only part 2 due to my crappy internet connection. I even tweeted about this and other SWKTM attendees ended up watching it (since we had followed one another after seeing each other’s pre-event tweets). The Business Model Canvas was very helpful in putting a business and its different components into perspective to even me, a final year MBA student (I’m going to try to pass the canvas to other students as well).

After I watched the video for the second time, I turned to my SWKTM checklist (which is still online lol!!), added a few items and hit the print command.

I ran through my notes on what I wanted to pitch and practiced in front of the mirror one last time.

Satisfied, I packed my stuff, got into the car and left my house.

What happened at the event?? How was my pitch?? Did I sleep on the floor??

All will be answered in part 2 (of 3)!!