For other aspiring "startup weekenders," here's a summary of the 10 lessons I learned during my first startup weekend; the North Dallas Startup Weekend hosted at the NoD (North Dallas Coworking Space). You can also read more about my experience, in-depth, on Tech Cocktail.
Lesson 1: Be social.
If you don’t make an effort to connect with as many participants as possible from the beginning, you can’t ultimately recruit the right team. Connect with a diversity of folks outside your circle so you can identify potential teammates with right mix of development, business and marketing skills and technical knowledge to help make your idea come to life.
Lesson 2: Apply emotion liberally.
Woo the audience (and your potential teammates) with an elevator pitch that plays into their emotions. The most effective pitches are not always the best ideas, but they are almost always delivered in a way that taps into the audience’s passions and shared experiences.
Lesson 3: Embrace and build upon your limitations.
Successful startups are not created by developers, alone. Explain your idea in a way in which other disciplines can relate and actively seek out a healthy balance of skill sets for your team. Don’t allow your limitations in knowledge, skills or experience to stand in the way of building a successful business.
Lesson 4: Research, ask questions and research some more.
Ask yourself the hard questions around market opportunity for your product, revenue potential and more to determine whether your idea has staying power. You need to understand who would buy your product and how to position it.
Lesson 5: Know thy competition.
Like potential investors, the judges want to know that you understand your product’s competitive landscape - indirect and direct. Have you identified an unmet need, a niche opportunity, or will your product be playing in a saturated marketplace?
Lesson 6: Validation is critical (and it can be uncomfortable to obtain).
While you may be in love with your idea, an idea is just an idea unless you know there is interest by real-life potential users. For some of us, this requires stepping outside our comfort zone and asking potential customers a series of questions about our product idea. You may not like the response but, if you’ve done your research (lessons 4 and 5), the odds are in your favor that potential users will love your product idea, too.
Lesson 7: Seeing is believing.
It’s hard to wow anyone with your idea if you can’t make it easy for them to visualize your product. Ensure you have designers and developers who can build a kick ass product demo.
Lesson 8: The devil is in the details.
While you may have built a kick ass product that passed validation with flying colors, along with an amazing demo, it won’t resonate with the judges (or obtain the funding to get off the ground, in a real-life investor scenario) if you don’t package it in an easy-to-understand format and story that resonates with your audience. This is part of the final stretch and it’s what separates the wheat from the chaff.
Lesson 9: Practice makes perfect.
Carve out enough time to rehearse your pitch to ensure the core messages are clear and the story is tight. Ask yourself the tough questions the judges may ask you - multiple times and in multiple ways - about your business model, competition, revenue streams and more. While there may be no such thing as a bulletproof pitch, go into it aiming to be so.
Lesson 10: Go all out.
Remember, this is more than just a product, you’re launching a business. It really helps if you can actually launch the business and have social proof or, even better, a small amount of revenue from real customers to validate its potential success.
So there you go -- my ten simple lessons. To learn more about my startup weekend experience and the full detail of the lessons I learned each day, visit Tech Cocktail.
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