How to Win at Startup Weekend

Posted by on Jan 25, 2012 in Entrepreneurship, General News, Opinion | 4 Comments

I may not be a veteran of multiple Startup Weekends, but our one win means I am undefeated.   Assuming you’ve heard of or been to a Startup Weekend, you may think Startup Weekend is about building the best business idea.  You would be mistaken.  Rather it is about building the best demo and presentation in 54 hours.  At least if you want to win the whole shebang.

Let me make one thing clear so you don’t continue reading under false pretenses:  I was just one small part of the winning team in Ann Arbor, Michigan and on the business side at that.

Based on our championship experience, I submit the following recipe for success for those attending future Startup Weekends, including the one kicking off in Detroit on February 17th, 2012.

1. Know Your Audience.  The other attendees are not the judges, but they are a key to your success.  The majority of participants in A2 were male University of Michigan students; as such, our startup had to be one they would be excited about.  Enter RapRoulette.

2. Recruit people from each of these four disciplines: business/marketing, front end development, back end development, and design.  If you’re missing a quadrant, you should consider bailing and join another team.

3. Build a large team.  Ten people can get done twice the work of five people.

4. Steal one of the mentors.  Convince them to work exclusively on your idea for the entire weekend.

5. SMVP – Streamlined MVP.  The product doesn’t even need to reach viable stage; it just needs the bare essentials to survive a sixty second demo… controlled by you.  You do not need anyone else to be able to use your product.  However, that demo does need to give everyone a taste of how great your team’s idea is and/or can be.

6. 10/20/30 = 5/5/30. Utilize topics from Guy Kawasaki’s 10/20/30 rule as a guide, but turn it into five slides in five minutes at thirty point font.  Remember your demo also needs to fit within that same five minutes.

7. Check your presentation against the judging criteria again and again.  Criteria must be covered.  Everything else, cut.

8. Explain your idea via demo.  Do this first i.e. before any other part of your presentation.

9. Practice, practice, practice.

10. Get some sleep.

Of course, this blueprint may be overtaken by a better idea tomorrow…