Janet Newenham, Community Manager with Dublin startup meetingsbooker.com, talks us though her experiences at Startup Weekend in Dublin and 10 things she learned over the intense 54-hour period.
1. You must fight for your idea from the second you arrive.
From the minute you arrive at Startup Weekend, you should start telling people about your idea. At Startup Weekend in Dublin over 100 people attended, of which 45 individuals pitched their idea. Everyone was then allowed to vote for their favourite 3 ideas. In the end, 12 winning ideas were chosen of which one startup had already ‘liquidated’ by late Friday evening. If you really believe in your idea, you’re going to need to fight for it.
2. A good team will make or break you.
Once my idea had been chosen, I had the daunting task to recruit the perfect team. I had to get out of my comfort zone and try to persuade the right people to join my team. I needed a designer, an app developer and some great business minds. It was seriously tough competing with all the other founders, trying to persuade the best minds to back your idea. Without a great team you will be unable to execute your idea – it really is a crucial part of the weekend.
3. Never be afraid to pivot your idea.
Just because you think you are on to a winner from the start doesn’t mean you are going down the right path. Challenge the idea, break it down to its core and work out the problem you are solving. Be prepared to pivot until you find the right solution.
4. You will challenge your skill set.
It’s equally thought-provoking and exciting when you think about how much we all learned in such a short period of time. It was exciting because for the first time I got insights into app and website development, how to develop a MVP (minimum viable product) and how to write an excellent business plan. It was thought-provoking because it made me realise how much time I have been wasting every other weekend of my life when I have not been learning new skills!
5. Everyone needs to think BIG. No, BIGGER than that.
Whatever your idea is, you’re not thinking big enough. We had a great idea, and one that could certainly be profitable, but our challenge was working out how to scale this idea to a global level. Investors want big ideas that can change the world, not small ideas that will do relatively well in a small market. Thinking outside the box was key to overcoming this, along with looking at other successful global startup models like Airbnb and Uber.
6. Too many mentors is like too many cooks.
If you listened to the advice given to you by every mentor at Startup Weekend, you would without doubt pull your hair out. Mentors are experienced entrepreneurs with valuable advice; however, they all have different viewpoints and a vastly contrasting vision of the direction they would like to see you go. Listen to them, think about what they had to say and consider making small changes, but at the end of the day it’s your idea, your startup and you really need to stick with your gut feeling.
7. You WILL get frustrated.
It’s inevitable that you will at some stage become extremely frustrated and stressed over the weekend. When you bring together a group of very opinionated, extremely confident and experience individuals, some of the brightest minds in the country, things are bound to go wrong. The key to startup success is how you and your team deal with this stress and overcome the problems your encounter.
8. The weekend is essentially one long networking event.
I found Startup Weekend to be one of the best networking events I have ever attended. Beyond your own team, you interact with so many other creative individuals from all walks of life. You meet investors, entrepreneurs, innovators, facilitators and editors. Besides recruiting a great team, you can also connect with people who will in the future write about your idea, promote your idea and maybe even invest in your idea. From the Friday to the Sunday, you should try and talk to every single attendee, mentor and judge; you never know who the next Patrick Collison or James Whelton will be.
9. Your final pitch is everything.
No matter how much fun you have working on your product, building a website or app and working out your business model canvas, your final pitch is the most important element of Startup Weekend. You need to convey your idea to a room full of 200 strangers and convince them to join your community or buy your product. You want them to follow you on Twitter, look for your website and convince them that not only should they want to find out more – but that they need to.
10. You can build a business in 54 hours.
As crazy as it sounds, Startup Weekend in Dublin taught me that it is indeed possible to build a business in 54 hours. You can think of an idea, initially validate that idea through pitching it to other potential entrepreneurs, build a great team, develop a business plan, further validate the idea through customer surveys, polls and interviews, create an app or a website and start signing up customers and accepting payments… all in one weekend.
So the next time someone says they wish they could start their own business but ‘don’t have enough time’, I know where I’ll be sending them! No more excuses, anything is possible!