Developers: Why Startup Weekend?
This post originally appeared on blog.up.co
Challenge yourself: extend your skills and build something from nothing in the space of a weekend
Startup Weekend is where entrepreneurs, developers, and designers get together to form new businesses in 54 hours of inspiration, perspiration, collaboration, and fun. We attract people with all skill levels in a friendly, welcoming, yet challenging environment.
You'll be tested to your limits and beyond during the weekend. You'll also learn lots, make new friends, and have loads of fun.
Why Should You Do It?
1. Learn the principles and tools of Lean Startup
Lean Startup is the modern theory behind building a startup. Lean Canvas, problem/solution fit, minimal viable product, validation... experience is the best teacher and there's no faster way to learn it than Startup Weekend.
Together we can make a thing that’s simple and elegant and powerful.
- Aurynn Shaw, developer at Catalyst IT
2. Design and build something in the space of a weekend
Starting a business and building some product in 54 hours might sound crazy, but what about doing some research, finding some customers and even making some sales? It seems close to impossible, but we see it each and every Startup Weekend. You'll be amazed what's possible with a great team in a high-energy environment.
3. Meet useful contacts, potential co-founders, or just new friends
Startup Weekend is all about the people. You'll work with business types, developers, designers, and mix with a whole range of specialist mentors and investors. One of the things we love most about Startup Weekend is that it brings the whole ecosystem together, united by a common love of making stuff and building our startup community.
I was able to compare myself with other developers, giving me a good sense of what I could do. And it helped me better see what other people valued about my work.
- Jack Callister, developer at 3months
4. Develop your rapid prototyping skills
To build a business in 54 hours you need to move fast. How your team works is up to you, but rapid prototyping is a key aspect of efficient product development. Whether you're running Agile, Lean UX or something completely different, this is your chance to experiment with new approaches and broaden your skills.
5. Pitch that idea you've had in the back of your mind
Have you got an idea that you keep meaning to do something about? Bring it to Startup Weekend and find out if it has legs. Pitching to a room of potential co-founders is not only a powerful experience that you'll never forget, but it's also a great way to meet talented people with similar interests.
6. Take some new programming language or tools out for a spin
Standing up and pitching to a room of smart people was hard. I guess I was afraid of introducing myself, and also really nervous of saying ‘this is my idea’.
- Aurynn Shaw, developer at Catalyst IT
How often have you wished you could try out some new tech in your day job? AngularJS? Ruby? Node.js? Do what you want, how you want, and have a blast learning along the way.
7. Get coached by world-class tech mentors
You'll have a range of technical mentors available if you want them; they'll include deep-divers like Koz (@nzkoz), architects like Owen Evans (Hoist, ex-Xero) and tech founders like David ten Have (Makey Makey, ex-Ponoko).
8. Start something that makes a difference
Every startup needs to make money, but increasingly we're seeing businesses also interested in making a difference. Social enterprise is taking off globally, and Startup Weekend is just as useful for launching businesses aimed at social or environmental impact.
Having a fresh pair of eyes in a different discipline is a profoundly valuable thing.
- Greg, developer at Twingl
9. Step outside your box - get a taste of the business/design side
Most people end up going multidisciplinary at Startup Weekend. Ever wanted to try branding? Or customer research? Or what about UI design? Or how about presenting the final pitch to the judges? What you do is totally up to you, and no one is limited by the DEVELOPER label on their name tag.
10. Have more fun making stuff with cool people
Startup Weekend takes you on an unforgettable roller coaster with a team of passionate, like-minded individuals. Making stuff is great, and making stuff that matters with people you want to work with is even better.
What do Startup Weekend participants have to say about it?
SW is packed full of mentoring goodness. Over the course of the weekend, you'll get to meet people from a range of industries and backgrounds, all with the goal of helping your team reach its potential.
Of course, just because someone gives you advice doesn't mean you should take it! One of the things you'll learn from your mentors is how much varying advice one gets as an entrepreneur, and how to start pulling out the advice which works best for you and your team.
Here are a few examples of fantastic mentors from previous Startup Weekends:
How Does the Weekend Work?
It's a jam-packed few days, but one with a strict structure.
Friday: Participants arrive around 6pm and kick off the weekend with drinks, dinner and meeting each other. Then Pitchfire” begins: anyone with an idea has 60 seconds to pitch it to the rest of the room. No presentations or props are needed for this - it's just you and a mic. After the pitches finish, all attendees vote on their favourites. The top ideas are shortlisted, and everyone forms teams to work on them. The team formation process is organic - you decide who you want to work with. For the remainder of the evening the teams start getting to know each other, and planning the rest of the weekend.
Saturday: Teams work all day, with occasional breaks to eat and update everyone on their progress. Mentors circulate to provide advice, support and challenge. The flow of the day is up to you, but most teams use Saturday morning to interview prospective customers and gather insights that will inform product development. A key tenet of Lean Startup is "getting out of the building" to find answers to the questions and assumptions you have about your customers and market. In parallel, work continues on your business model and product development. Late on Saturday you'll also need to front up to mentors with the first practice of your Sunday presentation to judges.
Sunday: Teams work uninterrupted from morning until mid-afternoon. They begin wrapping up their product and presentation around 3-4pm to do tech checks and practice their final pitch. After the judging panel and external guests have arrived, the final pitches begin. Each team has 5 minutes to pitch to the judges, sharing their business model, plans and progress to date. Judges then get a few minutes to dig into the presentation and probe the team's thinking. The judging panel selects the top teams, awards prizes, and the event ends with dinner, drinks and some well-deserved relaxation!
Prices range from $75 to $99, depending on when you register, with student tickets at $50.
Photo credits: The wonderful Mark Tantrum.