What I Learned at Exeter Startup Weekend
This post originally appeared on blog.up.co
As a result of the excitement of my Streetsmart Beautiful map team coming second in Exeter's first startup weekend. I have reflected on the event.
First off I have to say the organisation and facilitation of the weekend was super good! The innovation center aids this by it's modern feel. it encourages collaboration by being bright, open and airy. There was plenty of everything you needed to keep you going for 54 hours. The food from Pickle Shack was exceptional.
I learned so many things but I will begin with my personal thoughts. I went to the event with a blue sky idea about mapping locations. Which I named Streetsmart for the event. I had great reservations about pitching. Although I've presented many times and spoken at conferences. I realised putting your own idea out there is very different. The pitch process is quite an experience. Everything hangs on the 60 second initial pitch that gets your idea in the running. Fortunately enough people voted for my initial pitch. So we formed a self selecting team to have a go at tackling the problem. Winning or losing depends upon
the five minute pitch.
This lets the judges decide whether your team has met the scoring criteria. The key to both pitches is following startup weekend pitching structure (more later). In fact once you've learned this structure it's the key to organising your weekend. I was delighted that we achieved second place. I learned for myself that my ideas are as valid as anyones. And my beloved small project way of working where people cluster around a subject really works! That was such a personal validation for me!
Once you're selected as a project to work on then you form teams. This was awesome in that the teams were self selecting. I was exceptionally lucky to have a team of committed players. Who all contributed their skills and ideas. There's something special that happens when people like a project and they gel it's very exciting. There were moments of stress but also great humour and humility too. The whole team were lovely people and I hope they got as much from the experience as I did. It may not seem much but 54 hours of focus on one thing is exhausting. I was very grateful for Monday off (that's tip no.1)!
So my event learning in no particular order:
- It is possible to pitch a completely blue sky idea
- The initial pitch really matters it gets you in the running
- Your initial pitch is also your lobby for team members so make it appealing
- Small committed teams are ideal
- Know the times of everything and put them in your plan
- Schedule team check ins so that you don't have to disturb everyone
- Coders need a quiet corner away from the hubub
- Plan to fit the final pitch structure: MVP, validation, execution, business model (include marketing)
- Decide your MVP minimum viable product early on day 1
- Go out and validate your idea (you could do this before the event)
- Come back and refine it, often redefines your MVP
- Learn the judging criteria and work according to this throughout
- You can do the whole thing in a weekend but do most of your work on day 1
- Pitch practice takes up a bit of day 2 so get your structure right early on
- Take regular breaks and have fun
- Network and make the most of the skills in the room
I'm sure the rest of the team can add many more things to this list. I can't say enough how much I enjoyed this weekend. Flexing my brain with really nice, smart people in a fab venue what could be better. I would strongly reccomend this weekend to anyone thinking of starting something up. The next one in Exeter is on November 20th. See you there!