What to expect at Startup Weekend?

Startup Weekend is a learning experience about entrepreneurship. You’re building a company from scratch. I just finished my second Startup Weekend San Francisco and it was awesome.

On Friday it starts with a bit of networking to get to know each other and see who would be a good fit to work with. Then it’s time for pitchfire: anyone can pitch an idea and has one minute to do so. 39 ideas got pitched that weekend, wow! People vote for their favorite ideas and 13 teams were formed. What follows is a crazy mix of business model creation, customer validation, programming and connecting pieces together.

You got a team, great. Now you start making hypotheses about the business model. You go out of the building and talk to people to validate these hypotheses.

The weekend culminates with presentations in front of judges. Below are judging criterias and what you need to focus on in my experience:

- customer validation (50%): are you solving a problem that people have?
- business model (25%): how are you going to make revenue?
- execution (25%): what did you build?

Customer validation is so crucial since time is so short. You don’t have time to mess around and need to figure out what should be built. You should have in your presentation metrics of your customer validation. Videos of users talking about your product are even better. Startup Weekends are not hackathons. No one cares about your technology unless it solves a real world problem.

I’m glad of being part of the GoVelo team. We had a great time and our unique combination of skills made a difference. We are working on the problem of safe peer-to-peer bike sharing. Safe is about providing an Arduino based electronic U-lock to bike owners. Peer-to-peer bike sharing is about creating the platform that allows the community to flourish: iPhone and web apps.

You should go to a Startup Weekend if you want super creativity, to know your limits or be surrounded by driven people. You should go if you want to make something happen.