So finally a few days after Startup Weekend London 2011 I have had the chance to reflect on what was a great weekend!
For those of you that don't know Startup Weekend, it is an event held from Friday evening to Sunday night where a bunch of ambitious and determined entrepreneurs come and pitch an idea, build a startup and present to the judges over the 54 hour period.
Here is a video to explain a little more:
So I gave a little update '27 hours in' but this is a more comprehensive review of events.
Startup Weekend Day 1
So Friday evening roles up and so do over 200 entrepreneurs, all ready to network, pitch, build, eat, drink and generally have a good time. Stocked up on pizza and beer over 60 participants took to the floor to pitch there ideas. With only 60 seconds per pitch and 64 pitches it was a frantic hour and a bit. Ideas where then voted on and over 20 where then picked.
This is where it got even more frantic as those chosen now had to form a team, how, by shouting over everyone else to attract people over to you. With half an hour to find attract people with the right skills the room felt like a busy trading floor. It was evident that developers were in high demand, as always.
I joined a team called Social Stadiums, pitched by Sam, the idea was a social network for sports stadiums where fans could comment, share pics/vids, vote on polls and even purchase merchandise and food and drink from the app.
Due to such a large number of participants the venue was moved to Ravensbourne college right in front of The O2, fo rmally the Millennium Dome. A beautiful venue as this was, it did not have the capacity to accommodate people overnight, which the previous venue did.
This meant after the pitches it was virtually closing time and so with little chance to meet the team so far we decided to hit the bar and get to know each other over a couple beers.
Startup Weekend Day 2
Saturday morning and with half the teams based in Ravensbourne college and half the teams based in Club Workspaces in Clerkenwell (the original location) everyone got underway.
We had a large team, a very large team, 11 to be exact! There goes the lean startup model, but at least we had a lot of skills available to us. Having such a large team brought about in benefits as apart from a large skill set we got to work intensely with a diverse amount of people that we have all got to know each other well. The downside was that it took a little longer in making decisions and sometimes peoples roles were undefined. But everyone wanted to get stuck in and took it upon themselves to get involved, contribute and be proactive. 10 guys and 1 girl, 3 designers, 1 designer and the rest in business and marketing roles, it certainly was an interesting team, if what a little unnecessarily big. But we all got on well, which always help.
After spending most of the day figuring out what we are going to work on and talking to mentors, which where useful although after about the fourth one a little annoying. Slowed us down a little having to explain what we were doing 6+ times. They did give us some great pointers and take apart aspects of our strategy which put us on the right track.
The day was long but enjoyable and after dinner everyone retired to the bar in The O2 for a night organised by one of the other startups in attendance, PartyWithALocal. They do exactly as the name suggests, find locals for you to party with when travelling.
Startup Weekend Day 3
The last day of the weekend begins with a few looking a little worse for wear afterthe previous night, but with the pit ches only now hours away, heads were down working hard. As the afternoon rolled on teams began practicing their pitches. After lunch we grabbed a couple mentors showed them our pitch. They shot it down, changes needed to be made. Again, new pitch, more mentors to hand us even more advice and therefore changes. It was all fantastic advice and come 4 'o' clock we felt we had a great pitch, but the multiple revisions gave us little time to practice the pitch. We did however take on all the questions mentors asked us and create the perfect responses. This proved useful as you will see later.
As the clock hit 4.30 the presentations began. 4 minutes to pitch and 4 minutes of Q/A from the judges. In a room of well over 200, it got a little toastie to say the least. There were plenty of beers and crisps to last the four hours or so of pitches.
Our pitch for Social Stadiums, came just after the midway break, so people were a little more fresh and alert at least. Our presentation started fantastically, Sam did a good job, but unfortunately as we came to our slide where we embedded a video, of some market research we carried out, the volume didn't work. In trying to rectify this the tech guy switched screens and in the end we were glad that we added subtitles on. Anyway despite the disruption the pitch went well although we were unable to finish due to the time lost during the video incident, aagghhh technology!
So the Q/A next and thankfully we fully covered every potential angle they could come at us beforehand. Sam answered every question with aplomb and impressed the judges with the answers.
Did we win?! No
The prizes were as follows:
The main prize, most innovative, went to Portal Entertainment an independent cross-platform production company (who were already a little more established before they turned up at the weekend)
The most likely to get funding were Trendset.me who delved into crowdsourced market research.
The finally prize was most likely to make a million which went to Invizua a digital marketing accountability company. (Again a bit disappointing since they were already more established before the weekend)
Oh yeah and since there were a couple of fun apps that would definitely go viral, they made up a category, funniest app which went too ImClockingYou, who I thought had a fantastic app and funny, well done pitch. Basically you can set time limits, say if you are going shopping with your girlfriend and the time limit is exceeded she forfeits and you gain a reward from your girlfriend. It can be anything that you determine from cooking dinner to 'special time' as they put it in there pitch. It works both ways and for any situation you wish. It's a pretty funny idea, and that's why they won funniest app I guess!
And all though these were the winners there where no losers over the weekend, I think everyone learned something and was part of a fantastic experience one which many will want again and one which many entrepreneurs encounter across the world at other Startup Weekends.
So what are my takeaways, well here are a few Startup Weekend Tips:
Remember your building a company, not just a product!
This was the first thing we did, build a strategy and make sure we knew what we wanted to say on the Sunday night pitch. This helped us prioritise the app we built. This is what will help us take the company forward in the future as well. With the number of Bus/Marketing guys in the team, it's no surprise we took this route.
Find a way to be different
There are a lot of people, ideas and pitches, and with only 60 seconds to pitch you need to make sure you stand out, whether it is how you present or what you wear it doesn't matter just make an impact or your cool idea might get lots and forgotten about amongst tens of other cool ideas
Make the most of the mentors
They're there for a reason. You may think you have the greatest idea in the world but don't be afraid to share it with others, that's the only way people can pick holes in your idea. They are there to help push you in the right direction and offer advice on your pitches, ideas etc...
And one last thing, enjoy it! It is a great experience and make the most of it, just have fun.
I can't wait till next years!