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4 tips to make the most out of your first Startup Weekend experience by Jos van Essen

Startup Weekend Happy winner of the pitch

4 tips to make the most out of your first startup weekend experience by Jos van Essen

Ok, you took the most important step: you bought a ticket. That’s a start. If you haven’t yet, go here and buy it, right now. If you didn’t like your experience (for any reason) walk to me on Sunday night and tell me you hated it. I’ll refund your ticket. No questions asked. Promised.

Now: how to get the most out of your Startup Weekend? What about possible concerns you might have? In this post I’ll try to break it down.

One of the most common fears: I have no skills; what am I doing here?

Everybody has valuable skills, you do too. You might think you lack the skills to be part of a startup weekend. This is not the case. All people have some talent that they will be able to use during the weekend. Maybe you are a strong creative thinker. Maybe you can deliver a perfect speech. Or perhaps you know a programming language or speak a language others do not. Maybe you can draw. You might have rich parents. Perhaps you’re a king in making (phone) calls. Perhaps you have, at some point in your life, acquired secret knowledge about a particular problem that needs to get solved. If not for the greater good of society, at least for yourself.

This list could go on. All I would like to say is: everybody brings something to the table. So don’t worry about it. Equip yourself with the best you.

During the weekend: lose the FOMO

It happens to all of us. We’re part of something awesome and still checking our phones. It might happen when you have a strong Tinder game going on and you want to keep that hot streak going. It happens when your child is ill and you want to check in with the family. However, hopping onto your Instagram or Twitter feeds for no particular reason is not the way to actually experience Startup Weekend. Life is what happens to you outside your phone. And this weekend is no exception.

During the weekend: Stay energised

I’ve been to a couple of startup weekends and have seen teams crush for too long. Remember that it’s still a weekend. You probably did things during the week, like study or work a fulltime job. You probably want to get some rest. But you decided on Startup Weekend (smart choice though). Which means your regular week got a huge bonus.

Don’t forget to do your weekend thing. Enjoy the food, go for a walk. Meet new people. Play some table tennis. Sing karaoke on Saturday evening. You can do all these things at startup weekend. There’s plenty of relaxation to partake in. Don’t feel guilty for not working 54 hours straight. I’ve seen teams completely burn themselves out while having little fun, while teams that were mixing ‘work’ with pleasure have outperformed everyone else.

During the weekend: don’t: never – ever – give predictions in your final pitch, even if the jury. asks for it.

I’ve heard them all: ‘We’re gonna make a million next year. We have 300.000 units sold next year. We want to do blablablabla next year. Our estimates say that we can do X.’ … Nope, nope, nope.

Talk about the feedback you gathered during the weekend with your experiments. These are the most valuable – and, if done right, true – indicators of what your target audience wants.

Which leads us right to the next point:

Customer development is everything

If you want to read a book in preparation for the weekend, I can highly recommend ‘the mom test’ by Rob Fitzpatrick. A practical primer on how to do customer development, and do it properly. Some editions of startup weekend have a workshop/training on this, some don’t. Customer development done right is the ticket to a top 5 spot. Lying about fake user experiences, however, could lead to victory – but will always leave a sour taste. Do yourself a favour and get out of the building.

If you are more of a visual (YouTube) learner: watch this video of the man himself talking about casually doing customer discovery. These are skills that are not only useful during the weekend, but can also land you a job as an innovator, or UX researcher – if you’re into that sort of thing, of course.