Looking back to my first Startup Weekend

Recently, I went to my first ever Startup Weekend event. Focusing on social impact, the whole 54 hours was devoted to finding real scale able solutions that have a positive impact on society. While I went to check out what the event was all about and stretch out my business savvy muscles, I learned so much more about myself as well as the field that I so desperately wanted to join.

But how does a startup weekend work exactly? Imagine a mini conference with the requisite check in table, swag giving and name tag collection. Then, at least in my case, sheepishly scan the room for a friendly face and a place to sit through the impending talk that gets participants in the right mind set. After about an hour of that, participants are invited to pitch their ideas and the top 10 or so become the businesses that will be developed over the weekend. Once the 100 or so participants are released they search for a group that will hopefully win the competition for best business idea. That’s when the gloves come off and the race to build a validated business is on.

While our team did not win the competition, the experience itself allowed me to learn some very valuable lessons. The top three are below.

1. Just because you have an idea, doesn’t mean you’ve got a business.
There were a ton of inspiring and seemingly solid ideas that were pitched during the weekend. But the businesses that rose to the top of the heap, were the ones who were able to clearly articulate who their customers were and had proven that they would be willing to pay for whatever they were offering.

2. Shiny object syndrome is a real thing.
When you are trying to develop a project from an idea, having an unwavering commitment to your mission is crucial. Without that focus, your idea quickly becomes a Frankenstein of features that don’t have anything to do with the original intent. This doesn’t mean that your idea can’t change and evolve, but the original problem you are trying to solve needs to be the center of your work until you can prove that it’s not a problem people are willing to pay to solve.

3. Building and keeping your team engaged is half the battle
Getting a group of very passionate people together can be energizing and motivating. You are exploring ideas with each other and all of a sudden anything seems possible. While idea development is a ridiculous amount of fun, getting your team to go from the idea to actually testing your idea is the only way to know if you’ve got a business or a fun idea.

So if you are looking to take your idea and test it out in the real world, find a Startup Weekend event in your area.