Confused Programmer

Developers – How to Make the Most of StartupWeekend!

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Last year I attended Startup Weekend for the first time.

I’ve been to other weekend long Hackathons, but this was different from any of the previous I’ve participated at in several ways.

With this blog I would like to explain how a developer like myself can benefit from attending an event that is quite different from the usual type of Hackathon that I attend.

Last year I was a developer with only one year of experience after college. A year before that I tried to build a music streaming aggregation site as a a final year project, unsuccessfully.

I did that project on my own and learned some valuable lessons. You need somebody to help you, not only to advance the product but the idea itself (especially during those early days when you’re too tired or have doubts about the entire project!).

Trust me those days will come, but don’t worry, they can pass as quickly!

So what does this have to do with an event like Startup Weekend?

As a developer you’re used to working on your own, figuring out how to fix or do things. Google is your best friend and you can probably do a lot on your own.

But, here’s the thing about Hackathons  and Startup events less focused on the result (or the app). You’re in a collaborative environment, almost “stuck” in a room, with strangers and a clear goal in mind: convince the judges that your idea + demo/pitch is the best they will hear from the entire weekends attendees!

One person on their own can do well, but with a functioning and positive team of 3 – 4 people, you can really wow an audience!

The beautiful thing about these events is that people with different ideas and backgrounds will come together and discuss the problem and goals this startup will tackle. You will also discuss what the name should be, who will be the initial customers (note the difference between customers and users and so on.

So jump into a project you think you’re interested or that the idea-owner can rally a group of people to work together towards his well defined goal. You will find great variety of people’s background, interests and skills. Don’t forget to share what is group’s background.

While nobody should called them selves experts, it’s very likely that somebody who worked in a specific field for years will know more than somebody who just came out of college. At the same time don’t underestimate the nativity or not knowing certain rules or standards about a market.

For example did you know the difficulties on setting up a money transferring service or a monopoly behind the movie making industry? Well if you don’t you will continue to think how anything is possible and actually don’t get scared or put aside from just because “it’s too hard” or it “it will take years to do that”.

So listen to everybody’s input and once something is decided continue to your next ask or “pin it” to the side and comeback to it later.

What if you have idea you’ve been scratching your head for the last few months or years? I suggest  just follow your gut, stand up and pitch. What’s the worst that can happen, really? Your idea is not the top voted? Did you notice you had the entire room listening to you for 60 seconds? They just learned a lot from your words and will find you if their idea is similar to yours.

Most of the great things you’ll be able to accomplish in your life will terrify you.

If you’re the idea-owner, you’ll have to make a compelling pitch. You have about a minute on Friday so explain your vision, add some examples, ask for the most important skills you need in your team and say what it is that you don’t need (i.e. same skills as yours).

Last but not least, come with a positive attitude, open to learn anything, with loads of energy and sleep.

Tip: if you’re stuck during any day take a few people or on your own take a small walk around the area. Hopefully the good weather will inspire you! :)b