Startup Weekend Dublin has been running for little over four years now and the purpose of this post is to give my personal perspective as a former attendee and organiser.
It was just over two years ago when I first entered the crazy world of startups by attending my very first Startup Weekend event, a year later I would organise one and I can assure you that most if not all of my opportunities, contacts and ideas can be traced back to attending that first event in 2012.
With that said, I want to share my overall experiences of attending a Startup Weekend event by covering some of these points:
- What I did right for the Friday pitch.
- What I didn’t do right for the Sunday pitch.
- Networking and the importance of looking beyond the Weekend.
- Call to Action: Why Dublin needs more Startup Weekends and how you can get involved.
What I Did Right For The Friday Pitch
I first walked into Google back in 2012. I had heard about Startup Weekend and decided to give it a go. I didn’t know anybody from the Startup scene nor anybody who was attending the event. I had just sketched the bare bones of an idea on a crumply old sheet of A4 paper – not knowing if there was any mileage in it at all. And here’s the thing, your idea might or might not resonate with people but the only way you’ll find out is by putting yourself out there.
What I did do right in retrospect was getting the idea down on one page. I had a concise 10-20 second overview of the idea and the rest was a passionate call to action, a call for people to join my idea. I didn’t even think of it that scientifically. I just got up and with all the passion I could muster, told the world what I was planning to do. At the end of the day, people need to believe in you and if you fall anywhere short of this belief people will see it a mile away.
Lastly, project your voice – after all you’ve only 1 minute to resonate to an audience that will have to watch nearly 50 of these 1 minute pitches! Your goal should be to cut out the background noise. Remember it’s not just the idea but it’s how you present it, how you sell it and how much passion you put behind it.
What I Didn’t Do Right For The Sunday Pitch
I can speak from experience that I did not nail my Sunday pitch back in 2012. The danger is that you can get pulled into the project too much over the weekend. There’s a tendency with us techies to tinker, changing this and that. That’s what happened to us. I turned down the offer to do workshops and rehearsals before and it showed on the Sunday night and I quickly found myself with only one hour left to practice before the main pitch! And I saw the same thing happen last year as some teams rushed to rehearse with only one hour to spare!
Whatever you do, just make sure to leave yourself enough time to practice, practice and practice some more. You only have 5-7 minutes to impress the judges and the audience on the Sunday evening. Although they understand the blood, sweat and tears you’ve put in over the 54 hours they will only see you and your ideas in that particular moment.
There will be pitch workshops again this year so avail of it. Take the time to find a quiet space if you need on the Saturday or Sunday and practice alone too. Grab your pen and paper and plot out the strongest points you want to convey for your startup idea and work on emphasising those key selling points aloud. I would also recommend having a read of How to Pitch At a Startup Weekend by Ed Fidgeon-Kavanagh, who is a pitching mentor for Startup Weekend.
Networking And The Importance Of Looking Beyond The Weekend
I really don’t like the word networking. It conjures up a sense of ‘agenda’ or something that’s overly business-like. Cold and detached. True, networking could be that from one perspective but let’s look at it through a different lens.
When I go to events like Startup Weekend I don’t feel or think that I am networking. I go with an open mind and a fair amount of curiosity. I’m happy to listen to what people are doing, genuinely interested in a number of things: where they are from, what their values are and what their general attitude is. In this case, it happens to be expressed through technology, through ideas, startups and so on.
The beauty of the game that we’re in, is that when you’re in a world of ideas, people have to open up and as a consequence you can really get a sense of who someone is, they are literally speaking their mind.
Startup Weekend is made for that. You have 100 plus people not only talking about their ideas but actually creating them. This is real networking. Again I hate to use that word but what I’m talking about is making friends, forging connections, relationships and most importantly opening up the doors of your world to opportunity.
Trust me when I say this, Startup Weekend is full of opportunities beyond those 54 hours. In one way, it’s an accelerated microcosm of life and you’ll get back what you put in. And remember a lot of these people you’ll meet will go on to accelerators with their startups or will be working in companies so you never know when you’ll cross paths again. I ended up meeting some really interesting and driven people that weekend, who I’m still friends with today. People like Russell Banks, Gene Murphy and nearly everyone I know on Linkedin!
Remember startups should be looked at in terms of the long-term as Nathan Beckord (CEO of FounderSuite) points out in Startup Tip: Play The Long Game. A lot of the startups next weekend will – like last year – go on to accelerators and so on, so make a point of remembering people’s names. Link up on Twitter and Linkedin and stay in touch!
Call To Action: Why Dublin Needs More Startup Weekends And How You Can Get Involved
There is clearly a demand for more events in Dublin with this year’s Startup Weekend smashing all records. Like last year it’s another sell out but with an even a bigger waiting list! Dublin could and should be hosting two if not three Startup Weekends a year but none of this is possible without a good organisational team.
I was lucky enough to have a really strong team around me last year not to mention a mini army of great volunteers. And again this year it’s fantastic to be a part of another great team led by Gene Murphy.
So if you’re interested in organising or in helping organise an event get in touch with Gene, Ruta, Andrea, Gianfranco, Matt or myself over the weekend. We’ll all be there. One of the prerequisites of organising a Startup Weekend is being an attendee and if you’re a do-er, the European coordinators of Startup Weekend will give you everything you’d possibly need to help make it happen.
Like I mentioned earlier it will open up so many doors for you. That’s a guarantee. You’ll be in contact with some of the most influential people in the Irish startup scene when you approach sponsors, mentors and judges. You are also putting your name out there with a promise to fulfill and you’re sending out a clear message on your ability to deliver.
What it takes: drive, lot’s of passion and a couple thousand email compositions! If you feel that’s you, let us know this weekend!
Best of luck to all the teams next weekend. I’m looking forward to seeing the ideas and remember, make sure you open up as many doors as you can that weekend… your future self will thank you no end!
Stu has extensive experience in startups, social media and social networking having worked in both Twitter, Google and most recently his own startup Dynamic Media, a social media network. His main areas of focus are viral marketing, growth hacking, digital marketing, web optimisation and SEO.
When he’s not actively promoting Dublin’s startup ecosystem he’s either looking for the latest sushi haunt or conjuring up the next big growth hack!