How to Get the Most Out of Startup Weekend

Startup Weekend is a crazy, amazing opportunity to meet people, to learn about starting a company, to understand yourself and test your boundaries, and to have a blast! But, like anything, what you get out of it depends on what you put into it.

My first recommendation is to consider what you want to get out of weekend.

  • Are you looking to start a company?
  • Are you looking to join a startup?
  • Are you looking for a “regular” job?
  • Do you want to increase your network?
  • Do you just enjoy hacking and want to have some fun in the process?
Meeting People Leads to Building Community

Meeting People Leads to Building Community

While Startup Weekends push the idea of starting great companies, and it does happen, it isn’t your main benefit of the weekend. You can even win first place and not have that be your main benefit (it happened to me). The major benefit of startup weekend is the building of a startup community and your participation in it. The people you meet and interact with, especially those not on your team, are what helps you and helps the entire community.

Community is about people, connections, shared goals, and common experiences. Startup Weekend builds that for the local entrepreneurial community faster than any other networking group I’ve encountered. We fill a room with people who already have overlapping goals, in an environment that forces them to interact with each other in meaningful ways, and gives them a bonding through fire experience together. You get to see how people behave under stress. You can determine quickly who can get things done and who is just along for the ride. And the young enthusiastic students get to work side by side with the experienced serial entrepreneur, marketer, or venture capitalist.

So, how do you get the most out of startup weekend?

Meet people. Network at every opportunity. Visit other teams and see if you can help them (Don’t consider them competitors. Consider them partners.) Get to know coaches, organizers, mentors, and judges. Bring a stack of business cards. Collect a stack of business cards. Connect on LinkedIn with everyone you meet.
Learn as much as you can by trying it. Learn about Lean and Agile principles. Step out of your comfort zone. If you have never done marketing, try talking to people and testing the market. If you have never coded, sit down with a developer and work closely together. Try, fail, and try again. Which leads us to …
Pivot. Pivot. Pivot. You pitched a great idea or joined a team based on a pitch. It is wrong. Test the idea against the market. Will somebody pay for it? Listen to what the market says and change the idea. Then change it again. And again. “But it is only one weekend, we don’t have time to pivot.” WRONG. The weekend is all about pivoting. If the idea won’t work wouldn’t you rather kill it in a weekend rather then spending the next six months working on it?
Have fun. News flash…nobody is paying you to do this. If you are not having fun this weekend then you just learned something critically important about yourself. This isn’t for you. Go get a 9-5 job.
Santa Barbara Startup Weekend - Voting for Crowd Favorite

Santa Barbara Startup Weekend – Voting for Crowd Favorite

So by now I’ve hopefully convinced you that winning startup weekend is not the goal of startup weekend. However, this is where it gets interesting. If you do all of the above, and your work resonates with your team, resonates with the market, and resonates with the audience, then it will resonate with the judges. And you will know that you are onto something worth exploring after the 54 hours are up. And you will have won.

Live in Santa Barbara? Sign up for our next Startup Weekend Nov 15-17, 2013.