7 Lessons from an LA Startup Weekend Winner (Feb 2012)

Posted on Mar 18, 2012 | 0 comments

Startup Weekend… 54 hours to create a company. It happens every 6 months here in LA at Coloft. I went last time and placed fourth. All those lessons still apply. This time, I won. Woot! The full story is coming out in Dairy of a Tech Startup Gal in April so for now, here are the quick tips.

#1 – Have your Wallet Ready.
Tickets Sell Out in 10 Minutes.

Seriously, one of my friends went to get her wallet and by the time she got back, tickets had sold out! I hear that it’s not like this at all Startup Weekends but for #SWLA it is. If you want in, you better set an alarm and have your credit card handy.

#2 – Pitch your Idea

Get over your fear and pitch Friday night. You’ll regret it if you don’t because by the time you’ve listened to all the pitches you’ll find yourself thinking “My idea is better than all of those!” And remember, it’s only 60 seconds of your life and if your idea isn’t picked, you still get to work on something cool.

If you want to practice, follow the tips from Tyler on creating a story and don’t forget to mention what kind of help you need (marketing, dev, design, etc).

#3 – If You Pitched the Idea,
Lead the Team or Choose a Leader

This didn’t happen in our team but I’ve seen it in other teams at both Startup Weekends I’ve attended. The person who pitches Friday night isn’t really ready to lead a team. Maybe they are a developer that prefers to code all weekend or they hate speaking or hate taking charge. These teams flail.

If you’re that person that doesn’t want to lead, pitch anyway. Then, go find a leader for your team. You’re looking for someone cool that can listen to a lot of input make decisions fast. Maybe someone with a project manager background. And of course, someone that loves your idea.

If you do want to lead the team, then lead! Accept the responsibility. Make the decisions. Say no. Coordinate people and tasks. Make sure things are being executed with a goal of having a solid demo and presentation ready on Sunday night.

#4 – Hash out the Idea Friday Night
then Become a Secret Agent

Matthew Fox as a Startup Weekend Secret Agent

Matthew Fox from Vantage Point or as a Startup Weekend Secret Agent

You only have TWO DAYS. There isn’t time to be brainstorming for half of it. So, set aside Friday night to brainstorm and get the ideas out. If your team isn’t agreeing, the leader needs to take charge. By the end of Friday night, you should have a game plan for getting you to winning O’s – preso with demo.

Then guard that plan like it’s the President and you’re the head of the Secret Service (black suits optional).  Your team members, investors, other entrepreneurs, and super successful people will come around and inject their thoughts into your idea. Of course these ideas will be great, these are very smart people. Listen but reject 97% of them for the weekend. Unless the suggestion totally blows your mind and it really can be done in the time you have, SAY NO. Otherwise you might find that trying to implement these ideas totally derails your ability to deliver your big O’s.

#5 – Bring Your Own Snacks and Advil

Unless you live well on Redbull and chocolate, you’re going to be outta luck. Also, it’s loud there so headache medicine is helpful. Extra points for bringing enough for your team. Triple points if you share with Avesta, Cam, Chris, Bex, Tyler, and any other organizer. Quadruple points if your snacks are from Healthy Surprise, an Aug 2011 LA Startup Weekend company that’s growing like crazy.

#6 – Learn and Teach

With such a small team trying to do so much in a short time, there’s gotta be something new for you to learn and someone that needs to learn what you know.

The other dev on my team taught me the basics of coding MongoDB, a NoSQL database. Together we learned how to deploy to AppHarbor. I taught one of my friends some new CSS tricks and helped one of my team members write her first lines of C#.

Even if you’re not a techie, there’s gotta be a business or marketing technique you can learn and/or teach. Do both.

#7 – Take Pictures and Video

So that you can write awesome blog posts and share. I forgot this time and am regretting it now!

More on #SWLA from Around the Web

Those are my tips but don’t just listen to me. Check out what others are saying.

Susan Emmer’s Experience – 10 Lessons from a SWLA Virgin

Simon Christian’s Experience of the Weekend

My Experience from the Aug 2011 SWLA 

My Experience and What Happened after Winning Feb 2012 SWLA

TechZulu’s Recap

The Official Recap from Tyler Koblasa, Startup Weekend LA Co-organizer and Founder/CEO at Mingly

All the Final Pitches

My team, Snazzy Room, starts at 1:22:48


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