How to survive a Startup Weekend

By Shelli Trung

Startup Weekend events are now a staple of Australia’s startup ecosystem. There were over 20 last year, ranging from agtech through to female founder events. It’s getting bigger too. By the first week of March this year, there will have already been six Startup Weekends.

For those still unfamiliar with the concept, you essentially attend an event, build a team from the people you meet and work for 54 hours straight on a business idea. Then, to cap it all off, you present it to a panel of expert judges.

In our experience of running several of these events and Australia’s only creative tech Startup Weekend, they can be quite daunting for first-timers. So we’ve put together six of our best tips for getting the most out of them.

Come prepared

We can’t stress this enough, but charge all of your devices ahead of time! Also bring the various plugs you need to charge them at the event. Having your computer crash mid-event — deleting all your work in the process — is not something you want to happen. Prepare for it, and it won’t.

Aside from that, most Startup Weekends will provide snacks, meals and also stationary for planning. But anything that helps get the creative juices flowing should be a consideration.

Don’t get stuck on one idea

If you’ve done your homework, then you have likely come to a Startup Weekend with an idea that you think will blow everyone else’s out of the water. This is the wrong mindset. While it happens for some, don’t assume this is a staging ground to build your dream company. It is however, a great place to get your idea challenged and to gain the skills to do so later on.

Have an idea, but prepare for it to be scrutinised and even completely reworked by your team. It sounds obvious, but keeping an open mind and hearing everyone else in your team out is crucial through the entire process, but particularly in the first day when you are deciding what problem you are looking to solve.

Compromise and don’t get caught up in ego

Pushing ego aside is easier said than done, but it’s crucial for success at a Startup Weekend. Many forget this this is a group activity, meaning that no matter how hard you try or how good you are, you can’t succeed alone.

From our experience, the winning teams are often ones that can move past disagreements easily and making decisions that benefit the entire group. Consider creating a mediation process for these disputes earlier rather than later in the event.

Diversify your team

It’s easy to fall into the trap of working in a team of people you just met that has all the same strengths and interests. But this can ultimately short-change your fledgeling business from the perspective and expertise it needs to thrive.

Consider everyone’s strengths when forming your team. The more diverse the better. If in doubt on how to construct the best kind of team, refer to the Hipster, Hacker, and Hustler rule – creatives, tech experts, and confident spokespeople.

Please, please, don’t skip a meal

Fasting to keep yourself ‘mentally fit’ may be a fad in Silicon Valley, but it isn’t something we’d recommend for any Startup Weekend. This is an intense experience, and your body will need all the support it can get it. No founder can survive on a diet of coffee and adrenaline.

Keep these tips in mind, and remember, these Startup Weekend events aren’t all about winning. Regardless of your place, even making it to the end is a great feat and will arm you with the skills and contacts to better build your own business.

Shelli Trung is the Expert in Residence and Investment Fund Manager at QUT Creative Enterprise Australia (CEA). She is one of the founding members of the Techfugees Hackathon in Melbourne and will be a mentor at CEA’s Startup Weekend Creative Tech from 2-4 March.

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