How to survive a Startup Weekend

You’ve arrived at your first ever Startup Weekend. The room is buzzing, the chatter is constant and you are pretty sure you just spied an untouched platter of pizza. Unlike the fast talking groups that have arrived together, you have decided to brave the unfamiliar and rock up completely alone. Now, you are faced with a sea of new faces…and choices.

Where do you start? How do you pick your team? Should you sit closest to the banquet or the bathroom?

Here are some important tips on how students can make the most of a Startup Weekend!

1. Diversify your team

One of the best parts about Startup Weekend (other than the food) is the opportunity to meet some awesome new people. Though you might be quick to team up with the first person who looks your way, it’s important to first consider the variety of skills needed to build on an idea. Get busy networking and suss out what potential team mates can offer. If in doubt, relegate yourself to the ‘Hipster, Hacker, and Hustler’ rule — creatives, tech experts, and confident spokespeople.

2. Don’t get stuck on one idea

Got an idea that’s set to blow everyone out of the water? Chances are everyone else does too. When it comes to Startup Weekend, it’s important to remember that your newly formed teammates may not necessarily agree with your concept, or choose it at all. Keeping your mind open to new ideas and playing to each individual’s strengths is the best way to surge ahead. So maybe leave your paranormal energy detector for the next one (or, you know, never).

3. Compromise

If being inflexible with your idea is a big no-no, then refusing to cooperate or compromise should also be straight up prohibited. Much like any group oriented activity, the only way to progress is to push aside ego and pride in favour of achieving an end goal. At some point, a decision will have to be made that is in the best interest of the group as a whole — even if you don’t all agree. What separates a winning team from a losing one is the ability to push aside differences and make decisions to move forward.

4. Come prepared

Most Startup Weekends supply stationery but if you have a favorite notebook and pen that brings out your creative juices, then bring these along. Your charged up computer, phone as well as any accompanying wall chargers/spare batteries should also be part of your survival kit. It’s best not to assume that chargers will be readily available — especially if your product of choice isn’t named after a particular fruit.

5. Keep yourself fuelled

Speaking of fruit…remember to eat!

Foregoing a meal may seem like a foreign concept, but it is an easy thing to do when you are hours into a brainstorming session. Avoid taking a mental nose dive by eating regularly, and storing a stash of sugary treats. That and avoiding a quick caffeine fix every time you hit an energy slump.

Expect things to be a bit chaotic at times during the 54 hours but never fear, as that probably means you are growing and in the right place. Trust the process, and know that even if your team doesn’t win, you’ve accomplished a great feat. At the end of the day (well, weekend) you’ve had an incredible experience building a startup with a group of passionate people!


Author: Philippe Ceulen

Philippe is Programs and Engagement Manager for QUT Creative Enterprise Australia. He is passionate about building startup communities through coworking, events and programs and works closely with founders of early stage ventures as a personal, tech and business mentor.

QUT CEA’s Startup Weekend Creative Tech is on from 2–4 March. Grab your tickets here.

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