I’ve known of Startup Weekend for a few years, but have always been unable to devote a full weekend to attending one. 54 straight hours is pretty intense to jump into creating a new business from scratch, but I can see it being a great motivator and idea generator. I finally planned in advance to keep the weekend open for one, and it happened to be focused on the education vertical, which I thought was fitting considering it was being held at the college where I am an adjunct.
The first night was an introduction to the weekend, as well as pitch night. I was impressed with the fact that about half of the attendees had pitches for company and product ideas. After ideas were pitched (with a strict 60 second limit), attendees were sent to talk to the pitchers and vote on their ideas. After the final votes were counted, finalists were presented, pitched one more time, then we went another round of talking, this time to form teams based on our skillsets. The only real complaint that I had about the process is that more time was spent on “housekeeping” discussion, and less time was given to talking to team leaders before joining teams.
The fact that almost everybody returned for days two and three was surprising to me. I expected (and was forewarned) of a potential drop-off, where people who pitched and weren’t accepted would leave the event.
The one issue that I do see is project investment. It’s easy to get people excited about an idea, harder to get them to care for three straight days, and even harder to get them to care after judging is over. If your idea doesn’t make it and you end up joining someone else’s team, I can see it being harder to devote your full attention to it. The possibility exists for a group of people who’ve never met before to come together and make a business, but the time investment that generally comes beforehand is lacking. The two local “success stories” that presented to us both had people who had worked together before on their teams. This might not be a requirement, but definitely seems to be helpful. Just in case, bring a friend with you
Check out upcoming Startup Weekend events, and attend one in your area!