«STARTUP….. WEEEKEND! When the energy and power of strangers meet and start working together, it becomes possible to realize the impossible, and to set up a startup in 54 hours. A weekend startup is much more than a geek or a Parisian startup thing. It’s a full-fledged experience, open to everyone, and for everyone. Here’s my experience, and everything you need to know before you start.
No talk, all action!Techstars Startup Weekend
Introducing the weekend Startup
It was during my conversion from manager to developer that I heard about this concept for the first time. Intrigued, I went to a “before” party that serves to present what a weekend startup, and answer the questions of novices. It was then that I met Baptiste (now a friend), who convinced me in one sentence: “A weekend startup is above all a human experience”. Several tens of SW to its credit, I believed it, and it all started…
You can find startups Weekend all over the world (my last one was in Ubud in Bali), and often simultaneous. The movement is orchestrated by Techstars.
Open to everyone
“I have nothing to bring to a Startup Weeekend”
“I will not serve anything”
“Neither dev nor designer, so I would not be useful”
“Being shy, I will never be able to integrate”…
False, False, false, and arch-wrong. Beyond skill, what matters is you and yourself. Whether you are a student, foreigner, boss of a multinational, handicapped, job seeker, big, small, shy, extrovert or Cucurbitaciste (I let you find the definition on the Internet…), we don’t care! Yes, having developers and designers is important, but it’s not the key, away from it! I’m a developer, and it’s very rare that I develop during a SW. I saw in my team of students having fun doing market research, going to do field surveys, videographers making storytelling, city dwellers share their experiences and participate actively in reflection and debate.
Plus, you don’t need to have a business idea to participate. You can join an idea that interests you without any problem, that’s what most people do.
In short, whoever you are, come as you are and you will be perfect!
It’s all very beautiful, but finally what do we do during a startup weekend? What is the goal?
I have often heard this: 54h of a startup weekend equivalent to the first 6 months of the life of a contractor, the team in addition. It’s true!
In 54h you will not only be part of a team but also set up a business from a to Z. To do this you will be accompanied all weekend by mentors specialized in many fields such as lawyers, accountants, business developers, experts, entrepreneurs etc… Basically you will have all the skills in addition to those of your team at hand.
So you will set up a Business Canvas, develop an economic model, do a market study, create prototypes (products/services/sites/apps…) and lots of other super interesting things. The final objective is to present a viable project on all aspects.
Detailed flow of a SW
A weekend Startup always starts on Friday night (~ 5pm) and ends on Sunday evening. The program of a weekend startup is always the same (with small variants depending on the Orga):
Arrival of the participants with a check-in at the entrance. You will be given a label or a support with your first name, a super cool T-shirt, three stickers, and lots of small goodies coming from most partners.
My advice: Use this moment to go talk to others, gauge the room, let you know, etc… It will serve you for the next;)
Presentation & Ice Breaker
Sensuality a presentation (often long ^ ^) of Techstars, values of the SW, the program, etc… The first time it’s nice, I admit that then it’s a bit repetitive.
One minute Pitch
Time to pitch! All project holders who wish to do so can go pitch on stage. 60 seconds per pitch and not one more. I repeat, but you are not at all obligated to come up with an idea or a project and go pitcher. However I really recommend it, because it’s impressive as an idea that you surely think “a little dumb” or “far too simple” or what I know can turn into a real startup. 🙂
You’ll see it’s pretty funny, but generally, there are first people who have prepared to pitcher before coming. Then, and after a few reminders of the facilitator, there are the “hésitant.es” who start, and finally, in the end, there are those who are denounced by their buddies next to them 😅. Believe me, the latest “improvised” ideas are often selected…
My advice: We all have ideas! Pitcher is really an interesting exercise. The ideal is to prepare upstream. Here’s a little article on How to prepare a special one-minute Startup Weekend pitch.
Vote + Meals
Once all the pitches have passed you will have to ask your three stickers on the project or projects that have convinced you most. You can put the three stickers on the same, dispatche them, or even paste them on your own project if you have one. However, be sporty and dispatchers are still preferable. 😉
There are often between 10 and 15 teams selected (those who received the most stickers). Each project Holder re-pitch 30 seconds to replace his idea and above all to say what he needs (Expert in piping, developer, Designer, etc…).
My advice: Be cool and fun on this pitch. You will have no trouble recruiting if the participants feel your good mood at that time. The ambiance and the team are the keys to a successful SW!
Training of teams
It’s time to recruit your team! In general, a team consists of 4 to 12 people. Either people come to express their desire to work on your project or it is up to you to get the people/skills that interest you. If you have not pitched, feel free to go and see the project holders.
My advice: This is the most important moment of the SW! Attention to the big teams, complicated to manage and channel and to the too small teams where the exchange of ideas and the lack of competence can be felt. The ideal for me is a team of 5-6 people. If you have the soul of a leader then it is perfect, otherwise try to find a person who will take this role, it is very important for the smooth running. As a reminder, a leader is not (at all) a team leader. It is simply a person who will be heard, channel the energies when necessary, remotivate the troops during the hollows, bring positive energy to time, etc…
Start of work
Once the team is formed, all that remains is to work. Take the time to get to know you, relax the atmosphere and create a climate of trust. You will spend 54h together…
At night, you can choose between sleeping or working (at home or on site). I did once the 54heures without sleeping for a minute and frankly it is a terrible mistake. When the final pitches arrive, you are exhausted, irritable, you can no longer put your ideas in place, etc…
My advice: I like to work at night anyway, I think it’s part of the charm of the SW and we push back a little its usual limits. But you have to get some sleep. For my part I sleep 3-4hours on Fridays and ditto on Saturdays. This is enough for the weekend and find (almost) all his wits. The only exception I made is in Bali, in the Land of Zen and good être🙏 so we sleep 9am and start on Sundays with a 😅 meditation.
Between meals, animation, visiting mentors, etc. The day passes very fast, so do not waste time, and remember: no talk, all action!
My advice: Ideally, you will have to go to bed on Saturday evening by having almost finished the support of your presentation the next day. This is important because if this day passes fast, Sunday is even worse and you will have to focus on the final pitch of your team.
Last Day! Last straight line. Now it’s time to make sure. If it’s not already done, designate who will pitch (you can pitch alone or several) and practice. Stop everything else or divide the team so really there are some important things to do, but in no case the person or people who pitch will have to do anything but train again and again. Usually at the end of the morning/early afternoon, you can make a white pitch in front of mentors. Make the most of this moment and take all the feedback we give you. Sometimes it’s hard to cash in, especially at a few hours of the end, but these are usually regulars and their advice is always valuable.
Little anecdote: I remember one time when I was a project holder at SW Orléans. The project was really top, and the whole team had worked like crazy. We were super proud of the result. Marcel, a mythical and atypical mentor of Team Orleans, gives his verdict at the end of the white pitch. Basically here is his return: “I have not understood anything, I do not even know what you do and/or what you want to sell, and the presentation is really ugly”. Of course it was more argued, but in the main lines that’s what it meant. Marcel having a tact well known to us, it made me the effect of an uppercut that puts you KO when you were sure to win the fight. We had two hours left to change the whole presentation. The whole team went to work following the advice of Marcel and others. End result, we won this Startup Weekend. Thank you Marcel 😘
That’s when everything is played out. The final pitches last between 3 and 5 min + 3 to 5 min of questions from the juries. Use the 3c: clear, concise, captivating. Be original and stand out from others while respecting the official recommendations.
My advice: I wrote a small article to make a good pitch final weekend startup
Deliberation and awards
There are several “prizes” that you can claim. The first 3 teams that best met the jury’s criteria and the award. You will never earn money directly, but lots from the partners of the SW and all the paraphernalia to carry out the project of your team (Credit Amazon service, Google Business, etc…).
The After startup weekend
After a good night of sleep well deserved, what will remain of this Startup Weekend?
Contacts: Spend 54h with people, eat together, sometimes sleep together, laugh, dance, Engueler, sing, work, laugh again, and travel in the emotional elevator of the SW created inevitably links. And in contrast to business meetings or other events to make themselvesknown professionally, here these are solid contacts that you will win, see even sometimes ami.es!
A project: Whether your team has won or not, it is not uncommon to see teams continue the project. It is even strongly encouraged by the community. However you do not have to, and it is important to discuss this with your team at the end of the SW, to find out whether or not you continue the adventure.
A new passion (you will not say that I did not warn you): to participate in a Startup Weekend, it is the insurance to become Addict to this kind of event. My last SW was in Ubud (Bali) and was the 10th. I have had different roles: as a participant but also as a mentor and organizer.
The Startup Weekend FAQ
Can everyone participate?
Yes, everyone regardless of age, skill, religion, skin color or handicap. When a SW, the difference is a force.
Does it necessarily take an idea to participate?
Of course not. You can either pitch your idea if you have one, or integrate with an idea you like. If your idea is not selected, you will obviously be joining another idea that inspires you.
Can we come up with an already mature project?
Not in theory. This is not the purpose of the SW nor the philosophy. The idea is to co-build as a team and develop a product/service together. Now it’s easy to erode and come and take advantage of others to develop his idea. This kind of person notices quickly, and do not have much to do in Startup weekend. If the team of Orga realizes the “cheating”, they are able to disqualify you.
Can we come as a team?
Yes, but still, don’t come with your entire team. The interest is to mingle and discover other people.
How to become an organizer?
It’s very simple and really nice to do. For more information, I invite you to contact the referents of your city or region: Find a startup weekend near home
Who are the juries?
Entrepreneurs, freelancers, former participants, people in direct or indirect connection with the theme if there is one, representatives of investment funds etc…
What do you earn?
It depends on the location of your SW, the partners, and the budget. But usually these are things in connection with the startup and all that it takes to mount its box. For example in Orléans, which is a “big” startup weekend, there were for the first €5000 of Amazon service credits, a support of a start’up of cloud services Ageona, cosmetic products Nuo Box, 1 year subscription to Google Business, a mini IPad by person, gift vouchers etc…
Can one pitch to several?
Yes, but be careful, it’s complicated. 3 min is really short, and if you add to that exchanges between you it gets really hot. I’ve already seen several pitches that have really cardboard, but you have to be well trained, give rhythm, and stay 3c: clear, concise, convincing!
Does it pay?
Yes, and it’s about €60 per person. Oh! I heard you, you just say “Ah crap it’s expensive anyway”…
No it’s cheap, and to be passed by the Orga, the entries represent only a very small sum of the overall budget of an SW. For this price, you will enjoy a place often nice, eat 6 meals + snacks and drinks at will, have an environment conducive to work etc.. And if it really is an important budget for you, do not hesitate to take your places in EarlyBird, they are often much less expensive;)