After just two days at the Palo Alto Startup Weekend event, I’m amazed at how far some of the startups have come along already. I would not be surprised if you see some new businesses take off from this event soon. Watching the teams from Confessly (an online confession box) and Nom Nom Now (a tool to teach you to cook) work was an amazing experience. They were well-organized, energetic, bright, and creative.
When I first came on Friday night, I didn’t know what to expect. If you will be a Startup Weekend noob, here are some things you can look forward to:
Maybe it’s because the first SW I attended was in Palo Alto. Macs made up at least 80-90% of the laptops and nearly everyone had an iPhone (okay, okay, even moms have iPhones, so this last point isn’t a big deal).
But maybe it’s not surprising after all: this is a sophisticated tech crowd after all. And those folks like them some Macs. People knew their stuff. I didn’t know event what an API was.
Every SW event starts with some ice breakers and games. Expect the personalities to be geeky and funny with some irreverent and wacky humor. Some things that are funny: ninja, pandas, porn, antidisestablishmentarianism and buzz words like: gameification, cloud, mobile, geolocating, daily deals.
My advice: channel your inner geek, let go, and have some fun.
Not really a surprise.
Working with and meeting great people
Though some people flake out and leave SW altogether and other teams disband, most people that attend a SW are pretty cool. There is awkwardness at first because most people are shy, but by the second day, everyone is more relaxed. Take the opportunity to meet people, interact, network, and most important make some friends. Of course, you better work on your project too!
This really ties into the previous point, but I’ll say it again just for emphasis. Every SW event has great speakers and mentors. The mentors will walk around and listen to your team’s concept and pitch. They will provide advice, feedback, and inspiration. I should give special thanks to Hiten Shah and Aly Orady for their great advice.
Lack of developers
This was really surprising to me: how could a SW event have way more “biz dev” and design people and not enough coders and developers? Well, it happened at this particular SW event. And in Palo Alto of all places! The hub of Silicon Valley! And where you can get a Raw Daddy Cone for $5!
Maybe that’s just it: perhaps all the developers are already working on other projects and didn’t feel like showing up for this weekend. Developers are like attractive women: they make the party. Without them, it’s not a party. Well, at least not the kind of party you want.
Lots of dudes
Maybe it’ll be different at a city near you.
Emphasis on how the product works with the pitch is present
There is definitely (and justified to a certain point) an emphasis on getting the product to work, putting up a pretty website, getting the facebook page up, tweeting away. But don’t miss the important point of communicating a story. If you pitch, remember this: judges are seeing your idea for the first time. They need to understand the story behind your business. This will help them to understand the business case for your concept. But don’t take my word for it. Listen to this guy.
By the way, want to know the judging criterion? Check out my post on it.
(photo courtesy of: http://flic.kr/p/8KjdKe)