in Business, Startups

Last weekend was Startup Weekend Buffalo.

It was an impressive and inspiring event. Over 150 attendees formed 16 different teams.

The goal? To create a Minimum Viable Product and pitch it to judges in less than 54 hours.

Yep, that sounds about right for entrpreneurs, huh?

I was fortunate to attend as one of the mentors, an experience with such an impact I’m still thinking about.

Hence this post.

Despite doing my best, I have to admit I think I took away MORE than I gave. The ability to interact with so many people with so many ideas provided enormous insight into the initial startup process.

Plus the diverse perspectives due to the very mixed backgrounds of everyone really gave one a lot to think differently about.

That’s why I decided to sit down an write down ten takeaways from my Startup Weekend Buffalo experience:

  1. There’s a passionate core of entrepreneurs, entrepreneurial spirits, mentors and people in this area who deeply care about increasing the number of  businesses created. Great talent is here and great companies can be built.
  2. Learning is the real first prize in any entrepreneurial experience. Cash, fame and chicks are nice, but the knowledge and confidence gained from an entrepreneurial experience is priceless.
  3. Experience matters when it comes to idea development, especially in the Startup Weekend format. The three teams that placed all were teams who had experience building things (and likely doing it in a short period). Practice still makes perfect.
  4. Business is all about solving problems, even if the solution is not going to change the world. What the problem is, how many people have the problem and how you will solve it remain the pillars of any good startup idea.
  5. The ability to speak articulately about your product/service/business/startup from a concept/benefit point of view is an opportunity to immediately differentiate yourself from the competition.
  6. Ideas are conveyed best when told through a vivid story. Those teams that had a story or painted a picture made it much easier for everyone to understand and follow along. Stories improve understanding and comprehension.
  7. Idea development follows a process that starts with that creative spark, but is then followed by an often difficult period of distilling the idea down to MVP and a tantalizing five minute pitch. Having a idea development process is important in getting to MVP in a short time. A little bit of process helps  (even for Startup Weekend).
  8. Having a to-do list or using lightweight project management software to focus a team on what’s most important, even for short periods, is good. A lightweight planning framework, including general timelines for the weekend and tasks to be completed would be a huge help. Projects need to be managed.
  9. The clearer your thoughts are about your idea, the better your pitch will be. Developing the pitch, or selling your idea, isn’t easy.
  10. The ideas that seem to drive the most interest from investors are blackbox, while the best businesses for most entrepreneurial folks may be execution and experience plays. Doesn’t mean execution and experience plays are bad, just don’t plan on raising huge rounds.

Oh, and I guess I did have one more takeaway. Next time I think I need to participate!

What Do You Think!?