What is StartUp Weekend?
Techstars Startup Weekend is a 54-hour hackathon where groups develop a business idea and pitch an MVP, minimum viable product, in front of judges and attendees. Mentors, investors, cofounders, and sponsors are there to assist each group prior to presentation. $100 is all it takes to be a part of this event, which includes a Startup Weekend T-shirt, a reusable water bottle, additional perks provided by sponsors, tons of food and a weekend of fun!
Who is Eligible to Go?
Anyone interested in the startup culture! Business people, developers, designers, artists, gamers, medical students-- anyone is eligible and can gain from this event. In addition to the expected professions, there were attendees that work in cyber security, the medical field, as a freelance artist as well as game designers excited to get their ideas out in the community. From developers that are simply looking for a project to work on to designers that want to work with young entrepreneurs to business people that want to practice pitching, this is an event worth consideration.
My Personal Experience/ What to Expect
I was hesitant to attend Startup Weekend; for I assumed it was an event geared toward people who were tech savvy. After a little push by my fellow Rebel Venture Fund Associate, DeAnna English, I decided to sign up.
The first night started out with socializing and getting to know the attendees through team exercises. One of the team exercises consisted of creating a business pitch based on two randomly selected words within a 10-15-minute time limit. This was an important part of the day where attendees could start feeling out the atmosphere and search for fellow attendees that they could see themselves working with throughout the weekend. After the games were over, the pitching of ideas commenced. The idea proposal portion of the night is when the creative juices flow and attendees get to throw out their ideas for an MVP to be developed. After watching all the pitches, attendees select their favorite pitch and join their team. The pitch that caught my attention was by Mike Ziethlow, a Startup Weekend veteran. His idea, Developers.Vegas, was to create a website in which local businesses can recruit local developers to either do contract work or offer full-time employment. Just by luck, I happened to be the person they needed, as they were short on business people. This was when I realized that even though I may not know too much about technology, I could still contribute and gain from this experience; that this event is not just for developers/ designers (which is what I originally assumed).
We started bright and early on day two, working from 9 am and ending at 9 pm. Each team was aggressively working on their products. The leader of our group, Mike, started the day out a little differently. He prepared ice-breakers so we could better understand our teammates and work more cohesively throughout the weekend. After the fun, my team got down to business and delegated tasks for the developers and the business analysts to work as efficiently as possible. The developers worked on making a working website while the business analysts worked on the business pitch. During the day, a marketing analysis workshop was held by NeON Brand, a digital marketing consulting firm, which offered tips on how to conduct a micro and macro analysis of markets. This was an informal and progressive workshop to attend especially for the business students at the event. Additionally, staff were on hand to assist the teams.
The last day was the big day: presentation day. The thought of pitching to experienced judges was nerve-racking, especially because I, as a first-time attendee, did not know what to expect. In the morning was final preparation where there was time to receive additional mentoring and last-minute advice before pitching. After all of the pre-presentation craziness, judges were seated and the presentations began. Every team that presented provided a business plan and a demo of their product, and I could tell these teams were not messing around. The Developers.Vegas team and I were the last to present. We were all nervous about our demo, for we really hoped that the judges would see the importance of our product. Success! The Developers.Vegas team ended up getting second place and we all went out to celebrate that night. Our team was phenomenal and truly a fun group of people to work with, and even if our team would have gotten last place I still learned so much from this event and am so glad that I was pushed to join it.
*Huge shoutout to the Developers.Vegas team for being the best team out there: Mike Ziethlow, Howard Chen, Shireen Garcia, Marlo Asis, and Abdul Zalil*
No matter what you specialize in, you could gain from attending Startup Weekend. This $100 investment has little risk and a high ROI, or return on investment, for my finance majors out there. Here are some pro tips for those of you that are considering attending a Techstars Startup Weekend:
Pro tip #1: Focus on the team before the product: It is important to choose the team that is right for you. A strong team with a mediocre product is usually better than a terrible team with a great product. There were teams that crumbled, and there were teams that flourished. The teams you choose greatly affects the overall experience and how much fun you have during the weekend, so be selective!
Pro tip #2: Come with an idea in mind: The more diverse ideas thrown around at Startup Weekend, the better the conference will be. This is a safe space where everyone is encouraged to pitch an idea no matter how ridiculous. But don’t worry if you don’t have a pitch, a pitch is not required if you want to work on other ideas/ teams.
Pro Tip #3 (For new developers): Take advantage of free resources prior to the event: If you are interested as entering as a developer but have little to no experience, https://www.freecodecamp.org/ is a free resource that you could take advantage of. Also, Demo Day, a free event where developers show off their new projects, is held on the second Saturday of every month and is accessible at this link here. This is another good resource in which you could scope out the developer community and ask some questions about how to get started.
Rebel Venture Fund associates, board member, alumni and other Startup Weekend attendees enjoying the event.
About the Author
Ben Brikman is an undergraduate student at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) that currently holds an associate position at the Rebel Venture Fund. He is a Pre-Business major with a Global Entrepreneurship minor. On top of business inquiries, Ben partakes in the film community at UNLV and is a two time participant in the UNLV 48 hour film festival. Ben hopes to one day startup his own business using his knowledge gained from the Rebel Venture Fund and the Global Entrepreneurship Experience program while also leveraging his passion for the arts.