What is Startup Weekend?
Startup Weekend is an event hosted all over the world. The basic premise of the weekend is to take your business from concept to creation in 54 hours. It might sound a little bit crazy but it’s absolutely possible to do and some teams even turn a profit in that time. The focus is on the Lean Startup Methodology by Eric Ries, where people are encouraged to remove traditional boundaries and monetary restraints and focus on getting stuff done.
Startup Weekend has over 45,000 people in its alumni network and over 36% of teams continue working on their Startup Weekend business after the event. I find Startup Weekend rejuvenates my motivation for life, business and increasing my skills. It’s easy to fall into monotony when working on a project for a long time and progress doesn’t get made for whatever reasons. What I love about Startup Weekend is the crowd it attracts. The people who attend are lovers of getting stuff done. 80% of participants keep in contact and continue working with each other. The reason I was able to get into so many of the projects I’m doing at the moment is because of initially the Ruby on Rails meetup in Adelaide and then from that going to Startup Weekend and meeting so many great, enthusiastic people.
The event started at 5:30 Friday night for networking and as people trickled in the conversations grew and the beer flowed. I spent some time talking to people from previous projects and Startup Weekends as well as meeting new people who were all remarkable. A lot of the discussion was around pitching and whether or not you were going to be pitching an idea. I had been planning on pitching and had an idea I wanted to share. Public speaking hasn’t traditionally been one of my strong points, it’s something I’m looking to work on so I’ve been jumping on opportunities to do more of it. My idea was for a platform that gave people in office social clubs the chance to tip/bet on a variety of sports and games from all over the world.
At 7pm we were called into the main meeting area of Hub Adelaide for Chris Hooper’s opening speech accompanied by Vinh Giang and Paul Smith (ANZ). Chris repeatedly gave his thanks for the great South Australian startup community and shared some stats about Startup Weekend and local successes while Vinh showed us some great magic/social engineering tricks.
Pitching time. We formed a line and were given our instructions, 60 seconds to pitch before the crowd started clapping and you had to leave the stage. A lot of people ran out of time but overall it was successful and everyone got a lot out of it.
After pitching we had to go with a piece of butcher’s paper and write down the core parts of our idea. When all the pitches were done the participants go around, discuss ideas and give a sticker to an idea they like. In the end my idea didn’t get through and I had to go and find another team to join. I settled on the Lend A Skilled Hand (LASH), Sam plans to match skills of volunteers to organisations who need those particular skills.
After we formed our team of 5 we went out to a pub with our butchers paper and mind mapped to better understand the idea as a team and see where our skills and experience can fit in.
Maybe going out to a pub until past midnight wasn’t the best choice when we wanted to start the next day at 8 but we all made it into Hub and got our work space, a nice set of tables and desks with more than enough space for our team. We were close to the always lovely social media crew and kitchen so food and good people were always nearby. We worked on our business model canvas and what LASH actually does.
We came to the idea that LASH connects professionals with communities and organisations that need their help. The problem we’re solving is that a lot of people who have skills and higher education spend their volunteering time packing hampers or teaching English when they have no knowledge of teaching practices. What we want to see is people using their skills they already have in a volunteering setting. I’ve had experience with volunteering programs we’re I have used my skills and where I have not used them. The ones where I get to help in a way that puts my skill set to use is always better for myself and the organisation so this is an idea I could get behind.
A great example of this is accounting firms loaning out their staff to charities and organisations that need auditing. We continued working and were able to set up landing pages to get some info from volunteers as well as organisations that need them. We got 6 organisations signed up and 63 volunteers. As the day got on a bit we hit the streets and spoke to people to see what they wanted in the platform and what would encourage them to sign up. Our business plan was really coming together at this point.
Sunday was a focus on pitching and writing down what our business is and does. We had mentors from a variety of companies come past and say that they liked the program from both a volunteer perspective and the position of a team member that had a certain amount of volunteer hours to do per year. We had an elevator pitch to prepare so we got onto that quickly and eventually Sam went off to do test our idea with strangers, we were able to get feedback from mentors on presenting and how to organise our pitch. As always the lovely Startup Weekend vollie team kept us entertained with a dance competition, food, social media antics, node ponies and a lot of other fun stuff.
We collectively wrote a pitch that reflected how we all saw the company, made some videos for our presentation and website, continued to grow our user bases and started practicing the final pitch that Sam would be presenting to the groups. We found a balcony up on the second floor of Hub Adelaide where we could practice.
Sam was able to get a few runs through the pitch before it was time to present. We made our way back downstairs for dinner, networking and more speeches. We heard a lot of great pitches and found out what everyone else had been working on over the weekend. Lend A Skilled Hand was the last pitch of the night and it went really well with some great crowd engagement and presenting from Sam.
Check out our final pitch (and everyone elses) below:
Startup Weekend Adelaide has a stack of great prizes from a few different organisations in Adelaide like BDO, Majoran Distillery, New Venture Institute and others all put in prizes for participants to help take their Startup Weekend businesses to the next level and turn them into successful, profitable ventures. New Venture Institute liked our work! We won a Venture Dorm scholarship, which starts next week.
Well we’re not sure. Our team is keen to keep going with LASH and see where it takes us. We have 6 organisations that need people and 63 that would like placement. If you’d like to help us change the world through positive change or need people to help you make an impact, check us out at http://lendaskilledhand.co.
I had a lot of fun at Startup Weekend and can’t wait for the next one! I’ll leave you with this last video from Google Entrepreneurs.