11 Lessons Learned From Women 2.0 Startup Weekend

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By Audrey Fischer (Participant, Women 2.0 Startup Weekend 2011)  

Editor's note: These are 11 tips & tricks direct from a Startup Weekend attendee. As always, the freshest startup advice is picked daily here at Women 2.0.

  1. Brainstorm before before you arrive.Think about how you can contribute. I initially thought Startup Weekend was all about taking the improvisation route, figuring it out as you go along. In retrospect, I could have saved myself time over the weekend by taking full inventory of my skills ahead of time, and maybe even making a list of resources that I know about MVPs, prototyping, wireframes, pitch decks, etc.
  2. Join a team you have chemistry with.Before joining a team, ensure that you have chemistry with a majority of its members. I chose my team based on who I'd be working with, and I'm glad I did it. Winning is not guaranteed. The guarantee is that you will spend 54 hours with your team, and it helps to work with people you enjoy. Inevitably, making your choices in this way will contribute to the quality of the end product.)
  3. Start your deck early.If you have a clear vision of what you want to create from the get-go, I recommend starting the deck very early in the process. Doing so will create a road map for what your team needs to focus on for the remainder of the weekend. I learned this the hard way. We didn't finish our deck until the last minute, and I think it would have been better had we started it earlier.
  4. Work in pairs to get more done, faster.If you have a large team, I recommend working in pairs. I believe it contributes to greater productivity and creativity when there is someone to brainstorm and create with. There's also a constant feedback loop through which everything is filtered, and you'll most likely end up with a higher quality product.
  5. Watch a few example pitches.If you’ve never been to Startup Weekend, it may be helpful to see how past participants have chosen to pitch. We watched a couple of past pitches from startups who are still thriving today. I especially recommend Foodspotting’s pitch and Zaarly's pitch.
  6. Focus on the MVP.Focus on the MVP when pitching, and build it if at all possible. Our team ended up focusing too much on the larger vision for our startup. The wiser route would have been to pitch and demo an MVP.
  7. Have frequent team check-ins.Try to incorporate regular communication in your team. Mine was a large team, and for this reason especially I think it would have been better if we had updated each other more often. It's easy to lose to track of what your teammates are working on, and as a result lose track of where you can be helpful.
  8. Don't forget the mentors.The mentors are there to help you, and you should take full advantage of them. They're kind, knowledgeable, and want to help make your product better. I wish we'd pitched to more mentors to get their feedback. It would have refined our pitch and vision.
  9. Don't make last minute changes to your presentation.In the last minutes, try not to make any major alterations to the pitch. We gave into temptation and included a few things that we didn't rehearse, and unfortunately it made us run over time. If you need to make minor changes, go ahead and do it, but be aware of how this will affect your pitch length.
  10. Don't forget, Startup Weekend is a networking event.Ah, spoken like a true business person. Remember: not only is this a Startup Weekend, but the after-hours networking events provide an opportunity to meet new people who are passionate about startups. These are the people who like to get their hands dirty.
  11. Have fun!You're sacrificing your restful weekend for this, so you should have a good time! You'll have an opportunity to work with new people, learn from mentors, pitch to a panel of judges, exercise your brilliant talent, and launch a startup in a weekend -- keep this in mind, and have a blast!

Editor's note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below. About the guest blogger: Audrey Fischer attended Women 2.0 Startup Weekend on November 18-20, 2011 in San Francisco, CA. She is a founding member of Perfect Beauty, an online community for beauty enthusiasts. She attended UC Berkeley with a degree in Industrial Engineering and was a Financial Analyst at Goldman Sachs before taking a year off to travel to Europe and South America. Follow her on Twitter at @audreyfischer.