10 tips on how to rock SW: Guest Post


My name is Joey Aquino and this is me hanging out with a real wild African cheetah.

Freaked out at SW Jeddah

Freaked out at SW Jeddah


I am the fortunate one that will be coming out and facilitating your Startup Weekend! I just wanted to write to you all was simply to share some best practices on how you can dominate the event this weekend. After doing nearly 40 events and now actually working for Startup Weekend HQ, there are common pitfalls I see all the time. Here are 10 things to remember when going into this weekend!

1. Forget about the actual “launching a company” part of this.

Seems weird but even though we will all be launching projects, the main goal at Startup Weekend is actually about the experience. The experience of getting away from your day to day, the experience of learning the process of entrepreneurship, the experience of collaborating with amazing people within your community, all of which really has nothing to do with a specific business idea let alone the actual success of it. If you do have a goal for the weekend, it should be to learn something new.

2. Put yourself out there.

Now for us guys, this may be a little difficult because we may be used to going out to bars and constantly getting shut down for dates (well this could just be me but for my benefit will generalize). Usually the goals of girls at bars aren’t aligned with ours, BUT THIS EVENT IS COMPLETELY DIFFERENT! All of the people are here for the same reason and that is to get to know each other, launch awesome projects and have fun. The risk of intentions not being aligned when you introduce yourself to someone at this event vs. meeting a stranger at a bar is like night and day. And if someone does shut you down for trying to get to know them at a SW, they suck and you probably don’t want to know anyways :) In this case, you should try to meet everyone. Be respectful, be honest and have fun meeting your community.

3. Format for 60 second pitch.

If you are pitching an idea on Friday night, remember you will only have 60 seconds and when I say 60secs, we mean it. So a best practice on the format of your pitch can go like this:

– 5-10sec: Briefly saying who you are. Usually people stumble over this part and waste a majority of their time just talking about themselves. Think about the most attractive part about your experience and why it translate towards a successful project and only say that, nothing more.
– 10-20sec: What your problem is. Dive right into the core problem you are trying to solve.
– 10-20sec: Your solution. Make sure you have some type of brand name for your idea. The reason is that people will be hearing a lot of ideas and having a name will make them remembering yours a lot easier.
– 5-10sec: Call for needs to make this project happen. Think through the key people you want to join your team and speak to them.

4. Know The Judging Criteria.

The three that we will be using:

Product Execution
– Have they established a “Minimal Viable Product” for the weekend (be it software, hardware, etc.)? *Note: an MVP is the minimum set of features to be able to start collecting data.

– How many iterations of the product have the done throughout the weekend? Successful product execution should be able to show you a roadmap of where they started and how they have collected data to evolve their product. A great SW team should be able to make it through many cycles of data collection throughout the weekend.

– Were they able to demo something functional?

Business Model Validation 
– Can you identify a clear customer segment?
– Can you identify a clear value proposition to that customer?
– How have you validated your solution with actual customers?
– How will you acquire customers?
– What differentiates your model from competitors?

*If you are new to “Customer Validation”, make sure to watch these amazing videos by Steve Blank himself about how to apply customer validation to a Startup Weekend:

User Experience Design
– What are the core needs of your users??
– How many users have you engaged with?
– How did you choose what to build as the MVP?
– What did you leave out of the MVP and why?
– Why did you design your solution to look and feel this way?

5. Create a 100 person customer contact list.

Since customer validation will be absolutely KEY to this event, if you are pitching an idea generate a list of customers you can engage with over the weekend. Now, if you have a consumer facing product, generating a list of over 100 contacts via all your social networks should be extremely easy. If you have a B2B/Enterprise concept, think specifically of where or how you may be able to get in contact with the right type of person for feedback.


“95% of the 30 people that filled out my Survey Monkey survey said they would use my product” IS NOT CUSTOMER VALIDATION. “I will give you $20 to build this solution right now” (and you taking their money) is. I have seen many teams actually have paying customers at the end of the weekend which is the epitome of customer validation. This can definitely happen even before you have something functional so get out of the building and find that solution customers are in such search of they are willing to pay you now for it.

7. You aren’t going to change the world in 54hrs.

Your idea may be big and disruptive but you need to be able to execute something to show there may be some legs on this idea in 54hrs. Think strategically on what you want to execute on in the weekend and what would be the most valuable part of start collecting data on to validate your idea.

8. Users are different than Customers.

Customers actually PAY for your product or service while users may not. Think of Google. Everyone is the “user” of Google.com but we do not PAY for their service, advertisers do. Make sure when you are validating you are collecting feedback from the right group.

9. The first questions you NEED to be able to confidently answer:

– What is the problem you are solving?
– Who are your users?
– Who are your customers?
– What is your solution?
– How have you validated your solution?
– How big is your market?

10. Help someone else. 

I think a lot of times at these types of events we get into the mindset of “what can I get out of this?” The problem is that people who tend to have that narrow of a focus tend to lose out on most on the SW magic. There is something that happens when you let go of all expectation and go in with the mentality that as much as I get from the weekend I should give back as well. Everyone has something they can teach, give or offer and you will be amazed in how much greater of value you will receive after the weekend if you decide to give a little as well. This isn’t just about a 54 hour event this is about building a remarkable community you live in. Give a little bit!