I attended my last Startup Weekend in Mumbai last week. To begin with my expectations from this 54 hour event spread over 3 days were minimal. To put it simply, I did not take it very seriously. And no, nothing phenomenal happened after it ended. However something changed in how I perceived things, people and ‘time’ in my day to day life. And like they say perception is reality. So, what is Startup Weekend after all?
For starters, Startup Weekend is an organization that holds local chapters across the world to empower individuals to give a shot to entrepreneurship. It brings together software developers, designers, marketers, product managers and startup enthusiasts to share ideas, form teams, build products, and launch startups. All done in 54 hours!
As fun and thrilling it sounds above, it is slightly an intense involvement of people from different backgrounds having different expertise driven by a desire to create. Startup Weekend provides a platform for anyone and everyone who wants to learn and execute what it takes to launch a company, expand their network, and learn new skills while receiving feedback from experienced entrepreneurs.
We gathered on Friday at 7pm in the LHC, IIT Powai. I sat at a table filled with people listening to the facilitator of the event, Sheikh Shuvo’s entertaining talk filled with crazy quirks as he set the tone for the event. It was pitch time soon. Each pitch was timed to be only a minute long. This was followed by voting for ideas.
To vote, everyone was handed 3 post-its. 30 charts were pasted on the wall with the ideas written on them and everyone was given 30 minutes to vote for the ideas they liked by placing post-it on the charts. The rules allowed to put all three in one chart or spread them across charts. Personally I experience this method more engaging than On-Line voting (another option to vote your favorite ideas) on SW Hub.
The post-it was counted, the charts were sorted and the top 11 ideas were announced. Then the chaos began of building a Team. The presenters of each of the top 11 ideas spread around the room and began the process of recruiting a team. After an hour, the teams congealed.
The First Night was when the real action began. Teams broke tasks out into development, marketing, customer validation and business model development. Tasks were assigned to individuals and deadlines set for what needed to be done by next day. By that point, it was almost 10:30 pm. We were being kicked out due to LHC policy.
Saturday was the dash mode of everyone in the team. Morning arrived too soon for the participants. Teams gathered, ate cereal for breakfast and dived straight into work. Saturday was a whirlwind for the teams with taking cues from mentors pouring in every hour. By the end of the day teams had basic prototype working.
Sunday: The final story
At five o’clock, we the organizers began the process of kicking everyone off the tables so they could set up for the presentations. People started to arrive and suddenly the room felt crowded. And then it was the showdown time.
Presentations started around six o’clock. Each team was given 5 minutes to present and 3 minutes to answer questions from a panel of three judges. Around 8pm, the awards began. For the main competition, awards were given for first, second and third place. 3D5, a tool to modernize the plaster experience, won first place. Second place was secured by Zelp , an app to track the warranty and customer care details followed by REVIU- an online portal for video reviews of everything and anything.
From Judges point of view, Mr. Sushanto, Founder and CEO, Lead Angels told us that he has judged previous SWs finalists too, but these presentations were the best he has witnessed so far in SW. He also said – “I was very impressed by the quality of the presentations and I would be happy to assist the teams in fund raising. Even if some of them are not immediately looking for funds we would be happy to showcase their ideas to our angels who meet every month. Please congratulate all the participants on my behalf and feel free to share this email with them”. Whereas our another judge Mr. Siddharth Ladsariya, Everest Flavours Ltd told us that he would love to invest in these ideas and bring them into his basket of investments.
Allow me to preach -Why attend a Startup Weekend?
• Get Inspired: Think the term ‘weekend’. What pops in mind is the term ‘chill’ maybe by way of hanging out with friends, going a mini tour, or just doing nothing. Now think creating a business out of an absolute naïve idea in one weekend. That’s the thrill it lands one in. Listening to 50 something ideas in a matter of 60 seconds pitches leaves one with wonder. It helped me realize that the most important step to reach your dreams is the next step you take.
There were ideas from connecting masses to therapists in a social media form setup to reporting and tracking governance issues in localities to finding the parking location without really toiling for it!
• Internalize yourself: More than anything else it is 3 day study yourself program. You get to follow your heart and do what inspire you. If you have been in doubt over your 9 to 5 job, or you have been stuck in monotony for years, Startup Weekend might make you go through a midlife or quarter life crisis. During the course of 54 hours you will meet and work alongside some of the most creative and unique individuals. Many of them have built their own careers and made their own path to success. That’s cool, but what is even cooler is hearing about how much they love what they do.
• Connect and not just network: There is something special about allowing yourself to think big and to openly recognize your dreams in front of others. It creates a level of vulnerability that helps people develop stronger rapports. I know this from personal experience. I will keep in touch with most of the people I met the Startup Weekend.
• Get Advised!: To smoothly run a business, one needs to move past the barriers that we place in front of our desires. These barriers (not enough money, knowledge, experience, demand, etc.) make it easy for us to not go into business. During Startup Weekend you will be bombarded with knowledge from mentors. Throughout the weekend you will hear great advice that will help you years down the road. They have been working to accomplish their dreams and they have committed many mistakes along the way. 20 year old Yash Shah , co-founder and CEO of areysun was the youngest mentor and the judge we had in Startup Weekend Mumbai.
Just to put it in perspective, there are 52 weekends in a year. That equals to 104 weekend days in a year. How much can you accomplish in 100 days? Can you chase your dream? If your answer is even a meek ‘yes’, give startup weekend a shot. It has potential to change your life.