How to win a startup weekend

By July 22, 2011 Business 3 Comments
Woah, you must be thinking “what the hell does Brian know about winning startup weekend?” Well after having been a judge at 4 events like Startup Weekend, I’m pretty sure I have the formula down. I know what the judges get impressed by, the audience, and what you realistically have time for.

First off let me get this out of the way: I cannot stand when people show up with a pre-cooked idea to a hackathon style event and expect to win. If you started building and planning your idea months or weeks before, and are just showing up trying to score a team to build stuff for you, then go fuck off. Also if you are showing up at every single hackathon with the same idea, please disqualify yourself right now. At three of the four events i’ve judged I saw one person pitching the same idea just slightly tweaked each time.

Ok that being said, here is the one skill you need for winning a hackathon style business incubation event: powerpoint.  Sure you could be a badass programmer, or designer, but realistically you aren’t going to be able to produce a production or even alpha level piece of software that will impress the crowds.  I know you’re probably saying “What do you mean, I’ve got 72 hours, I can build stuff FAST!” Well there are a number of factors in play working in concert against you. You won’t be familiar with your new team, feature creep will be a factor (no one can lock down a product feature set fast enough for a weekend sprint), you will pivot (its unlikely your original idea is viable after a few hours of brainstorming.

So why is powerpoint your greatest secret? Communication. The best projects can convey their purpose and objectives quickly and easily, having a great presentation makes it easier for the judges to grasp your idea. So what’re you waiting for? Go win a startup weekend!

- Note that if its a pure hackathon, and not about building a viable business, you better be able to code.

  • Manuel Rodriguez

    Thanks for the advice Brian. I will definitely take this to heart as I continue to crunch out this startup. I’m glad that you are local in South Florida. I look forward to connecting with you. 
    Manuel