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Don’t fail at failing: things I learned at the last Startup Weekend in Turin

This weekend I’ve been at my first startup weekend.

I’ll be honest: I failed on so many levels, and our presentation was one of the worst.

But even given that, at the end of Sunday the main feeling was of excitment and satisfaction.

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I had done something I never did before with a really good team. Failing really meant learning. And hey, it has been so much fun.
So here’s a non-exhaustive list of things I learned – that I’m eager to integrate with your feedbacks:

Before the startup weekend

Dos

1) Educate yourself.

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At least, go to the startup weekend site and understand how it works, read some material, watch some videos.
Know the startups of the incubator hosting the event. One team created an almost exact copy of an already incubated startup.

 

2) If you present an idea, practice your 60 seconds pitch.

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Use a simple pitch template, and get to know it well.
I prepared my pitch just some moments before I spoke. No no no. Practice with a timer, iterate and refine your pitch.
The pitch is much more important the idea itself.
Communication is what people understand, not what you transmit. Would you sell a 100€ wine in a plastic cup?

3) Listen to other people’s pitches carefully

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Also, just because I was not prepared on my pitch, I could not focus on other people’s pitches – so my judgment on what the best idea was has been crippled.

4) Travel

Find a cheap flight to a different city in a different nation. Three persons in my team did so.

5) If you are a developer, have a readily deployable website/app template.

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And have one for each of the technologies you know, so that you can choose the one which is the most know in your team.
A good template should provide at least user authentication, the possibility to send email and other basic stuff.

6) Don’t be alone

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Organize a little team or at least come with a friend who can help you with the core activities of your idea.
Getting a designer was almost impossible at this event – and you really want one.

During the team work

DOs

7) Be open to other people’s vision

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Do not fall in love with your version of the idea, especially if it’s your idea. Be prepared to pivot and drastically change your idea.

8) Be honest and direct

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If somebody does something that you know is wrong, don’t be afraid to tell.

9) It’s about fake mockups.

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Mock, Mock mock. Your deliverable is 90% a mock – especially if you are in Italy and people able to deliver an app in 54 hours are impossible to find

10) Use and abuse the mentors

Especially at the beginning. You are here to learn and explore, even more than to produce.

11) Validate.

We were thinking about supermarkets and hotels as partners for Parkitude, but didn’t even think about making a phone call.
Contact potential partners or customers; make interviews, make that phone call. Judges want what an investor wants: metrics.

The final pitch

Donts

12) Don’t do social medias

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We created a Facebook, Twitter and Google plus page for Parkitude for no reason. We put a QR code as the final slide.
Truth is, a Qr Code is completely useless if people are not engaged.
Facebook likes are exactly what they seem when others beg for it: useless crap.

Dos

13) KISS.

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Keep it simple, stupid.
One of the most successful presentations was made of photos of hand drawn user interface photoshopped into a fake iPhone.

14) Joke

Humor and a relaxed attitude are huge bonuses to a good pitch. They do not only provide a good laugh; they show how confident you are about your own idea.

About the organization

Don’t get me wrong; the organization has been great: the venue, the speakers, mentors, the cathering. Beers instead of energy drinks have been a nice add on.

However, there’s something that should really change at the next startup event:

  • Clearly state in your website if the event will be held in English or Italian; German people might have some language barrier problems.. #justsaying
  • A “mentoring brief” is useful on Friday night, not on late saturday afternoon; this is something that a mentor agreed on and said was going to change at the next event.
  • An earlier meetup could be great. Just to give some tools to the attendees; it’s sad, but we’re not in the Silicon Valley and we lack startup culture.

 What about you?

What’s your say  about this weekend? What have you been doing wrong? What would you do better next time?

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