Mentoring at Startup Weekend

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Over the 12-14th July I was a mentor at Wellington's 2019 Startup Weekend. For those who are unaware of what Startup Weekend is all about, it is a gathering of innovative people to think up a startup idea and develop it over the course of 54hrs, and then pitch it to a group of industry leaders - the winners getting some awesome prizes to help kick off their new startup business!

There's been heaps of different businesses that have come out of Startup Weekend; Banqer (helping primary school aged students get to grips with their finances through roleplay), Nisa (an underwear label that helps refugee women from the bottom up), and many many more.

I was there to be a mentor (one of 18), helping out the (12) organisers to run the event and, more importantly, guide the participants so they're working along the right track. The whole weekend is run by volunteers, so you know for sure everyone is dedicated to the cause! A massive shoutout to Travis and Ryan for having me, I had an amazing time!

The weekend started with 42 ideas being pitched on Friday night, then it whittled down to teams for 12 of the most popular pitches, and then those 12 teams worked their butts of to validate and develop their idea ready to present on Sunday night! There was running around as the participants went out onto the street to interview and test their ideas with potential customers, products being designed, slideshows being created, and pitches being rehearsed.

I found the most value I added to the weekend was helping the teams with their pitches, because I wasn't involved with their idea I was coming in almost blind each time I hear their pitches (and I hear each pitch probably four times before the big presentation!) so I was able to provide constructive feedback on the pitch alone, without their work interferring with what I was listening to or looking at.

As a lot of the participants were business or developer background-ed, I was able to give critique on how their presentations, particularly with the visuals.

  • from how many words should be on the screen (hint: not many, otherwise they'll be distracting for the audience who want to listen to you not read the screen)
  • to the graphics and imagery is included (hint: does it make sense to have them in, visuals can either be distracting or enhancing to the presentation and you need to be able to identify when that is)
  • to how the presentation is written (hint: if you present this to a child would they be able to understand, avoid lingo and over-complicating the idea).

The biggest thing I took away from the weekend was to not get caught up in your original idea and to go with the flow. Almost none of the original pitches from Friday night stayed the same when Sunday night rolled around, simply because their ideas were pushed, developed and pivoted so many times!

It is often so hard to let go of something that you started off with, especially when it is your own idea, but in order for your idea to be the best it can be, it needs to be allowed to grow. You never know, someone may have already done it before, there's legal or ethical issues, or it might even just be the starting stepping stone for something bigger and better.

Everyone did such an incredible job, it was amazing to see how these little nuggets of ideas pivoted and evolved into something amazing. 

I loved being involved with Startup Weekend, it has become my goal to be more involved with the creative community and this was a wonderful event to be a part of. If you're considering attending or volunteering at Startup Weekend in your local area, I would certainly recommend it! Also, check out this highlight reel video from the weekend too!

- Louise x

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