I didn’t use to understand Startup Weekend. But now, I have an even bigger respect for the participants, the mentors and importantly, the organisers. Let me try and tell you why.

How does it work?

It’s 54 hours. No talk. All action. You go in on Friday night, not knowing anybody and come out of Sunday having met an incredible bunch of people. Check out this trailer for an idea:

I was lucky enough to be able to photograph the event and manage their twitter account (let me tell you, that was no breeze). I wanted to just share what Startup Weekend is about for all of you who have no idea what I’m talking about. Let me tell you now, after finding out what it is and after being able to attend two of them, it’s exciting to see how capable we, as human beings, are in creating something in such a small period of time!

Day 1

Imagine you’re a participant. You come in and start networking after you check in. After all, you can meet anybody anywhere you go – this is just one event where you can feel that everybody you find is ready and willing to start working.

The first thing that happens is a speaker comes in. In this Startup Weekend, SpacePortX’s Doug Ward come in and got the participants excited for the next few days – his talk was appropriately titled “Before I Die”. Doug is the founder of SpacePortX and co-founder of TechHub Manchester and Tech Britain. He’s an advisor to the University of Manchester and to Number 10 Downing Street. He also founded the UK and Business Technology Cluster Summit Group (TechCity UK Cluster Alliance). Even if you’re not in the startup scene – this was a big deal. 

What happens next? The pitches. Before anything happens, individuals can pitch their ideas and then the voting happens. The ideas with the most votes get to form their teams at the end of the night before getting to work at 9am in the morning!

Day 2

On Saturday, teams come in at 9am. As our facilitator said, “Work work work!”. This is the day all the teams start to make their plans to then validate their ideas. Mentors then come in and help teams out, giving individual feedback and advice.

Mentors included:

Nicole Yershon – globally recognised Innovation expert and Founder and CEO of Nicole Yershon Innovation People. A multiple gold award-winning pioneer and change agent with a broad knowledge of emerging technologies, she has flooded Second Life for the environment, provided for Fanta, inaudible audio languages to kids.

Gerasimos Balis – Entrepreneurship Researcher at the HighWire Doctoral Training Centre and innovation coordinator at Lancaster University Students’ Union. He supports students in starting new ventures.

Colin Tan – Founder & CEO of Rentlord, a Seedcamp and TechCrunch Disrupt company. He is also Entrepreneur-in-Residence and investor at Dotforge Impact, which applies technology to social ventures. Colin has also been Tutor in Culture and Literary Criticism at St John’s College, Cambridge University and has a special interest in humanities and the arts.

Sophie Boydell – Works within the Group Open Innovation team at Barclays based at Rise Manchester. Rise is an community where the brightest and best innovators can develop, collaborate and scale together. She works to create collaborative partnerships within the organisation and Fintech community across the North West.

Paul Bason – Director of Digital Innovation at Manchester Metropolitan University and Digital Media Innovations Director at University College Falmouth.

Rupert Wingate-Saul – Investment Director at AXM Venture Capital Ltd, and makes investments into creative and digital companies. He sits on the board of a number of venture-backed startups.

The FreshMinds teamChris Thompson, Mathilde LeblondAli Whittle and Chris Leo – An award-winning insight and innovation consultancy based in London who “work with global brands to illuminate the path to growth”.

Shiraz Anwar – A hustler, entrepreneur, creative, digital and tech advisor with Business Growth Hub.

Tomas Paulik – Founder and software architect of Shout! platform, a tech startup company focused on Smart Cities from the consumers’ perspective. Graduate of the University of Manchester and ex-Senior Software Development Engineer at Microsoft.

As you can see, a bunch of very established individuals who took their Saturday off to spend with budding entrepreneurs.

During the second day, teams started to validate their ideas – perhaps one of the most important things to do during the weekend: making sure there is demand for the idea.

At this point, most teams come back and pivot.

Day 3

On the final day, it felt like a year had past. Teams check in and get to work at 9am again and meet their coaches and mentors through the afternoon. At this point, ideas are cemented and teams are moving forward to generate their pitch presentations. At this point, everybody is tired and still trying their best to hustle – it’s the final push!

Then come the final pitches. There were two groups that changed their ideas completely, 3 hours before the judging began and one of those teams went on to win third place. Amazing.

As one of my friends said, “you will never understand the feeling and thrill of pivoting your idea at the very last minute before pitching” – Karan Navani

All in all, it was an intense weekend. I wasn’t even participating but I felt the stress, hard work and determination from a lot of the individuals. When you’re put in a room with such motivated people you kind of want to go out and do something with your life. In the cheesy sense, it gets you excited to work harder.

Teams come out with full business plans and market research in 54 hours, imagine what they can do in a month, or even a year. – Mustafa Mohamed

With a small group of individuals, we intend to bring Startup Weekend to Lancaster University – not limited to Lancaster University students only! So come to Startup Weekend at Lancaster University – like our page for more details! I guarantee you it is an event to go to at least once in your life.

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