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Eight top tips to winning a Startup Weekend

Wednesday, 24 October 2012 | By Isaac Souweine

feature-StartupWeekend-thumbIt’s fast approaching Startup Weekend time again – the quick-fire start-up get together is set to return to Sydney on November 9.

 

Last year, the 54-hour sprint to dream up and create a venture was held in more than 100 countries around the world. In Australia, the concept now spans Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and, most recently, Perth.

 

Startup Weekend opens the door to investor funding and commercialisation of ideas, but it also provides something far more intangible to tech-minded soloists – the opportunity to meet others, discuss ideas and collaborate on projects.

 

So how can you put together a winning proposition that will wow the Startup Weekend judges?

 

Below, Isaac Souweine, general manager of Pollenizer Southeast Asia, gives his eight top tips:

 

1. Explain why your solution makes sense

 

Your start-up solves a problem. Great! But how much better is your approach than what people have access to today?

 

And why hasn’t anyone else tried the solution you’re proposing? Or if others have tried it, why haven’t they succeeded?

 

Answering these deeper questions makes your story more convincing and reassures the judges that you aren’t oversimplifying.

 

2. Don’t ignore user acquisition

 

Most Startup Weekend pitches focus on product and business model, while relegating user acquisition to generalisations about viral marketing or social media.

 

Set your pitch apart by identifying specific strategies for acquiring early adopters and tangible ideas for building user acquisition into the DNA of your product.

 

3. Go beyond surveys

 

Surveys are a good starting point for customer validation. But the cost for someone to affirm your idea via a survey is low.

 

One way to go deeper is through intensive customer interviews with potential power users. Even better is to validate customer interest through an exchange of value, e.g. collecting email sign-ups for a beta launch.

 

For super extra credit, see if you can sell your product or service to a customer before the weekend is over.

 

4. Do your market sizing

 

Back of the envelope calculations to estimate your market size are easy to do and can be built on top of publicly available information.

 

Take the time to estimate how many users you could realistically attain. A quick exercise in market sizing will also help you to precisely define your target user.

 

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5. Make sure you have a one-liner

 

Your one-liner is your home page text, your cocktail party explanation, your elevator pitch in a three-story building.

 

After 48 hours, you should know it cold. If your pitch is a sandwich, think of your one-liner as the bread.

 

Make sure it’s there at the beginning and the end or all the goodness in the middle can get a bit messy.

 

6. Use the crowd wisely

 

On Friday night you are pitching to the crowd, trying to stand out in order to get the best team members.

 

In this setting, jokes, stunts and general craziness can be big assets. On Sunday you are pitching to the judges.

 

They may like your jokes, but it’s unlikely they’ll give you credit for them unless there is a solid business idea behind them. So camp it up on Friday, but bring your game face for Sunday afternoon.

 

7. Beware of ad-based business models

 

Advertising works well for the Yahoos and Facebooks of the world thanks to their massive scale. It doesn’t work as well for start-ups, who have trouble aggregating large audiences.

 

Advertising is even more challenging in the developing world, where digital budgets are still small.

 

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t talk about advertising, but it does mean that you need to explain why it will work for you.

 

8. Don’t slag your competition

 

Firstly, they have a product and customers and you do not. Secondly, the law of averages says that they are not complete idiots.

 

Your competition may well be ripe for disruption, so by all means go for the jugular, but don’t minimise their advantages or the difficulty of unseating them.

 

As for teams that think they don’t have competitors, remember that someone does not need to have the same product or business model as you to compete for your users.

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