Startup Weekend: A 54-hour taste of the startup world Trish Crompton April 4, 2013 Startups Fifty-four hours – that’s as long as you have to form a team, pitch an idea, then build and validate it. This takes a lot of hustle, coffee and energy drinks by the caseful. Why would anyone want to subject themselves to so much stress and so little sleep? According to Groupnotes co-founders Jason Moore and Matt Gardner, this is the best way to find out if you’ve got what it takes to be a part of the startup world. Groupnotes, a tech startup currently in the second cohort of Communitech’s HYPERDRIVE program, is an online platform that allows users to collaborate and comment directly onto websites. This weekend Communitech is bringing the first Startup Weekend to Waterloo Region, which hits close to home for both Moore and Gardner. Groupnotes came together out of two separate Startup Weekends; for them it served as more of a talent acquisition tool to form the current team, than a place to come up with an idea for a company, as they changed their idea a few times before founding Groupnotes. After experiencing and even coming out successful from two Startup Weekends, Moore and Gardner offered some advice on what to expect and how to get the most out of it. – The People – Essentially, you’re in a room full of like-minded people for 54 hours, who have the same energy and passion as you. “You could be meeting the next Steve Jobs” is the comparison that Gardner made to the talent and drive seen at these hackathons. When you’re giving the pitch, be specific on the positions that you need to fill in order to achieve the idea, i.e. what kind developer roles you’re looking for. Look for teammates who can work with a certain level of autonomy, as there is little time to micromanage during the weekend. It’s a weekend-long interview that puts people under pressure to see if they can perform and ultimately separates the talkers from the doers. – The Product – The judges are looking for the most viable idea, so you need to bring an idea that can be proven and not necessarily completed by the end of the weekend. “If you can’t build it in 54 hours, don’t bring it” is how Moore put it. Validate your market and remember, cash is king. This is not the only way to validate your product, but as Gardner stated, “If you’re making money, then you’re proving that you can make money”. – The Pitch – Be memorable. “People will identify with the idea, but after 80 or so pitches you need to do whatever it takes to make them remember you,” Gardner says. He followed this philosophy by wearing a ridiculous tie to the Toronto Startup Weekend and being known as that guy all weekend. All it takes is a minimal viable product, a validated market, and a team that has no issues with doing whatever it takes to prove they’ve got it. Finally, a few more words of wisdom from these Startup Weekend veterans: Pack extra monitors, power bars and caffeine.