Five Things NOT to Do at Startup Weekend

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Perhaps you’ve attended Startup Weekend here in Evansville or some other place and you haven’t gotten what you really wanted out of the experience. No judgement, but as you are planning for the intense 54 hour experience, work to avoid the following SW foibles:

1) Be a wallflower – There always seems to be a person or two sitting on the sidelines during the weekend, watching the action. It could be shyness or fear, or maybe someone who just wanted to pick up a few pointers and then go out on their own later. This is a mistake – Startup Weekend is NOT an event made for observing, it’s an event made for doing. Dive in, pitch in, ask questions and above all make mistakes. Get involved, conquer the fear – you will really benefit from what you do, not what you see.

2) Be a part time participant – I’ve gotten this question before “With everything else going on, I will fit this in. I can only be there Friday night, half of Saturday and then I can get there just before the pitches start of Sunday. Is that okay?” My answer – “No. Don’t come. Wait until you can commit to the entire weekend. You’ll miss so much by going in and out of the experience that you will not get the full benefit.

3) Lock yourself into a role – Okay, you are a computer coder and that’s what you like. I get it, and you will be writing and programming with whatever team you join. But you can do so much more. I’m a speaker and marketer, with no hard engineering or accounting experience. But one weekend I helped figure out the process and costs involved in manufacturing catalytic converters. I learned more in that 2 hours than in any other facet of that weekend. Open up to new roles – and it doesn’t matter what you don’t know, because a lot of other people around you (like me) don’t know it either.

4) Be inflexible with your idea – Here is the number one mistake I’ve seen during Startup Weekends. Yes, it was your original idea. You’ve been thinking, writing and researching it for a long time by yourself. You pitched it and four other people got excited about it Friday night and joined you in exploring it. And 15 minutes into the first group conversation, the idea is taking a left turn you never considered. You get a little irritated, maybe even angry – “They aren’t listening, this idea is great and why do they want to change it?” The dreaded “pride of authorship” rears up and all of a sudden brainstorming turns into arguing and fighting. I’ve seen it more than once, and I’ve probably been guilty of it a time or two in the past. Get real – if the idea in its original form was really any good, you would already be in business and working on your IPO. You came here to learn and this might be the biggest lesson of the weekend.

Please note that I am NOT advocating “group think”. Just because you are in a group doesn’t mean you don’t stand up for what you believe in or allow what you feel is a flawed idea to gain traction because everyone else likes it. That’s also a bad idea. But don’t allow your “pride of authorship” to get in the way of improving your idea.

5) Let it end – Biggest lie told at Startup Weekend – “Hey, what a great time – we should all stay in touch and get together again soon.” And we never do. If nothing else, use this weekend to increase the size of your network. Then when it’s over… NETWORK.

We are about two weeks away. I’m already getting excited.