On April 8, 2014, I drew this picture based on the “Shit Hackers say” video by Major League Hacking during their Major League Hackathon. Hackers sulking over wi-fi and power seemed so piffling to me (as an outsider), and it fits right into my blog which was exactly about that: First world problems!

Fast Forward: Two Non-IT degrees and an 8-year banking career later – Here I am, stepping into the fascinating world of startups.

After dabbing my hands at planning and organizing developer days, partner events and tech conferences, And having heard so much about Startup Weekends, I decided to give it a shot and see what all that hype was about.

I wasn’t sure what to expect going into the weekend, but I was excited to meet a bunch of like-minded people and work my tail off all weekend. Walking in, I sheepishly scanned the room for a friendly face and found Babs and Mike.. the two amazing organizers of the SWDC Media (among others) .. And I knew .. I knew this was not going to be a typical weekend for me. And how right I was…

So, let me take you through a step by step process on the what’s and how’s of a startup weekend, from the eyes of a planner:)

What is a Startup Weekend?

Startup weekends are weekend-long /54-hour events (typical duration is Friday evening – Sunday Night) where developers, designers, marketers, product managers, and startup enthusiasts come together to share ideas, form teams, build products, and hopefully launch startups!

Who can attend?

Anyone! Yes, anyone:) You do not have to be a coder, designer, marketer, product manager … What you do need is the desire to build something, a team player and a creative thinker.

How much do I pay?

For designers, developers or marketeers, the typical cost is between $75 and $150 (less for students). However, if you don’t carry these skills or are interested in the planning aspect then you can opt to volunteer, free of charge. The ticket covers meals, snacks, and access to exclusive resources from the sponsors.

How does it work?

Intro: The weekend starts off with quick introductory speeches from the Facilitators and organizers introducing themselves to the crowd.

Games: After the speeches, the crowd is divided into 10 teams (varies depending on the number of participants) and each team chooses their own captain and co-captain. Turn by turn, each team is then asked to shout random words that are being noted on paper by a team of volunteers. After reaching about 50 words, the facilitators ask the teams co-captains to step forward. On a call of 1,2 and 3, they are asked to run to the board and circle two words that will now be the name of their “new company”. (What? Cool!) As someone standing next to the board, I felt a stampede headed my way as the facilitator said: “GO”!. (Woah!)

The Fun pitch: Now that the teams have a name, they work on their pitch. The typical time for such pitches is 1 minute. Some of the most hilariously creative ideas come out of this game:)

The Real Pitch: After about an hour of that, participants are invited to pitch their ideas and the top 10 or so become the businesses that will be developed over the weekend. Once the 100 or so participants are released they search for a group that will hopefully win the competition for the best business idea. That’s when the gloves come off and the race to build a validated business is on.

Why should you attend?

  • Because you have the opportunity to work on new platforms and learn new languages.
  • Because Networking: If you’re like me, and are trying to build a network – then this is the best place to be. All you need is that one person who likes your idea. You may possibly walk away with a job or an investor!
  • Because Statistics: Over 36% of Startup Weekend startups are still going strong after 3 months
  • Because you will meet some of the most amazing people and creative thinkers.
  • Because there is cool swag.
  • My take: Because it’s fun.

Oh, and also because there is free wi-fi:)