Calling all developers, designers, marketers, students and anyone who has ever wanted to start their own business. Startup Weekend NYC starts on Friday, June 21st, and it’s the chance for people from different backgrounds and specialties to come together to pitch ideas, create business models, code and design, all while getting market validation and feedback on their ideas. And by the end of the weekend, you may well be in business – literally.
The event, hosted by Startup Weekend, a non-profit organization headquartered in Seattle, Washington, which aims to empower entrepreneurs learning how to navigate the startup world, is a 54-hour weekend of action, innovation and education.
Cody Brown, Co-Founder of the interactive web design tool Scroll Kit, will kick off the event as the keynote speaker before Startup Weekend’s open call for pitches begins.
And whether the idea is something someone has been contemplating for 10 years or 10 minutes, all pitches are welcome, as long as that person has never launched that idea before.
“The key thing is to really focus on a new idea that that person has not executed yet. It’s very unfair to have a person come and say, ‘I have this company and I want to build a mobile app for it,’ and pitch their concept for the sole purpose of using the people there to get free labor. We definitely discourage people from pitching their existing companies or products,” said Andrew Young, one of the organizers of Startup Weekend NYC, and a former Startup Weekend attendee.
Once all the pitches are complete, popular vote determines the 10-20 ideas – depending on the size of the group – that will advance to the next round. This is when teams are formed through a completely organic process in which likeminded individuals navigate towards the ideas that most intrigue them and offer different skill sets to the team, based on their backgrounds. It’s a chance to network with people who have the same motivation and passion, while hopefully forming lasting bonds.
“If you look at the people on Friday night, then follow them throughout the weekend, and look at that same group of people together on a Sunday afternoon after they’re done demoing, you would think they’ve been best friends for many years,” said Young.
And aside from the services offered by the attendees, such as coding, legal, web design, marketing, etc., people also have the opportunity to speak with the dozen coaches who will act as mentors and provide guidance and pose questions that ensure that the teams are on the right track to building businesses and products that can be successful.
“We like to invite the entrepreneurs, designers and developers who have their own startups, or who have experience working with startups, and know what it’s like to take an idea and try to validate it and try to build it from nothing to something. They’ve gone through the whole process of talking to people, building it, creating business models and things like that.”
Jason Baptiste, CEO of OnSwipe, a publishing platform for touch-enabled devices, and Adam Sherbell, a former Startup Weekend winner, are among the dozen coaches who will be present at the event.
Inspired by the Lean Startup methodology, teams focus on customer feedback and discovering market validation for their ideas. They are encouraged to go out and talk to potential customers to learn more about what their key demographic would be willing to pay for the product or service, and if it’s even something that they would be interested in using. The value placed on market testing before production is one of the key differences between Startup Weekend and the many hackathons that occur in the city.
“Startup weekend is all about creating something new, but also figuring out how you can monetize it, how you can sell it, and how you can distribute it. It’s all about creating sustainable businesses vs. something that’s only awesome, shiny and flashy that may be cool, but that no one would pay a dollar for.”
And while competition is not the main driving force behind the event, a panel of judges will critique the presented ideas based on business model, how the team plans to make money, market validation and execution, to choose the top three teams that will win prizes. Past prizes from sponsors have included legal services, web services and gift cards. For this event, the winning team will receive free office space from Regus, one of the event’s sponsors, Regus.
Charlie O’Donnell, Partner at Brooklyn Bridge Ventures, Liz Crawford, CTO of Birchbox, Wendell Lansford, CEO of Offerpop and Hilary Gosher, Managing Director at Insight Venture Partners, make up the panel of judges who will provide feedback to the teams after each 5-minute presentation and 5-minute Q&A. And pick the winners.
“There’s really no one type of idea or specific niche that does the best. It really comes down to the teamwork and collaboration within the team.”
And while Startup Weekend is open to all sectors and markets, Young has noticed that New York’s love of all things tech.
“I went to Canada about 4 or 5 weeks ago and the ideas that came out of that group were less techy, less mobile, less web and more on business products or tangible products that people can touch and manufacture.”
Thanks to Startup Weekend, people can make lifelong connections, learn a new skill, or get that extra boost of confidence to maybe one day take that leap of faith and start a real business out of their ideas. More than half the teams continue to work together to build their companies. Zaarly, Foodspotting and LaunchRock all emerged as a result of Startup Weekend.
Another New York Startup Weekend event is scheduled for the fall and the organization looks forward to exploring new verticals and attracting new attendees. And the future of Startup Weekend just became even brighter, thanks to a recent union with Startup America Partnership to form UP Global, a way to provide stronger support and resources to startup communities.
The Kauffman Foundation, a non-profit that works to advance entrepreneurship and improve education, has sponsored the organization from the start, including all of Startup Weekend events that now take place in 100 countries and 200 cities around the world.
“I hope more people attend Startup Weekend and are exposed to it because there’s so much opportunity and it just takes that little spark to get people going and to really realize that they can do something amazing and great for themselves.”
Editor’s note: AlleyWatch is pleased to be a media partner for the upcoming Startup Weekend NYC. Anyone who shares this post on Facebook or Twitter with the hashtag #AlleyWatch will be automatically entered into a drawing to win free tickets to this awesome event. Winners will be announced on Wednesday, June 19th.