Startup Weekend Day 1: Who the Heck is Wil Wheaton?

I had absolutely no idea what to expect at Startup Weekend Columbus. Coming from the ambiguous “non-technical” background I wasn’t sure how my skill set would fit on a team, or if I would learn anything from the experience. Despite my trepidations the following is a recap of what I did learn on Day 1.

The overarching theme of the weekend was as follows: “what problem are you solving.”

The first speaker of the weekend, Wil Schroter was the first of many speakers that focused on this point:  your business needs to “solve a problem.” He suggested testing your problem with “Google’s free marketing” or rather sign up for an Adwords account  with Google and take advantage of their first time user discounts (usually $100 of free advertising).

He suggested that it doesn’t matter where you send people on your Google Ads- he joked “even to a picture of  Wil Wheaton” (I had no idea that Wheaton was of Star Trek fame: clearly I was not his target audience with this joke.) The obvious reason why: your adds would focus on the people who matter to give you- the customers that care enough to click on your add thus giving you concrete proof what you are doing is on the right track.

The second speaker was a rather brash and plain speaking businessman, Mike Figluolo. Right off the bat he stated “ If I’m being an ass and I’m mean to you, then I’m probably doing you a favor.”

Again, he drove home the point “if you aren’t solving a real problem, then you have a BIG problem.” His best advice summed up: your solution must make sense in plain English, it must make money, and it must be defensible. The most interesting story he had to share with participants went as follows:

“While I was talking to one of the heads of The Scotts Miracle-gro one day he told me that we needed to think more out-of-the-box. Why?, I asked. Well, our competitors are not necessarily who you’d think they are: our biggest competitor, It’s Google. It’s Google?! Yes, it’s Google. Consumers have a choice, they can sit on their butts inside online or they can go out and garden. That my friends, blew my mind!”

Then it was Pitch Time!

Yes, I took notes on all 51 business pitches happening at Startup Weekend Columbus. There were some great ideas ranging from social media application, a WordPress Plug-In (our idea), to a “match.com for business recruiting” site. However, what I found more useful was the formulated list of what NOT to do while pitching a business idea.

  1. Thick accents require slow speaking directly into the mic so that listeners understand the idea you are trying to get across
  2. Too much enthusiasm, to the point of shouting, will scare people away from your idea
  3. Nerves make for a disjointed pitch- read something you’ve written if you’ve only got one minute to pitch and are nervous!
  4. Too vague- make your point clear and include no meaningless, extra information
  5. Do your research — make sure your product doesn’t already exist (unless you are creating a variation on an already existing idea)

All-in-all a great first day to the conference with a total of 16 ideas formed into teams that would present business pitches, products, and demonstrations 48 hours later!

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