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.
- Thick accents require slow speaking directly into the mic so that listeners understand the idea you are trying to get across
- Too much enthusiasm, to the point of shouting, will scare people away from your idea
- Nerves make for a disjointed pitch- read something you’ve written if you’ve only got one minute to pitch and are nervous!
- Too vague- make your point clear and include no meaningless, extra information
- 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!