10 things I learned from winning Startup Weekend München

So you’re thinking about going to a Startup Weekend near you? Or it just popped up in your newsfeed and you want to find out what all the fuss is about? Read on.

Last weekend I had the chance to participate at Startup Weekend München. What an awesome event! Although the closing party was just two days ago and I’m still pumped, I wanted to write up this short article while the memories are still fresh.

While this event is really not about winning or losing, I thought it would be a nice insight how we did it. We surely did some things right because Find The Bear was selected as overall winner of the contest! Woohoo!

Here’s how the numbers looked like:

Let’s get straight to the subject. Below are 10 things that I’ve learned during these 54 hours.

1. Team

You know how mentors say that sales/money/idea/whatever is the most important thing in order to be successful? Forget about that. 
 It was Saturday afternoon, 24 hours into the competition and we’ve been running circles for the last hours with our idea. No plans how to move on, nothing seemed to make sense.

BUT we didn’t panic.

After one brainstorming session and one famous coin flip, we picked a new idea and decided to go all in! If we haven’t had confidence in our team, our story would’ve stopped right there.

2. Multiculturalism

It’s maybe the best thing that could’ve happened to us! I have no idea how we all landed in the same team, but our members were from Canada, Catalonia, Germany, Italy, Hong Kong, Romania (Transylvania!) and Turkey!

With this cultural background our ideas were often very different on certain topics. While this can lead to problems, we’ve discussed every single member’s opinion and tried to take the best decision afterwards. 
 Be open-minded and learn to listen!

Oh, and can you imagine a better team with a mission to solve language barriers like this one? Find the bear solves your everyday problems in your native language. Go check it out!

3. Don’t be afraid to pivot

If you all have a bad feeling about your idea and think you’re not going anywhere with it, don’t be afraid to take drastic measures.

4. Trust in others

You have 54 hours to do the market research, gather feedback, create an MVP and prepare for the final presentation. That’s a whole lot of work and a short time! Decide who is in charge of what and have full trust in others, that’s the only way it can work.

5. Be lean

The lean startup method should be taught in school after learning how to count!

We use it all the time at hipwerk and you should too! Read everything you can find about it on the internet and DO read the book too. Every iteration of our team looked like this:

  • Make an assumption
  • Build & Launch right away
  • Measure (feedback)
  • Adapt

We’ve launched the first version of our website on Saturday evening (would’ve launched it even earlier if it weren’t for the coin flip, haha), and made tens of iterations based on the feedback we collected until the final presentation.

6. Network

While you surely can’t work 24/7 on your idea, take some time for networking. There are awesome people around and everyone is open and easy to approach. Just smile a lot and don’t be afraid to start conversations.

7. Coaches and mentors

While you should definitely hear them out because these are people who are more experienced than you, you should always consider their opinion with a pinch of salt. 
 Don’t take their advice to be universally true and don’t let them influence you too much as the time is really limited! You have the vision!

A good mentor asks the right questions and empowers your idea. Choose which advice to follow wisely!

Coaches, thanks a lot for listening to our (sometimes stupid?) ideas and giving honest feedback. I especially loved the excellent questions asked by Julian Boyce, really helpful!

8. Don’t forget to have fun!!!

We all know that feeling when the competitive side of you kicks in and you just want to win the whole thing. That’s normal, but Startup Weekend is not about that. Just forget that feeling! During the whole weekend we kept repeating one thing over and over again: let’s just have fun and be optimistic!

Startup Weekend is not about winning, it’s about practicing how to get from idea to prototype, build teams and meet like-minded people. Keep that in mind.

9. Workshops

Definitely recommended!

We had the chance to take part of a workshop provided by Ernst & Young on Saturday afternoon. I’ll be honest here. We expected pretty much nothing from it as it sounded a bit corporate and went there with no expectations.

How wrong we were!

The people from EY were awesome and from the very first minute they asked perfect questions. They gave us guidance to find a working business model and it came exactly at the point where we needed it the most! 
 Thank you guys, we appreciate it!!

10. Investors

While there is no guarantee that you will find investors for your idea, there certainly are some interesting people around you. After our presentation we were approached by someone from Amazon saying to catch up later, nice surprise!

Thanking notes

I hope this will help you have a better grip of what you should expect from a Startup Weekend event.

SUW Munich organizers, if you’re reading this you should know that you did a really great job with the event, we had lots of fun! Great venue by Strascheg Center for Entrepreneurship, spot-on agenda, good food, lots of helpful people around us AND an awesome party afterwards. I don’t know who the DJ was, but if you see him, just tell him “Don’t stop man!”. He’ll know what I’m talking about :).

Erfan, thanks for the pictures and for the laughs!

Fellow participants, it was nice making new friends and there were some really cool ideas. Don’t stop!

Christian, thanks for the love rope (I’m wearing it as I’m writing this) and your superhappy attitude, and Joshua thank you for the empowering keynote! Great speech!

And last, but not least, to our awesome team of BEARS.

Andrew, Carmen, Cesc, Horia, Joanna, Mario, and Uğur: I love you guys and I’m grateful that we’ve met. I’m proud of our team and let’s keep this thing rolling!

“Bear with us, there’s more to come!”

Make sure to subscribe to our waiting list on our website to be the first who finds out about the launch! 
 We’re also social, so follow Find the bear on Facebook and Twitter

See you next year!

P.S. If you’ve been at a Startup Weekend before I’d love to hear your thoughts on the event. Let’s talk in the comments!


Originally published at blog.hipwerk.com on May 12, 2015.