Last week I attended Startup Weekend Berlin. First time I attended a Startup Weekend. I co-organised a Startup Live, (same format), I participated and organised StartupBus, but I never attended a Startup Weekend. Time for change I thought when signing up a few weeks ago.
What is Startup Weekend?
At Startup Weekend you focus on building a startup within 54 hours (normally from Friday night till Sunday). You come together, pitch ideas, vote for the best ones and try to persuade people to join your idea. Alternatively you join another team. In the following 54 hours you focus on execution (Build a Minimum viable product (MVP), create a product evolution roadmap, get a functional prototype out there), business model validation (think about business model strategy, customer acquisition, your value proposition and your USP compared to competitors) and user experience design (create a design strategy, get engaged users and think about your MVP evolution roadmap). On Saturday you normally get experiences mentors to challenge your concept and give valuable feedback. Sunday afternoon is pitching time. You have to present your concept and persuade the judges.
I almost didn’t go as on friday afternoon I was still deeply covered with a lot of shit to do. In the end I arrived only 1 hour too late. It was so worth it!
First day – Idea pitching, team forming, brainstorming
After arriving, I was amazed by the masses. There were more people than I expected. After a short introduction by the Startup Weekend orga Markus and facilitator Adam we started idea pitching.
I pitched an idea that helps pregnant women getting organised and more relaxed during pregnancy. Kathrin, a good friend of mine told me about this last monday over lunch. She was kinda stressed out having to think about all deadlines and applications you have to do before, while and after your child is born.
The 60 seconds pitch went well, I got a lot of votes in the evaluation process afterwards and 30 minutes later had an amazing team of 7 other professionals around me. All willing to tackle a real world problem and release the pain of pregnant women. PregnancyAngel was created.
And when I say amazing, I mean amazing. The team consisted out of 2 kick-ass developers (“doesn’t matter what technology stack we use. We can do everything ;)” ), an amazing designer, a communication girl, strategic marketing, very structured project manager, ex-investment banker and myself.
We immediately grabbed the biggest room that was there (called “Mount Everest” 😉 ) and started working. The few hickups we had (no working wifi due to KPMG security policy – we got drones from @deMiFi_Europe later) didn’t stop us.
We started with a very structured brainstorming, identified the key problems of pregnant women and talked about the team’s background, motivation and expectations.
We got kicked out of KPMG at 1 am, which nobody expected. I prepared for not sleeping for the next 54 hours, even brought clothes to change and my tooth brush 😀 We finished our weekend roadmap and decided to be there at 9 sharp to continue.
Day 2 – Customer Development, Business Model Canvas, Mentors
The second day we split up in groups focussing on customer development and our business model. One team thought about use cases, talked to pregnant couples on the street (Kuhdamm) and created user stories.
Collaboration in our team went incredibly smooth: Short and very productive discussions, clear tasks for everyone and a very relaxed and harmonic atmosphere.
However, around 2 pm we had our motivational breakdown (which I expected to come at some stage): Identifying our competitors we realised that there were more than we expected. A lot of competitors did similar stuff but there was an app launched recently doing the exact same thing we planned. Bummer. We had a long discussion afterwards focussing on our USP. Talking to customers we identified that not only the organiser would be valuable for women but also targeted product offers and a partner app.
As the pregnancy process is quite well known we decided to offer women (and couples in general) specific products based on their week of pregnancy combined with they product wishlist (which they can create by adding products you normally need at a certain time during pregnancy). We created a partner app enabling the partner, family and close circles to take part in the pregnancy and to share emotions, pictures, events and the product wishlist with. We reached out to potential product partners and got great feedback from mentors and other people at the event.
At 5 pm we had our website, twitter and Facebook page online, had created a beautiful design and (app) logo, had received valuable and very positive customer feedback, had reached out to potential partners (windeln.de, pammpers.de, …) and had started the app development.
At 7 pm we had our first prototype ready: A hybrid HTML5 app working on Android and iPhone devices. We had structured our pitch for the next day and started to fill it with information.
Day 3 – Production! Getting ready to pitch
After leaving KPMG around 2am we started working again straight away at 9am. Development was proceeding, we had a market entry strategy ready, detailed numbers on the market size, continuous corporate identity design and started to work intensively on the pitch and presentation due at 5pm.
Although we had a running prototype we decided to focus on screenshots in the presentation handing out devices with the running app to the judges afterwards.
We decided to split the pitch between Jens and myself. While Jens did the introduction and explained the problem and market I focussed on solution, business model, traction and team.
From noon onwards we both focussed 100% on the pitch, practised a lot, changed it completely around 2pm and practised more. At the same time Andi and Martin kicked ass developing the MVP further while Fleur created a beautiful presentation.
Winning the best pitch!
All the practice and hard work paid off: We won the best pitch although I had a complete blackout for a couple of seconds, didn’t stick to the “script” and forgot the name of our team 😀
- Tackle a real world problem and be authentic: Tackling a real world problem is why I ended up with such a great team. Make clear, what pain you want to solve.
- Communicate openly, talk about expectations and structure your work: Everyone who is familiar with the Tuckman stages of team building knows, how important it is to not start “storming” straight away but first sit down, get to know each other, talk about expectations and responsibilities and structure your next steps. We did that straight away on the first day and it paid off as we did not suffer any internal problems at all.
- Sell, sell, sell and tell a story: Mark Hartman gave a presentation during StartupBus Euroe explaining how to pitch a VC. Most importantly you have to sell sell sell your product. No matter how amazing your team is and what crazy technology stack you are using. If you cannot sell your product right from the beginning by telling a story your conversation partner understands instantly, you will lose him after 10 sec. Doing so, we focussed on the user story, the great pains and how we solve them. We tossed our first pitch (that was explaining all our features in detail) and created a lean and yet convincing story.
- Practice, practice and practice more: Jens and I spent 3-4 hours practising the pitch. Every word, every phrase, every emphasis. It was worth it, even now, 4 days later I could do the same pitch instantly. Practice helps you to be less nervous and to not forget important stuff. Aim for at least 30 sec less than you have and you will finish just in time ;-).
- 10-20-30 rule: Use Guy Kawasaki’s 10-20-30 rule. We adjusted the 20 though :). on your 10 slides focus on the following pitch structure:
2. High-Concept Pitch
5. Business Model
8. Competitive Advantage 9. Marketing & Sales
- Prepare backup slides: We created backup slides with our go to market strategy and detailed competitor analysis. We used both of them. Prepare backup slides for everything you don’t tackle in detail during the pitch, the judges will ask!
- Show that you thought further: For me the most valuable feedback form Nicole Simone: Show in your slides and pitch that you thought further. You want to show that you also thought about internationalisation without loosing too much time? Just say “this is the market only in Germany” which suggests that you looked further.
- Do not focus on special cases: Also a very valuable feedback form Nicole. We first used a pregnant women in her 7th month for our pitch. The question that might come up is, why exactly a women in her 7 month? Why not earlier? What happens with women that just got pregnant? Why are you not targeting them?
So be as generic as possible and do not exclude potential customers right from the beginning.