The Beginners Guide to Startup Weekend

Startup Weekend is happening this weekend in New York. For those of you attending, here is a beginner's guide to navigating the hackathon of hackathons.

If you’ve ever been to a Startup Weekend then you know that feeling. That feeling of “hey, you never know”. No, it’s not the lottery but it is about chasing dreams just the same. At Startup Weekend, one to two hundred hopeful entrepreneurs, many for the first time, gather for a weekend of networking, exchanging ideas, hard work, sweat and lots of cups of coffee. While that may sound daunting, most participants would say it’s a lot of fun and one of the most productive ways to spend a weekend that you can have. Which is why over time, you see many of the same faces at future events. Startup Weekends happen all over the world and this weekend, June 21-23rd, the latest installment is happening in New York City.

To those who have never been but have always wondered how it works allow me to introduce you to the wonders of how the best global startup hackathon around goes down. Typically, a Startup Weekend begins on Friday evening and ends on Sunday evening. Upon arriving on Friday, you are immediately greeted to two of the finer parts of the weekend: lots of people schmoozing and a smorgasbord of free food. After everyone settles in it’s time to venture to the main area for welcoming speeches from the organizers and introductions from the sponsors, many of which are offering prizes or great opportunities to incorporate their products into whatever you hack during the weekend. After that, everyone who came armed with an idea gets up and pitches. A somewhat disorganized but effective voting process takes place and one way or another, approximately 10-20 ideas are singled out. It’s then a mad dash for teams to form around those ideas and then get a start on planning the rest of the weekend before the night is out.

On Saturday, arrive early for a quick breakfast then get to work. This is an all day affair, so don’t make plans to go boozing on this Saturday night. All meals are taken care of during the weekend and the food is usually better than you’d expect. So no need to bring anything with you and you will be sure to work up an appetite.

Come Sunday, same story. Arrive early, grab a bagel and get to work. It’s a mad dash to put the finishing touches on whatever you’ve been working on and make a good presentation for the demos which start late afternoon. Each team will get about 5 minutes to present to a fairly esteemed panel of judges, followed by some quick questions. After hearing all the demos, the judges will convene and pick a winner and one or two runners up. Some prizes are awarded and the weekend is complete. Be sure to bring business cards and make some valuable contacts. Approach the weekend with an open mind and don’t go in thinking you’re going to build the next Facebook. Take it seriously but have fun, be productive and most of all be proud of whatever you accomplished for the weekend.

About Adam Sherbell

Adam is a freelance writer, designer, photographer and all around creative ace. He's big into the NYC Tech Startup scene often at meetups and hackathons around town. He's been a Startup Weekend winner and mentor.