Entrepreneur. It’s kind of a dumb word if you think about it, and to most people (especially students) it carries some buzzwords with it that seem very business-y. When I first heard “entrepreneur," I thought to myself, “That’s for people in the college of business.” It never really struck me as, “I’m an entrepreneur,” even though looking back on my life, I’ve been an entrepreneur since I was a kid. Everything from trading Pokémon cards, making beaded bracelets and necklaces, and burning CDs for friends before we learned we probably shouldn’t were all entrepreneurial endeavors that were abundant in my youth (as they probably were in yours).
That’s the thing, though. Being an entrepreneur isn’t about putting on a suit jacket or making apps. It’s about making a living doing something you love, while making sure other people love it too (that’s what we call customer validation). And this is just one of the things I learned going through Startup Weekend.
Startup Weekend has been one of the most important parts of my life since I went to my first event in 2011. I had no idea what entrepreneurship meant, what a “startup” was, or how much effort and persistence it takes to build an entire business from only an idea. After attending two events, I decided that I wanted to bring this same experience back to Denton. I wanted to provide local makers, dreamers, entrepreneurs, and students an opportunity to work on their own ideas in an environment that supports them building their own products.
For the past three months, we’ve been putting together the 4th annual Startup Weekend Denton event that will be taking place on November 10th - 12th at Stoke. In case you aren't familiar with the event here's some more info that will hopefully inspire you to come out to participate, take some risks, and learn some new skills to become a better entrepreneur.
Startup Weekend is a 54 hour startup competition during which time you’ll get a chance to take on a product/company idea and launch an actual startup. Participants get 60 seconds to pitch an idea, and the ideas with the most votes from attendees will form teams with other product designers and developers and build the product over the weekend. The weekend will guide teams through the process of developing their core concept, finding use cases, acquiring customer validation, developing a Minimum Viable Product and finally pitching to panel of judges.
At Startup Weekend, organizers want to see you start with just an idea, and 54 hours later, have a company. Successful launches from previous events include Loot Crate, CloudMine, and Proxomo (who founded at Startup Weekend Dallas, and later acquired by Lucent Mobile).
Winning teams will get prize packs from some awesome companies that help support their startup after the weekend is over. Prize packs will include a free .CO domain from dotCO, Hosting credits from Heroku, software licenses from JetBrains, VPN subscriptions from NordVPN, consulting time from local marketing and branding agencies like Swash Labs and Square 205, and much more.
The event is part of a worldwide event called Global Startup Weekend. Winning teams from local events can submit a video to compete in the regional challenge, and can move up to the global challenge. Prizes at all levels range from $100k in credit to build on Google’s Cloud Platform to 2,000 points on American Airlines, and a number of other prizes listed on the GSB prizes page.
Anyone with an idea that they want validated are welcome to participate. It can be simple, as several winning teams actually started by pitching an idea they came up with at the event. If you have an idea that you’re not sure if it’s good or not, Startup Weekend is a great way to test and validate that. The fastest way to kill your entrepreneurial creativity is start going through the legal process, forming a company, and taking on loans - when you don’t even know if someone wants to buy your product or services. In addition, it’s a great way to see if entrepreneurship is for you.
Elon Musk was once asked, “What’s the best advice you would give a new entrepreneur?” He said, “If you need inspiring words, don't do it.” While that sounds depressing, it’s not - it just goes to show that entrepreneurship isn’t always what it seems when portrayed in the media. It involves failing…and failing a lot, but that’s okay. Startup Weekend is the perfect place to test entrepreneurship.
Worried about not having an idea? Don't be! Just come along and be a part of a team. Each team will form around one of the highest voted ideas. It’s a great opportunity to learn new skills and experience all aspects of startups in one weekend. The event is not just about winning or losing a competition, it’s about taking the skills you learn over the weekend and applying them back into your own life. Everything from product development, developing business models, and marketing your product. These skills can be applied to your next company, or even inside of your current company if you’re trying to develop a new product.
Participation in Startup weekend is $100 which also covers your meals. But since you’re a We Denton Do It reader, use the code “WDDI” for 25% off. If you’re a UNT or TWU student, it’s $50 just make sure to bring your student ID. The event is happening November 10th - 12th, 2017 at Stoke down by the DCTA Transit Center. You show up Friday night at 6:30pm, pitch your idea, and form your team that night. Saturday is a work day, and Sunday you finish your presentation and pitch to the judges in the evening. To learn more about the event and our sponsors, check out the event page at go to startupweekend.org/denton.