What have I learned from Startup Weekend

Don’t get it wrong, it’s not a hack day

Startup Weekend Logo

Why and how it works

I met James Hill on a RGBA meet up in mid of this year and he invited Felix, ihower and me to join Startup Weekend Taipei in Aug.

So what is Startup Weekend? It is a 2 days event for entrepreneurs to share new ideas and to turn them into products within 54 hours.

The fellowing is how it goes:
  • Pitch your idea.
  • Vote for the top 10 ideas(we had 14 at the end).
  • Join or recruit others to your team.
  • Discuss features, business models and start building the product.
  • Demo & present.

The process

My original purpose for this event is to meet new people and hope to get some connections. Since I have to join others if I do not have my own team, I decided to go for a pitch. My friend Rick and I was building a LBS + realtime chatting mobile app call ICEBERG before this event. Therefore my pitch was quite similar to that app, to build a service call `talkplus`. It is a widget for people who have the same interests to chat on the same topic on different websites. Votes for this idea and people who joined this team are a lot more than I thought. I think because this idea is really simple and what’s more important is it can be done within 54 hours.

We have 15 team members and half of us are programmers. The team is divided into 3 smaller teams, they are `UI&UX`, `Business model&Presentation` and `Development`. The actual working hours are about 12 to 13 hours which is really short. It’s a pity I was too busy with building the widget so I missed some mentor and coach which I think is more valuable. Finally we had our website ,widget and android app online about 1 hour before the presentation. We were so excited about bringing a new service alive. During the demo and presentation we had our friends, other teams and judges use this service to share what was going on there.

Our presentation was done by Edouard, a french entrepreneur in Taiwan. I can’t describe how well he had done by my poor writing skill. It should have been video taped. We thought we had a great chance to win the prize, I even bought a dozen beers for the celebration. The result is quite different from what we expected, we did not win any prize. Well… shit happens all the time :3 It was a great experience anyway.

The winner goes to
  • First prize foodjing, a website that makes searching foods around you easier.
  • Second prize Vetter, a simple web-based Idea Management System for business.
  • Third prize EZcook, a website that gives you recipes according to what Ingredients you have right now.

Lesson learned

Bring a lot of name cards and try to make as many new friends as you can. You might find your future partner here!

Keep the idea simple, you only have 54 hours.

Remember this is not a hack day, don’t just focus on coding your project. Although it says launch a new product within 54 hours on the official site(Startup Weekend Taipei). Most of the teams only provide slides including the winning teams.

Spend more time on studying what VC wants. You will need them at some point whether you like them or not.

In my opinion the judges focus more on pitch & present. They seem not to care about development skills and productivity that much. Instead they care about business model. However if you can’t even build your product what’s the point to talk about business model? I would rather spend more time on satisfying my users.

`All talks, No action`. We face a big problem while we continue to work on the project after the event. We were very productive during the event mostly because a lot of us are from startups. We know how things work and are good at prototyping a product. However our background turns to a disadvantage because everyone has strong opinion on the business model and features of the product but no one has the time to actually do it.


For people who has no experience running a startup and are passionate about entrepreneurship you should give `Startup Weekend` a try. It’s not about winning the prize, it’s about learning how a startup works and what problems a startup might have. How to co-work with others, how to deal with VC, how to lead a team… etc. It really worth it :)

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