We at Techstars Startup Weekend have learned that improving our communication with each of you has been a significant driving force in the overall quality of the experience; leading to events that produce well-executed ideas, stronger teams, thriving entrepreneurs and most importantly, stronger communities. That said, listed below are some tips to ensure the teams get the most of their time and experience with you.
1. Individuals and teams have varying skill/experience levels
For many participants, this is their first foray into entrepreneurship, while others are serial entrepreneurs. There’s a whole range of talent in the room. Some teams have more business talent, and some teams have less. Part of your role is to size up the teams and determine where you can help add the most value.
2. Keep in mind the goal of the weekend
Your primary role is to be present and available. By your presence and availability, you give teams the confidence to achieve and the knowledge necessary to progress. To do that we generally suggest that you use the judging criteria (Business Model, Customer Validation, Design and Technical Execution) to determine where teams need the most help. We find that teams generally need a lot of help around the areas of market validation (especially with primary research), product scoping, and crafting the business case for their project.
3. Talk less, ask lots of questions, and listen more.
A huge part of the value you provide is an outside perspective. A successful team coaching visit is when you’ve helped a team to start asking themselves the right questions, facilitated them working through a difficult decision, and/or pointed them towards a new resource or set of tools. Coaches don’t play the game; they help players understand the game and how to build the skills they need to compete. A general guideline is that your visits and interaction with teams should be three parts listening and one part talking.
4. Less is more. Don’t try to be everything for every team.
We expect to have 20+ teams working on projects with 10+ coaches to help them. Try not to spend more than 30 minutes with each team and making sure that you are not interrupting in the middle of something important. Don’t be shy, just introduce yourself and ask if they need your help. Don’t hesitate to sit and listen for a while instead of asking them to pitch their idea again.
5. Be a walking reminder and keep teams on track.
We want Startup Weekend to be a place where coaches continue to build their own connections and where alumni companies come back regularly to iterate and learn. Please be mindful that we rely on you all to set the “getting stuff done” tone for the teams. Encourage teams to stick to a roadmap of deliverables (i.e. coding done by 12 PM Sunday, presentation done and ready to practice 2 hours in advance, etc.). Frequently we see that teams building their pitches earlier will be able to put together better and more coherent presentations.
6. Preach Fundamentals
Startup Weekend is the most accessible, low risk and effective environment for building teams, validating ideas, and learning the first steps to launching a business through experiential education. Instead of telling teams that their idea has been done before, try channelling their passion for a particular problem/solution and use that energy to get them to follow a process that will create solid execution. We ask questions to help them find out answers for themselves. The end goal is for participants to have learned how to learn to be an entrepreneur. Early on in the event, many teams will be raring to go, and ask questions like – what’s the best way to create a survey? What platform do you think we should develop on? As a coach, you want to avoid answering how questions and pose why questions instead.