Startup Weekend is a nonprofit organisation that brings together business people, designers, developers, and marketers who want to start a business. The concept is simple, you have 54 hours to go from idea to nearly functional business (it’s just as intense as it sounds). Friday night is for brainstorming and group selection. Saturday-Sunday are for developing a minimal viable concept (MVC). Finally, Sunday night you pitch your idea to a panel of judges.

At Startup Weekend Milwaukee 2013 (SWMKE), I joined team “MeterHero”. is a social media competition which allows users to track their energy usage via photos of their power, water, and gas meters on Twitter. Users can also battle their friends to see who can reduce their usage the most over a given timeframe (we’re calling this a Meter Battle). The winner of the Meter Battle wins a small prize from one of our sponsors. Although our team didn’t place, it was fun to build out this idea. We are still buttoning up the final pieces to move MeterHero into full production.

Prior to attending SWMKE, I really had no idea what I was in for. Here are some of my important tips for attending your first Startup Weekend:

  • Come prepared. If you’re a developer, make sure your handy code snippets are accessible, have a server setup, and have a private GitHub repo ready (It saved our team a bunch of time).
  • Have an idea for a startup, not a finished product. The point of Startup Weekend is to start something brand new, not add a feature to your existing product (which received $300k in venture capital 2 months ago).
  • Tailor your pitch to the individual judge’s forte. If all the judges are experts on User Experience, you should talk a lot about how you researched UX. (During one of the first presentations, one of the judges said he wanted to hear more about how they tested for UX)
  • The pitch is the most important piece, so start working on it first. Expect to burn a solid day on it.
  • Don’t plan on a relaxing weekend. It’s a lot of work!
  • Keep tabs on the other teams. See what they are working on. Ask questions.


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