54 hours, 45 people, 5 teams, 4 judges: Lancaster University StartUp Weekend

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Photo: Sammie Caine

From Friday Week 7 to Sunday Week 8 in Michaelmas term, the Lancaster University StartUp Weekend took place in the Management School. Here following is a brief summary of 54 crazy hours from the point of view of one of the participants.

It is Friday 6pm and the participants are gathering in the HUB Café in the Management School. Everyone gets a name sign which in the same time directly identifies him/her as a “Hacker”, “Hustler” or “Hipster”, which could also be named as programmer, business person or designer. Unfortunately I am neither able to code, nor am I overly creative, so I end up as a Hustler.

After collecting the name sign, every participant gets a high five from Mari, the overly enthusiastic and always smiling “feel good manager” of the StartUp Weekend. After the first 30 minutes of socialising with other participants, the action starts. Everyone who has a business idea can pitch it for 60 seconds. Sounds short? It is. Over twenty people pitch their ideas and the facilitators are strict about the time, so after a short time all ideas have been pitched. Now all participants have five votes to choose as their favourite ideas and around the five ideas which collect the most votes are gathering teams to put the idea into reality; and the insanity starts. At this point the idea owners have to find the right people with the right skills, but also with the right personality to work with.

I was lucky to be one of the five winners and recruited my team of seven people. As work in StartUps does not really end at 5pm each day, neither did it for us at 10pm. After everybody got kicked out from the Management School, the work proceeded in the Learning Zone until 1am. Back at home I was so on adrenalin, that there was no possibility to even think of sleeping. After too little sleep but sufficient amount of coffee, everybody gathers again in the Management School. The whole Saturday is dedicated to work on the ideas, getting feedback from the Mentors and getting in touch with potential customers. Especially this is a particularly difficult task on a Saturday. But if one wants to win, this has to be done as the judges want to see that you went out into the field. This is probably the most important lesson for participants. Don’t just think, do.

Another short night and another huge coffee later and it is Sunday morning. Sunday is the day to prepare the presentation. It sounds much, but yes you need a day to prepare a five minute presentation. Around noon, all teams have the possibility to rehearse in front of the mentors and get the last feedback. At 6:30pm the judges arrived with a little delay and all teams are getting ready to present their ideas and their progress of the last 54 hours. I was personally extremely impressed by the progress which all groups made and by the professionalism of all presentations. Unfortunately my team didn’t win, but after seeing what the winning teams achieved in this short period of time, I cannot say anything else than: Well played, well deserved. Even though I was extremely exhausted and tired on my way home, my mind already started to analyse what I am going to do differently on the next Startup Weekend. Because one thing is certain, I will be there.

After the weekend I had the opportunity to ask Zans Mihejevs, a member of the winning team, a few questions.

Can you describe RepCoin in one sentence?

Repcoin is a web reputation platform that allows news sites and blogs to connect their readers with the comments they’d find most engaging while filtering out the ‘trolls’.

How do you feel after winning the StartUp Weekend?

I feel amazing! I was so ecstatic when they announced the winners. Its so nice when you spend a long time working on something you’re passionate about, and you get confirmation of it being a great idea!

Did you expect to win?

Not at all! An hour before the finish time I talked to some of my team mates and they told me that regardless of how we perform we’d keep the team and work on the product together. I guess it’s that kind of dedication that pays off in the end.

How do you proceed?

We’ve been working on the product intensely since the competition and are meeting our first potential client next week.

When will RepCoin be on the market?

We’ll be on the market in about a month!

Do you need anything from Lancaster people?

We have loads of opportunities to get involved, especially for talented programmers! Drop me a message any time!