Why Startup Weekend Blew My Mind


Vanessa Van EdwardsThis is a guest post by Vanessa Van Edwards, Co-Founder of Dream-up Labs creator of picnic (Shop My Pins), winner Spring 2012.

I walked into Startup Weekend having no idea how much my life was about to change.

I signed up for Startup Weekend Bootcamp (the practice weekend before the weekend) and, after noticing I was one of three women in the room, seriously doubted whether I would pitch at all. My idea—centered around shopping on Pinterest, was geared towards the ladies.

I asked organizers Jeff Martens and Shashi Jain whether or not I should pitch my ‘girly idea’ to a group of men and they said ‘go for it, at least it will be good practice.’ Little did I know that it would get the most votes at bootcamp, the most votes on pitch night at actual Startup Weekend and then—what the what—end up winning!

Mind officially blown.

I’m not sure these will be helpful, but here is what I learned:

 If You Want Your Idea Picked: Don’t just think about what you want to say, think about how you want to say it. This might be a little controversial, but I think getting the most votes each time had nothing to do with my idea. I specialize in body language and used nonverbal strategies while pitching. Research has shown that only 7% of our communication is the words we say—93% of it is nonverbal. Most people focus on the words of their pitch, but don’t think about their body at all. After hearing 70 pitches (we had 72 the night I pitched at Startup Weekend) people are so numb that they aren’t hearing anymore. So I used nonverbal techniques during all three of my pitches, I think this is what made my idea stand out. Feel free to check out my blog for some tips on nonverbal pitching and body language essentials for entrepreneurs (http://www.scienceofpeople.org/body-language-for-entrepreneurs/ ).

If You Want A Great Team: I had the best, best, best team at Startup Weekend. Man, I could not have done it without them. We had a team of 15! And I aggressively sought out people I wanted. I noticed from the beginning of the night other attendees who were awesome, smart and ideal teammates and then I walked down the hallway recruiting them to my team. Everyone wants to be wanted, so if you spot someone savvy, snag them!

If You Want to Win: I worked hard to figure out exactly what the judges sheets looked like. I knew that they were going to have some kind of template to write on, so I figured out the exact wording (different than I thought) and I then geared my presentation for that piece of paper. I don’t know how much it helped, but combined with the body language techniques it certainly didn’t hurt.

Startup Weekend Don’ts:

  • Don’t hoard your talent. If someone needs help or wants to help another team, don’t be a jerk.
  • Don’t get drunk. Seriously, at our Startup Weekend beer was flowing and we had a couple of tipsy team members during Saturday night crunch time—not helpful.
  • Don’t be a sucker. Don’t suck up to the judges and organizers, just hang out with them. I have stayed in contact with the organizers and many of the judges after Startup Weekend even though I didn’t know them ahead of time because we were able to just hang out over the weekend.

 Startup Weekend Do’s:

  • Do bring business cards and network. Hang out with your team but try to be social with other teammates as well during breaks and meals.
  • Do get some sleep. Definitely put your all into it, but don’t pull all-nighters otherwise you will be exhausted come judging and you need to be on you’re a-game, so get some rest!
  • Do join Startup Weekend alumni groups on LinkedIn. The community is amazingly supportive and inspirational.

What We’re Doing Now: I ended up partnering with one of my awesome Startup Weekend teammates, Darren Buckner, to co-found Dream Up Labs (DreamUpLabs.com). We have built the product we pitched at Startup Weekend, our MVP is Picnic (Picnic.dreamuplabs.com) which helps users explore images—especially people who want to shop on Pinterest. We also have a few other exciting iterations we are working on now and coming up on a year of working together!

I have mentored at a Startup Weekend Portland and can’t wait to keep being part of the amazing community.

Check out more about Vanessa’s tech projects: DreamUpLabs.com

And her body language research: ScienceOfPeople.org