This time next week I shall be getting ready for Startup Weekend Lancaster 2015. It has been a long time in the making (a huge amount of credit must go to Philipp for his work in organising the event) and soon it will be show time.

If you are unfamiliar with the Startup Weekend format, here’s a quick run-down:
60-second pitches result in the formation of small teams around the best, most viable concepts.
54 hours are spent focusing on customer and product development, validating ideas and building prototypes with the help of experienced mentors.
Finally, each team has the chance to present their results and receive feedback from a panel of high profile entrepreneurs and community leaders.
Not forgetting, awesome prizes for the winning teams!

Having competed – and finishing second – last year I know the rush and excitement of the event. It was one of the best, if not the best, event I attended last year and I wish I could compete again this year. However I have thoroughly enjoyed helping to ensure that anyone competing this year will have an even better time than I did last year.

So as I’m not competing, I feel like I can share my tips to having the best Startup Weekend possible.

Start with an open mind, but focus it fast!

I turned up knowing virtually no one. You are thrown in to network with everyone and soon you’re hearing everyone’s business ideas.

Go into the event and networking with an open mind. Everyone on an equal level, but look out for key people, listen to key ideas and focus on them. If you like and idea, you need to get the person behind it to like you! At the next opportunity, focus on them and introduce yourself, express your interest and explain how you can help.

BUT, still have an eye open for more possibilities. Team places are competitive and you need to have a few favourites in mind, target a number of people and hopefully you’ll then have a choice as to which team you can join.

Break the ice

Once you have your team and your set free to get going, the temptation is to jump straight into work. This is both unproductive and anti-social.

Chances are you are on a team with new people. Why not all go for food and get to know each other. You will all enjoy the weekend more and be more productive.

Set some rules and role

Team leaders, I’m talking to you now!

Set some ground rules!!

You have 54 hours, the last thing you want is to be arguing about what can and can’t be done. The rules don’t have to all be strict, a few humorous ones always help, but having a framework for everyone to work around will help, trust me!

As for roles, this should be simple depending on people’s skills sets. But still clarify to avoid confusion. Again, you only have 54 hours, don’t waste them!

Pace yourself, but work late

Control your energy level are vital, you don’t want to crash. One of my key strengths last year was my ability to work until the early hours of the morning. Many other teams crashed and slept – whilst they spelt, I worked – each day I could see the advantage of working late, we were progressing well.

Enjoy it!

I had such a great weekend and met some great people. I wouldn’t have done that if I had been worried or nervous about the result.

It is a really tough challenge and that should be enjoyed. What’s more fun than changing your brand image at 3am???


Whether you have experience or not, you will learn a lot! The mentors and judges are there to help everyone walk away better than when they showed up. Ask questions, listen to ideas, work hard and keep going!!