At a basic level, Startup Weekend is a competition to build a LEAN company from the ground up in less than 3 days. And like most competitions, there will be prizes and prestige that accompany winning. Judging on Sunday is actually a fairly straightforward affair. Each team is evaluated on only three criteria: business model; customer validation; and execution.
This is the core of any business: your actual plan for going to market and building your product. In your final presentation, the problem and your solution to it should be very clear. You should have identified your key customer segments, know how you will market to them, and have an idea how much acquiring each customer will cost. Many businesses with great products fail because they do not consider how acquire customers and/or how much that acquisition will cost. In addition to acquisition costs, you should have a model for your other expenses, and most importantly, you should know how much you are going to get paid. Of course, having a business model is great and all, but you need to make sure your product is something your customer wants and is willing to pay for. For that, you need to show…
On Saturday, a significant chunk of your effort should be dedicated to finding potential customers and asking them to evaluate your idea. You need to make sure the problem you have identified is both one your customers actually experience and one they are willing to pay to fix. The validation will show you have a product that continuously evolved throughout the weekend in response to customer feedback. The best validation is to actually have paying customers, but getting them to sign up is also a great start. Without validation from real customers, there is no way to predict if your product will make real, hard cash. Quick tip: don’t ask what a person would pay for a service. Instead, either determine how much they are currently paying to solve the problem or how much it costs them currently to deal with it. This will give you a baseline to determine your initial prices.
This is the place where many great ideas go to die. Anyone can think of an idea, but it takes a great team to execute and build a business around one. This part is the simplest to judge: what have you actually done? Built a product? Landed a customer? Created a website? Published marketing materials? It where the rubber meets the road, and it is more than 90% of running any business.
These judging criteria come from real world experience about what is important to a start up business. If you keep these three things in mind, whether during Startup Weekend, or when starting any new company, your chances of success will dramatically increase. Here’s to LEAN. See you in 7 days.