A Guide For First Timers

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A few first timers reached out this week asking about the format of the weekend and I thought I’d aggregate my responses here for the benefit of others. At the highest of levels, while each event is incredibly unique, the schedule for the most part remains intact.

We kick off the event informally. Attendees pick up their badges, mingle, get to know one another, enjoy drinks and light snacks. One of our goals for the weekend is to make connections. The more connections we can make, the better. The event benefits, the participants benefit, and frankly, the communities that foster the entrepreneurial ecosystems in our city benefit.

After mingling, we gather for pitches. Attendees are not required to pitch. In the events where I was an active participant, I’ve pitched and I haven’t pitched. And that’s totally cool. The most important element of the weekend is you, so at a bare minimum, make sure you bring that. Typically I’d say between 40-50% of attendees pitch. Yes, I know, it’s a lot, but it’s insanely fun. Each pitch last 60 seconds, no more, and we’re firm on that. We have this loud noise thingy (yes, that’s what it’s officially called) that keeps us in line.

After pitches, the top ideas are selected. The voting process is like an intense episode of the West Wing except totally not. Attendees are given three votes to hand out. Votes are usually in the form of stickers, often dinosaurs; no reason really, we just like dinosaurs. The top 15-20 ideas, depending on how large the event gets, become the weekend’s official projects.

Once the ideas are selected, we usually give the person who pitched it another opportunity to present their idea, without the loud noise thingy judging them, so folks can make an informed decision on what team they’d like to be a part of. This is one of my favorite parts of the weekend. It’s a bit frenetic, I like frenetic. There’s a scramble to organize around ideas, happening in both directions, idea owners finding the right individuals and attendees finding the right projects. [hint, this is why the kick off earlier in the evening is kind of important, know your audience and peers].

Teams form surprisingly quickly, and off you go.

Over the course of the weekend, as you work, coaches from various startups, companies, and communities in our city will stop by and participate. Coaches are your allies. Use them. Ask them questions. Ask them to validate ideas. Or just introduce yourself if you’re interested in that person or the company they work for. Connections, remember. We love our coaches!

Sunday rolls around and at some point gears shift from build build build to prepare prepare prepare. Demo time. Late day arrives and we gather as a group once more. The teams present to other attendees but also to a panel of judges. The panel varies but we like to try and have a diverse yet representative group of individuals that cover a lot of ground, are in the business of cultivating and building, are opinionated, are fun, appreciate connections, and believe in the event. We love our judges (we’ll be highlighting them here in the week leading up to the event)! Demos are five minutes with time for Q&A. The loud noise thingy is once again employed, judging, staring, always staring. Post demos, judges deliberate, winners are chosen.

We like social, and over the course of the weekend we will make sure there are plenty of opportunities for more connections to be made. We like letting off steam, and over the course of the weekend we will make sure there are plenty of opportunities to do that too. We also like food, and over the course of the weekend we will make sure you eat. We like treats, and over….okay, you get the point.

So that’s about it. The organizers are here to help and answer your questions. So please, keep the questions coming. we have so much in store, we can barely take it!