A Startup Weekend retrospective

The Nagoya Startup Weekend this year was exhausting yet rewarding.

To cap off the effort, I thought I’d write up a quick retro.

Things that worked

First, hats off to the organizers. Fantastic event, very well organized.

If you’re organizing a similar event, I’d recommend paying similar attention the the details that ours did so well, namely:

The talk breaks were especially good for helping everyone keep synced and giving some perspective about where we were in the weekend.

They also provided good advice about how to approach the weekend in general.

One that really stuck with me is that “this is not a hackathon” - which I think the organizers of Bobby Boyd’s hackathon probably missed.

Teams seemed to take this to heart and had a great showing without working code. Instead they leaned on deeper market analysis, clickable wireframes and more details around potential business and revenue models.

Another thing that worked really well were my friends and family. I got a lot of response and participation from friends and family via facebook. I can’t thank everyone enough for that.

Things that didn’t work so well

First here, following in that “not a hackathon” vein: I don’t think I worked very well.

Granted, I got a lot done. I focused mostly on coding and we had a fully functioning prototype by day 2. This was great fun for me but I think this was actually a detriment to the team.

While focusing on the prototype I couldn’t offer much input on strategy. I think also having such a complete prototype may have anchored the team at a time when changes were needed.

The next thing I could see changing was the coach involvement. We spent some time with the coaches in organized sessions, but it felt like it came a bit late.

I would have loved to get some of their feedback earlier, perhaps even continually in the form of challenging interjected questions during early planning and discussion.

Wrap up

It was a great weekend over all. I met a ton of people, learned some new techniques and learned a lot about my own interests in developing products.

The discovery I was especially proud of is that I like coding way better than market analysis & experimentation. While it’s probably no surprise to those who know me, I think knowing this empirically will really shift my approach to startup ideas going forward.

If you’re planning on attending one yourself, I’d recommend coming with an idea of your own, plenty of business cards and a grab bag of tactics for gathering early customer feedback.

I suspect these will serve you and your team better than the freshly updated set of rails gems I showed up with.

If you have any thoughts or experiences from your own start up weekend, or questions about mine please leave a comment!