Table of Contents
Preparations Ahead of time
Set a date
Just pick a weekend at least a few weeks out. Don't worry about not having anything else organized. Make sure you don't overlap with any major events/conferences like a BarCamp or a CeBIT. Add a page for your StartupCamp at http://www.startup-australia.org/startupcamp. Setup the event in a system like EventBrite to handle registrations. Charge a nominal amount for sign-up. I prefer free events, but charging a little amount upfront will save you heaps of time later. For a free event you'll have a dropout rate of 30-50% and so if space is limited you'll need to call everyone to double check that they are coming. If people have paid a little (like $25) for it they are much more likely to actually show up. Set the location as 'To Be Announced' for the event but give as much info as possible about what the event looks like. Example: http://sucs3.eventbrite.com/.
As to the maximum number of participants I recommend to keep it fairly small for the first one. Aim for about 15-20 participants and you'll have a great event. At that size I believe the participants will get the most value. Don't try to market the event too much and talk it up to attract people who aren't too sure if they want to join. Less is more here. 10 people that are totally psyched about the event is better than 30 people that had nothing better to do. Don't make exceptions for people. If they can't make it the entire weekend, they shouldn't come. Partial participants are a huge distracting for the other attendees. Often people want to come and watch, but not participate. Tell these people to show up at the launch party, not during the event.
Find a venue
Your best bet here is local startups that have an office with enough space to accommodate the group. Keep everyone close together. Separate rooms is undesirable because it's very hard to keep everyone on track. As the organizer you'll end up running from room to room. If everyone is within shouting distance, your job will me much easier. The hardest part with most venues is that many won't allow you to stay overnight. This is why universities, government, large corporates shouldn't be your first option in looking for a venue. It's better to have a worse venue with no restrictions than an awesome venue with many restrictions. The main things you'll need from the venue:
- Tables (just enough for everyone to have space for their laptop)
- Reliable Unrestricted Internet (somewhat fast)
- Enough power to run a laptop/participant
It's good to get a little sponsorship to pay for meals and for drinks/snacks at the launch event. It's best to get one or two bigger sponsors instead of a whole bunch of small ones. Then you can really give them some good value for their sponsorship. Give them a minute or two to say a few words at the start of the Launch event. $25-$50 sponsorship per participant on top of the $25 the participant paid goes a long way. Remember, this is a 'StartUp' camp, and startups have to be frugal/smart with their cash.
Promote the Camp
The easiest way to promote the event is to plug into existing communities. Communities of entrepreneurs. User Groups for coding languages or platforms such as RoR, Python, Haskell, linux, etc, etc. Entrepreneurial societies at Universities. Try to get an announcement on their mailing list. Twitter can also prove useful. Don't push the camp too hard, remember that the camp's success is not measured in the number of people that sign up.
Invite any press you can think of. Major and minor newspapers, tech bloggers, prominent tweeters and definitely anyone covering startups. Don't be shy here. Some might show up, some might blog about the camp and worst case scenario is that they ignore you're post. (At least this time…) Make sure you get a press list of at least 50 good contacts, but preferably a bit more. Getting some buzz around the event makes it all that more exciting for participants.
Remind Participants and Packing List
It's a good idea to send a reminder email to the participants a few days before the event. If you run a free event you'll want to call each participant and confirm attendance for the ENTIRE weekend (no goofing off allowed). This is also a good time to let them know what to bring:
- Laptop with all their development/graphics tools installed
- Power adapter for laptop/powercord
- Long power extension cord and powerboard
- Long network cable (even if you think you'll use wireless)
- Network router if you have one
- Some warm clothes as it might get cold at night
- A mobile broadband USB dongle - in case of internet access disruptions (although that can overload the nearby tower)
During the Event
Suggested Schedule Highlights and Things to try (this is NOT set in stone, so adjust to suit)
Agree Ground Rules with everyone
- You must tell everyone about StartUp Camp
- No complaining about anything…just find a way…remember you're an unstoppable entrepreneur
- Be nice! (you can go back to being a hard-nosed unreconstructed ball-breaker on Monday)
- Do not work during other people's presentation - don't tap away at your keyboard…in fact don't bring your laptop at all - be respectful and as best you can, try to listen to every speaker
- If we need to move en masse between rooms, please don't linger…move quickly…all at the same time
Organise teams. Steps to take :-
- Catergorise people into 3 main groups
- Technical people (from programmers to those competent in HTML or familiar with CMS)
- Graphic people (Anything from Photoshop to MS Paint)
- Anyone who doesn't think they'll be there for the entire weekend
- OK, so now try to distribute these people equally among the groups.
- Probably best to try and get 5 or 6 groups if possible - more chaos is good :-)
Get an ice-breaker going. Something like…
Everyone write down "the thing that really annoyed me this week". Going round to each group member, fix this 'problem' for them using three different approaches :-
- Using 'as many people as you can muster'
- Using an unlimited supply of rubber bands
- Using the best technology solution you can come up with
This will get the creative juices flowing.
Select business ideas
Next, get each team member to write down as many business ideas as they can. As a group visit each person and ask them to talk about their ideas…just to sound out other people and perhaps get some early validation.
Now, move to the 'Pitch room' and get everyone to do a 30 second pitch to the group about 1 idea (either their own, or one they stole).
Reassemble, and then as a group agree your collective preference for the criteria you want to use to evaluate. This somewhat depends on the 'character' of the group…so things that typically might be considered include :-
- Commercial viabilty
- Social Benefits
- Environmental Friendliness
- Fame and/or notoriety
- Showcasing technical prowess
Once there is some sort of consensus (or dictatorial decree from the bossy member of the team), go through everyone's idea and see which ones best fit the evaluation criteria.
This can be a difficult process because people have to 'let go', compromise and occasionally bite their tongue.
Eventually one great idea will emerge that everyone can 'get stuck into'.
So by the end of the evening the group needs to have :-
- A website name and domain name registered.
- The techs accessing a server on which they can install a software stack (or utilise something pre-installed), or make use of a CMS system (if that is the preference)
- Someone working on a logo and other visuals
- Someone working on marketing copy
- Someone working on an investor pitch
Full list of potential deliverables (add or reduce as you see fit)
- An available Company Name (IP Search may be carried out)
- A Logo
- A Website
- A Team photo
- A 60 second elevator pitch
- A battlecry/motto/mission statement that defines the company culture
- A Press Release
- A once daily 10 line blog update on their activities/milestones
- A functional demo of a core business workflow, whether web-based or otherwise for the proposed business. This can be :-
** A software-built sequence (if you have a coder)
** A visual Storyboard
** An acted scene
** A graphic visualisation or animation
- A 2 page business plan to be printed and presented to all of the investor panel members at or during the final pitch on Sunday
** Page 1 includes exec summary and concept basics
** Page 2 includes financial projections outlining how the business will gross $1 million per year
- A Killer pitch/presentation (a la Guy Kawasaki guidelines) delivered with style and panache
Cloud-based Free Tools you may consider recommending…
Graphics - Pixlr.com
HTML - Komposer, HTMLKit
Forms - Google Sites, Zoho Creator
Online collaborative CMS - Wordpress.com (CSS edittable for a fee)
Shared Docs/Spreadsheet - Google Docs
Company email - Google Apps
Suggestion : Advocate that all presentations are placed in one, preferably cloud-based, location - this will safe the hassle/delay/surprises of shuffling laptops between presenters when doing presentations.
Move everyone into the other room…the pitch room
Close off the evening with a representative of each group (only 1 person - not the whole group) stepping up and pitching it to the group (a 90 second pitch).
Encourage people to work through the evening (if that is what they desire).
'Guilt' people into not being late the next day (9AM) start by harping on about how they will let their team-mates down.
Logos and Basic Web Content
Teams should be busy now finalising their logos and populating their basic website with content.
MVP - minimum viable product
By 10AM the focus should now shift to the Minimum Viable Product (MVP). This is the single-most important function that the website should provide and everyone should go all-out to achieve this. This approach ensures that peripheral matters don't get in the way and there is more chance of something demo-able being available in the compressed timeframe in which everyone is operating.
Use case and draft wireframe
Steps to agreeing the scope of the MVP include :-
- Select the most important task that users can do on the site and develop a use-case for it. (NOTE : A use case is a software development term that describes how a particular user interacts with a system when completing a specific task, and specifies all of the steps that are involved in this).
- Draft a wireframe diagram (handrawn is fine) of the web-page showing header, buttons, text boxes etc….but only include the stuff you need for the key use-case being considered.
- Ask the techs to build this simple 'sub-set' of the system functionality.
Multi-streaming - Press Release, Presentation, Coding
Three key areas should now be progressing - Press Release, Presentation and Coding.
Assign someone to start drafting the Press Release and compile a targetted list of interested parties to whom you will send the press release.
The Press Release should go out at 3PM.
You may have to coach people with the press release - typically people are too verbose so try to get them to get it punchy and catchy.
Email all family, friends and acquaintances and invite them to the soft launch later in the evening.
Team Photos (in StartUp Camp Tee-shirts)
After lunch, take a Team photo (everyone in their SUC tee-shirts if possible).
MVP Demo and Draft Presentation
- Target time - 4 minutes (high likelihood it will be exceeded)
- The faciliators (2 is probably enough) will 'critique' each demo and pitch making constructive and encouraging statements.
At this stage it is less critical that the group are focussed on the commercial viability…but this will change as the event progresses and the need to impress the investor panel becomes more pressing.
If another practice pitch can be 'squeezed in'…great.
Coding needs to finish typically by 8PM. From here on in…the coders (and indeed all team members) should start to devote their energy to helping with the final presentation. There may be little value in coding further from this point on.
Try and get some rehearsals in before the soft launch.
Soft Launch Demo and Presentation
All the main 'bits' of the jigsaw should now be in a reasonable state of completion to present to the public at large. From here on in it's less about the technical prowess of the site and more about the power of the message.
Invite everyone and anyone
Get as many people as you can to come to the final presentation
Fine-tune the presentation and rehearse, rehearse, rehearse
Everyone should be back on site by 9AM and into the swing of things.
From here on in it's about getting the message as perfect as it can be.
There should be no more changes to really anything…just minor changes and small refinements.
Get in at least 3 rehearsals….but be warned too…it's possible to over-rehearse (watch this…your brain can be a devil of a thing the way that it sometimes gets bored with stuff and doesn't have the courtesy of telling you until you're in the middle of an important presentation)
Keep your edge, stay sharp and peak at just the right time - in front of the investor panel.
Blow the investor panel away
The final pitch should be held at noon…or should that be 'High Noon'.
Just let the magic happen - you've done the work, and the investors will be salivating at the prospect of hearing some great new ideas.
- Encourage the group to stick as rigidly as possible to the Pitching guide (within reason - some things are probably not relevant - financial projections for example) - it is here - http://www.startup-australia.org/pitching
- Possibly recommend Guy Kawasaki's 10-20-30 rule of Presentations (except shorter - target 3 minute presentation knowing it will expand to 5 mins) - Here is the link - http://blog.guykawasaki.com/2005/12/the_102030_rule.html
- Sort out the projector and transitions between slides early - consider using Google Apps and having everyone share their presso with a login user e.g. moc.liamg|arrebnaccus#moc.liamg|arrebnaccus from which all the pressos can be accessed.
- Make sure everyone has everyone else's contact details so that people can be tracked down - makes it harder for them to leave their team 'stranded'.
- If you need to be away…tell people…don't leave them guessing.
- Manage your energy…there are some key moments when you need to be at your best…so know when to ease off on the accelerator so you have enough juice to speed up when you have to.