At Blackstone, we are really big on educational experiences, as our intern Alex Haynes found out during Startup Weekend Louisville. Alex and his team pitched their business idea—The Glass Capitol— to their Startup Weekend peers and mentors. This is his account of how nerve-wracking but ultimately educational an experience like this can be.
In my opinion, Louisville’s Startup Weekend is one of the best experiences a young entrepreneur can get a chance to take part in. Building a business is hard and it takes a variety of skills that few people have naturally, but that all can learn.
I went into this event with the mentality of a developer trying to build a business but I came out with new skills, and most important, a new mentality that will help me be more successful as a leader and entrepreneur going forward.
Alex and his team pitching The Glass Capitol
It’s an entrepreneurship competition; it’s about the money
First things first. Entrepreneurship is about making money doing what you love, and providing services that others want and find beneficial. If your idea can’t make money, or if you can’t figure out how to make money with it, you’ll have a hard time winning.That’s the problem my team and I ran into. We started The Glass Capitol, and our goal, first and foremost, is to empower others to help build a better government. For us, the money was a secondary concern.
We focused on illuminating the inner workings of our government through analysis and statistics. We learned quickly that building a business requires more. It requires a firm revenue model. It requires a proper business plan. That’s what the judges at Startup Weekend are looking for.
No idea is a great idea until it’s validated
“The secret to winning startup weekend is validation.”
That was the first thing our first mentor told us on Saturday morning. We were told that you can think you have the greatest idea in the world but it doesn’t matter without proof. Surveying your consumer base is the first and most important step in starting a successful startup. People will give you ideas you wouldn’t come up with on your own and can give fresh perspectives on the problem you’re confronting, but outside input can be harsh, and it will also tell you what the most glaring flaws in your ideas are on the spot.
Learning to approach and speak with people about potential businesses is the best skill I gained out of startup weekend. It brought me out of my comfort zone, and now I have the confidence to talk to the public about my ideas. The public is the best place to vet new ideas. They’re forthcoming with criticism and the wisdom of the crowd will find improvements you wouldn’t on your own.
Startup Weekend Louisville group shot
You don’t need to code to win
A working MVP is good. Numerous potential customers wanting to spend money on your product is better.
Our team at startup weekend was mainly non-programmers, and their hard work was more valuable than the code we wrote during this event because their persistence got us the validation we needed. We were able to canvass public spaces and talk with more than 100 people about The Glass Capitol.
It was the most enlightening part of Startup Weekend because we got the feedback and proof we needed to show that people want us to keep building The Glass Capitol. We want to build a better government; and as a team, we proved to ourselves, and each other, that we can get ideas about how to do that out there into a public space.
We gained social proof. Without social proof, a business won’t get off the ground.