Ever since attending Startup Weekend 2012 in Palmerston North (NZ), I have wanted to visit another one of those great events that happen across the globe. This weekend passed, it finally happened. Right here in Hamburg.
If you haven’t heard about startup weekend: In the course of 54 hours, developers, designers and people of all areas get together to pitch ideas, work in small teams, develop a serious business model, a prototype and analyse the shit out of the market. On Sunday, a group of well picked judges watches the final pitches and selects their favourites.
During those 54 hours, our team was working on the idea of stickerabo.de – and here’s what I learnt in the process.
Pitching an idea won’t kill you. With a few ideas I had in mind, I decided to actually pitch one on Friday. Turns out, all the sweat and adrenaline was worth it. As long as you’re prepared.
Be prepared. There’s a lot of inspiration on how to pitch available online. Building up on the simple structure of Problem – Solution – Call to action helped me.
Listen to your mentors. The two of us were actively discussing our idea with our mentors throughout the whole Saturday. No, you cannot actually code during that time. But having the chance to talk to experienced mentors throughout the weekend helped us have a look at our idea from all sides.
Believe you can come out on top. On Saturday afternoon we had completely sucked all substance out of the idea, drowned it in a sea of challenges and had reached the perfect point to just cancel the whole thing. Only then did we realise what our minimum viable product was.
Don’t launch on Saturday night. If it can break it will break. And you won’t sleep well if you know something is broken.
Launch on Saturday night. Is “Move fast and break things” the new “Keep calm and carry on” already? Either way, shipping stuff and receiving feedback is important.
Iterate. I’m happy we focussed on working on our final pitch from Sunday morning onwards. Brain dumping everything into rough slides, removing the unnecessary and slowly getting rid of all bullet points. That’s what helped us refine our message and narrow down our actual sales arguments.
So that was it. New friendships where made, business cards exchanged (we are so grown-up, eh?). And as it happens, Patrick and I actually won the “Overall” prize in the end. As happy as that makes us, we were completely taken by surprise. I dropped the glass trophy right there – thanks again to one of the organisers who caught it mid-air.
The thing we’ve been working on is stickerabo.de. We offer a free subscription for stickers (think band stickers etc.). You sign up, tell us about your interest and enter your postal address. We go hunting for sponsors who are interested in connecting to their target group on a physical level and are willing to pay us to spread their stickers. I still believe we have a strong concept around that and we are now in contact with potential partners.
With all the excitement of the weekend slowly settling, we are seriously considering following up on this project. Stay tuned. And also look out for any startup weekend happening near you.
One year ago, I was still living in New Zealand and I had my fair share of plans for the upcoming 12 months. Those months have passed so I’ll do a quick review of what I’ve actually achieved.
Travel more: Visit 3 countries I haven’t been to before.
Done. I went to Australia, Dubai and England.
Learn more: Start learning Spanish to the point where I’m able to have a casual pub conversation. Pick up my French from school and improve it so I’ll be able to have a fluent conversation and watch a French movie without subtitles.
Kind of done. I travelled France in summer and I’ve started the Spanish course on duolingo. My French has improved, yet I can’t say a thing in Spanish.
Start something: Have a software project of my own or with friends put the first euro into my account.
Failed. And this really bugs me! How can I not get anything done with regards to such projects? I am involved in amazing projects over at YOOtheme (uikit and Pagekit), yet I fail to put any of my own projects out there. This really needs to change. For real.
And now here we are. At the beginning of yet another year, full of opportunities, obligations, dreams and challenges. And again I want to put a few goals down just to track and steer myself.
Travel. Visit 3 places I haven’t been to before. This includes cities in Germany and abroad that I haven’t had the chance to fully experience. Why limit it to “new countries” when amazing places can be somewhere around or in countries I’ve just driven through before? Experience trumps numbers.
Read. I’ve managed to read 24 books last year with a bit of a sprint in the end. I want to keep on reading because I love it, not to hunt numbers. My goal will be at least 12 books for the whole year and there already are a few 600-page-publications waiting.
Play music. I can’t play an instrument and I want to change this. I have started playing the guitar two weeks ago (and a small Ukulele has found its way into my possession). At the end of the year I will be able to play at least 3 complete songs.
Create. Again, because I’ve failed last year: Have a software project of my own or with friends put the first euro into my account.
I look up. In the distant height above me I see the stone pillars disappear in darkness. Closer down to where I stand I can make out markings all around the columns, ancient runes covered in ferns and moss. In front of me, a path is leading straight towards a throne, a huge throne carved out of a single piece of giant rock. I decide I must be both standing in an abandoned dwarven kingdom and also in the middle of a pretty decent dream.
Just yesterday, we were talking about lucid dreams and how to manage having one. We discussed a few techniques but apparently, just having this discussion in my subconscious was enough to be aware of my dream state last night. And so I tried making up something else.
Short of ideas, I think of the first thing that comes to mind: home. And surely enough, the grey-green stone pillars around me fade and shrink, giving way to the white walls that mean the comfort of my own bedroom. Suddenly, I fall and realise I’m in my bed, neatly tucked into the blankets. “Oh shit, I woke up”, is the first thing I think. And so I tell the group of strangers that is sitting in a weird circle around me. Not weird enough to make me notice I am in fact still dreaming.
Rule number 1 for lucid dreaming: Always make up stuff too absurd to be true or you fall victim to the illusion of reality.
I feel like my writing has a higher quality than last year, but I’m definitely a lot worse with regards to quantity. What keeps me going is the fact that I like my story and the general joy of writing itself. Also I’ve got writing buddies whose word count motivates me.
While last year I went for 90-minute writing sessions, putting down my daily goal in one run, I had to switch to shorter bursts of word production this time. There’s this ugly tool online that helps me write 500+ words in 15 minutes without a stop. If only I could get myself to sit down three times a day…
I’ve done it last year and I intend to do so this November: Sit down and write a novel of 50,000 words. I’ve already got a few friends on board doing the same so we can motivate each other. If you haven’t heard of it but are keen to write as well – just join NaNoWriMo.
Looking back, last year’s situation with me working full-time and writing the novel on the side was actually better than expected. Of course I had long days, but at least my life was following a regular schedule. At the moment, with university, work and AIESEC filling up pretty much 7 days of my week, it will be tough to find 2 hours a day to write. So if I escape my obligations a bit more often these next 30 days – bear with me.
Sadly, last year’s work is still not in a state to be shown around. That is why now, I’ll start fresh with another story. Let’s see where it takes me.