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October 4th, 2016

What I Learned at Startup Weekend by Google Entrepreneurs

This past weekend I had the pleasure of representing MaaS Pros as a sponsor at its first  Startup Weekend event. I was asked to attend as a Mentor to a group of aspiring entrepreneurs.

And although my role was to help inspire and teach these individuals, I’m in awe of how much knowledge and inspiration I gained after the weekend.

Startup Weekend is an initiative sponsored by Google and Techstars and is designed for individuals who have an innovative idea that they wish to pitch in front of complete strangers.

The goal is that you can come (risk-free) to pitch your business idea and connect with others who may have skills that you don’t possess (i.e. coders, designers, business people) to help in launching your idea. You are given the full weekend (54 hours to be exact) to develop a business plan, validate your idea and create a pitch to present on the final day to judges. Sounds a little chaotic right?

But let me tell you, it was such beautiful chaos to witness. The energy, the ideas, the comradery, the lack of sleep, the over-use of whiteboards (it was basically my last 4 years of being in business, all rolled up into one magical weekend).

What these aspiring entrepreneurs went through in one weekend is truly what happens in real life when trying to build a startup. Here are just a few of the real-life situations I saw in less than 3 days:

It’s ok to change your ideas. I think I witnessed ideas pivoting every hour for some groups – but that’s ok because this happens in real-life. We start with one business idea which then evolves over time and changes direction completely. There are so many factors that can affect why your ideas change – feedback from others, market validation, not enough resources, etc. In business, we face these factors over time – these teams had to face these challenges within a span of a few hours. I was impressed to see no one having any breakdowns and instead just hustling through these challenges until they landed on a final idea and plan to move forward.

Everyone has an opinion – its deciding which is the right one for you that’s the difficult part. When in business, you will talk to many individuals, all in different walks of life who will have an opinion about your business idea, the path you have chosen or the way you are running your business. The tricky part is deciding which opinion is right for you and your business. The participants on the weekend had different coaches/mentors giving them different advice. And I witnessed some groups getting frustrated and annoyed because they were being told different opinions. The only advice I could share with them is: “not everyone will agree with what you are doing, but now it’s up to you to decide as a business, which opinion makes most sense for your end goal. And if you feel like none of them do, follow your instincts.”

Learning to trust. I think the instant connections that these individuals were forced to make in such a short amount of time was what impressed me the most. These teams had to be created within a few hours and each person had to learn to trust complete strangers to work together to see a common goal. They disagreed at times which in my opinion only challenges us as individuals to think harder. In the end, these teams built long-term connections with each other because they were able to experience something so unique. It takes some business people years to find the right business partner but these individuals were thrown into a situation where they had no choice but to find good in everyone and to learn to trust each other for the common goal.

And it wasn’t only the participants that got the opportunity to make life-long connections, us mentors did as well. I built connections with fellow entrepreneurs, all successful in their respective fields and we were able to talk openly about our businesses, past successes and failures and future goals.

I walked away more inspired than ever to keep working hard to grow to take my business to the next level with my team. Being an entrepreneur can be tough and yet one of the most rewarding things at the same time. And it’s those really tough days that sometimes make you question why you are doing this but after witnessing these individuals put themselves through the good, the bad, the tough, all in under three days and persevere until the last day makes me proud to be an entrepreneur.

This past weekend made me realize that entrepreneurs are a breed of their own. We will put ourselves through tough situations because we want to, we empower each other in packs and we will do anything to achieve our goals.

*MaaS Pros was proud to be a Gold Sponsor for Startup Weekend offering 1st, 2nd and 3rd prize winners with a one year subscription to TieiT, plus additional business and technical mentorship for the 1st prize winner.