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What was the fifth Startup Weekend in New Zealand, and the second in Wellington, continued to raise the bar.

Co-organiser, and WebFund chairman Dave Moskovitz says the 54 hour event that aims to take pitched (to all participants’) ideas into businesses with a future keep getting better.

“After six events, we’re starting to know the rhythm and the skills required in managing teams and their crises really well,” he says.

The mentoring aspect is one of the key components of the value Startup Weekend delivers to participants, where (as well as the global mission of Startup Weekend) the idea is to inspire entrepreneurs.

“But we have to implement that in the New Zealand context,” Moskovitz says.

“What we’re really trying to provide is experiential learning to help people acquire skills that they may not have.”

As well as honing talents that people may have, it is also a high pressure situation in which to test them.

Among the attributes that participants learn are:

  • Learn how to work in a team under high pressure

  • Learn how to participate in an idea being born

  • Learn about customer and market validation

  • Learn how to plan and execute with a really short production

  • Learn hot to present in a very compelling way

Moskovitz says the application of Startup Weekend in New Zealand that is different to much of the rest of the world is the emphasis of Lean Startup methodology.

The trouble with writing say a 100 page business plan is even before it is finished it is out of date.

In particular the teams used a Lean Startup Canvas, a sheet of A2 paper that provides an outline assumption of a business around factors such as the unique value proposition, the solution that’s being provided and revenue (among others).

“As you learn things, the learnings are incorporated into the business model,” says Moskovitz. “As you write down your assumptions, you have things you can test. It’s a scientific method to making a business, with tests and experiments to validate it.”

Such methodology is much cleaner than “just being driven by a passion and the she’ll be right approach to building a business,” he says.

Wellington’s Startup Weekend (27 – 29 July) saw attendees carrying out much more validation and incorporating this learning in their businesses. The learning also meant much more pivoting as people truly listened to what the market wants.

When the market (i.e. interviewed people) don’t agree with assumptions, it can lead to a crisis.

For one particular team it initially meant a disbanded team with only one member left. But, that person thought about their findings, that there might be something else there, and rang up the team members. The rest of the team all returned that night.

One extremely pleasing aspect for Moskovitz was the new people he discovered in the entrepreneurial and innovation space.

“I like to think I’m really well connected in this ecosystem,” he says.

“But I didn’t know two thirds of the people in the room.”

He says that everyone knows that it is very difficult to produce something realizable in 54 hours.

“But more importantly, people are going to meet 30 or so people that they know and may be able to team up with in the future,” he says. “They may not carry on with a real thing now, but they’re much more likely and able to do so in the future.”

For the record, the weekend winner was Questo – a website and app to make homework fun and link teachers, parents and children more closely in its sphere.

Questo won because it best satisfied the judging criteria:

  • 1/3 validation

  • 1/3 business model

  • 1/3 execution

“The judges attempt to replicate what happens in real life,” Moskovitz says.

“It’s not necessarily the best idea that wins, but the one that is best executed. Questo was strong across all three areas.”

Startup Weekend leans into NZ version of global entrepreneurship competition

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