MB had the opportunity to watch Startup Weekend Ottawa unfold this past weekend. Perhaps you caught the action on our Twitter or Facebook pages. The weekend consisted of three days of work, and culminated into eight top-notch presentations from burgeoning entrepreneurs. From the outstanding quality of work presented to the infectious enthusiasm of the participants, Startup Weekend Ottawa was truly inspiring to witness. So inspiring, in fact, that we’ve distilled the 54 hour competition down to six of our most high-impact take-aways from this Google Enterprise event.
1) Collaboration Is Key
Though Startup Weekend Ottawa has a competitive framework, collaboration is the real star of the show. The teams gathered around high-impact ideas and harnessed the power of group thinking to create truly outstanding product proposals. Think of your business the same way. Not only is collaboration a great tool within an organization, but businesses are already recognizing the benefit of inter-industry collaboration. “Clusters” – networks of direct competitors usually in the same locale – are a great example of collaboration. Think Silicon Valley or Hollywood, where many high-stakes companies collaborate to stay on top of market turns and industry innovations. Simply put, collaboration leads to innovation and growth.
2) Focus on Solving a Problem
Greg O’Donnell, founder of the Ottawa-based commercial real estate brokerage Plant Your Flag, offered Startup Weekend Ottawa teams a focus point during his mentorship session: What “pain point” are you addressing with your business? Whether you’re offering a new service, updating your website, or embarking on a new marketing strategy, focusing your sights on solving someone’s pain point results in focused efforts right out of the gate. Clarity around what problem your business or product intends to solve can help save time and resources.
3) Start Small to Grow Big
The best piece of advice that Startup Weekend Facilitator Cheryl Draper offered was on the first day of the competition: Don’t build a billion dollar business model, build a grassroots model that can be grown. Here at MB, we know the value of putting meticulous care into a small project, and using that as a framework for a larger campaign. Avoid mistakes by testing market readiness, messaging and quality before jumping behind an idea that’s not yet fully formed. By going in small, you can absorb the impact of smaller mistakes instead of blowing the roof off your budget.
4) Mentorship is a Two-Way Street
Established and seasoned entrepreneurs have a lot to offer people who are just finding their “sea legs” with their first business. By hearing the hard-learned lessons from people who have “been there”, budding entrepreneurs have the opportunity to fine-tune their entry into the startup world. At the same time, those seasoned entrepreneurs can learn a lot from the new generation who are tuned in to new technologies, are creative, and offer unique perspective on the value of a business. And, as is often the case, mentors have the opportunity to test their knowledge and stretch their boundaries, too. Here at MB we believe in mentorship both in our office and in the community. Is your business mentorship-friendly?
5) Have a Strong Marketing Plan
Jeff Parks, VP Visioning & Customer Experience at Kina’ole and one of the judges of this addition of Startup Weekend Ottawa, offered a great piece of advice to all the teams: You can’t just assume that your business, product or app will take off. In the age of “viral” a business model might assume that their offering is so unique that it will skyrocket and garner legions of fans. In fact, their business model relies on it. The reality is that rising above the fray is the result of meticulous planning, consistent marketing, measuring results, and then trying again to find momentum. Your marketing activities need to be so much more than simply assessing market readiness and an initial launch. Ask yourself: “How am I going to stand out from the crowd?”
6) Test, Test then Test Again
The teams at Startup Weekend Ottawa were all asked to be thorough when assessing the market value of their ideas. This is something that MB fully endorses. Testing can add value to many aspects of a business, and is something MB uses when we approach your marketing campaign. Whether it’s building a social media plan, overhauling your SEO or designing your website, we have seen time and again that the greatest opportunities are born from diligent testing. Be it testing your website’s functionality or testing messaging strategies to inform larger campaigns, testing is an integral part of a marketing strategy.
We hope you enjoyed our break-down of the learning opportunities that businesses can take away from the Startup Weekend model. This incredible event is happening around the globe, and is a tribute to the spirit of entrepreneurship. MB is a proud sponsor of Startup Weekend Ottawa and couldn’t be more enthusiastic this event’s contribution to our community. Congratulations to all the teams involved!