Lessons Learned from Startup Weekend NEXT

This past Saturday, I completed Startup Weekend NEXT, which is an in-person class that teaches Steve Blank’s process of Customer Development. Twenty-three other entrepreneurs and I met with our teacher, Eric Koester of Zaarly, and other organizers, advisors, and mentors every Wednesday and Saturday over the last three weeks to learn how to “get out of the building” and talk to potential customers before starting to build a product.

This was an amazing but grueling experience which is awesomely summed up by Eric in this blog post. Over the last three weeks, my partner Wight and I spoke to over 60 potential customers and learned a lot about the process and ourselves. In addition to the lessons learned that Eric wrote about, I’ll add a couple more:

  1. You need a lot of empathy during this process. First, I had to understand how my partner worked and what his thought process was. Then I needed to put myself in my interviewees’ shoes to understand how they would comprehend the questions that I asked, to ensure I’ll get valuable feedback without leading them. Finally, I had to empathize with my fellow students to understand their points of view to provide feedback about their projects. I can think of a couple of times when I wasn’t quite empathetic enough during the process and therefore didn’t perform optimally.
  2. Passion is an absolute must in the startup game.  Because starting and building a company is such a grind, you have to be passionate about what you’re doing. Part of the reason I took this class was to test the passion that I had for the idea I was working on. I found that I didn’t share the high level of passion that my partner had, so we decided to part ways. If you don’t have a passion for the startup you’re working on, there’s little chance for success.
  3. Change is good. People learned a lot about how they should change their potential businesses, but I think the most impressive part of this class was seeing people actually change themselves. There were people who were initially timid and afraid of talking to customers who blossomed into outgoing, customer-development junkies. There were also people, like me, confident in their people skills who became really humbled by how difficult this process can be. Everyone had something to learn and it was amazing to see such an immense amount of change over only three weeks.
  4. Eric Koester has really cool socks! If you know Eric, you know what I mean. And I’m gonna get me some cool socks, too.

This class was an amazing journey and I’ll definitely use what I’ve learned in my future endeavors. I’d like to thank Eric, Mack, Denis, Barbara, all of the mentors and advisors, and most notably all of my fellow students for a great experience.

Now let’s get out of the building and do something great.

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