Startup Weekend Dallas: 10 Tools You Need To Succeed

The next Startup Weekend Dallas is this weekend June 22nd – June24th in Addison. Late last year I had the pleasure of participating in my first Startup Weekend Dallas and am excited to attend and get involved again. As I was thinking about the weekend and the tools the teams used, I compiled the list below of 10 tools you’ll need to succeed at Startup Weekend:

    Ash Maura, author of Running Lean, created an online version of the Business Model Canvas from Alexander Osterwalder in a beautifully designed application called the Lean Canvas. Eric Reis, author of Lean Startup, defines a startup as a temporary organization designed to search for a scalable and repeatable business model. This tool allows the team to easily collaborate in a synchronous online tool as they start to populate the canvas with their business model and hypotheses.During my first startup weekend the Lean Canvas was leveraged throughout the weekend. As we continually honed the customer segments and value propositions it served us well when building the final pitch.
  2.  Google Docs
    Enabling collaboration among your team will be critical over the weekend and Google Docs serves an easy way to share ideas quickly and synchronously. If you don’t have a Gmail address get one before the weekend.
  3. Dropbox
    Just as important as Google Docs, Dropbox offers a shared file system for the team to load up documents that will be used through the weekend.
  4. Presentation Software
    The entire weekend is summarized in a pitch of your business idea to local investors, entrepreneurs and business executives. Only one of you needs to present the idea so I strongly recommend PowerPoint as that offers the ability to share easily. However some folks have used Keynote and Prezi to make their final presentation. Personally, I’d spend more time on the content of the presentation and convincing delivery than the creative look.
  5. Survey Software
    As Steve Blank says you need to get out of the building to validate the hypotheses of your business idea. Customer validation is one of the key criteria in judging over the weekend so I strongly urge you to determine your strategy early in the weekend. While you may not physically need to get out of the building you’ll want to survey folks to test the validity of your idea as well as potential price points. Some survey tools include Wufoo Surveys, Poll Daddy, Survey Monkey and Zoomerang. Don’t miss the opportunity to leverage social media channels such as Twitter and Facebook as well to share your survey or just ask follow-on questions.
  6. Wireframe software
    As soon as you have defined your customer segments and value propositions, you need to start prototyping out what your application looks like. There are several tools out there such as Balsamiq and Prototypes, but even a simple drawing can get you started if needed.
  7. Laptop
    You’ll want to be portable this weekend and have the ability to easily colloborate with your team. I also suggest bringing a power strip for your group. Not only will you need to power laptops but you’ll also be powering smartphones and tablets.
  8. Breath mints and Energy Bars
    A friend of mine once told me never turn down a mint when offered one. This is especially the case during Startup Weekend. You are spending nearly 15-18 hour days with a team of exhausted team members. Emotions can get tense and breath can get even worse. Do everyone a favor and keep a packet of mints or gum handy. Just as important, bring a bounty of high-energy snacks to keep you going throughout the day.  Heck, consider bringing enough for your whole team.
  9. Second Monitor
    With a tight deadline to develop a working prototype, several of the developers used their iPads as second monitors to showcase their work in real-time. At my event one of the developers even brought in his own 27” Apple Display.  Let’s just say we all enjoy more screen space.
  10. Positive Attitude and Teamwork
    There is no doubt everyone has different experiences, skills sets, and motivations. While it’s great to demonstrate your expertise, sometimes you need to disagree and commit just to get through the weekend. Recognize that the goal of the weekend is to learn through the process and potentially create some lifelong friendships. If you are extremely fortunate, you just may create a business. Do your part to be objective, generous, and helpful, even if it’s helping another team.

About Startup Weekend:

Startup Weekends are 54-hour events designed to provide superior experiential education for technical and non-technical entrepreneurs.  It begins with Friday night pitches and continues through brainstorming, business plan development, and basic prototype creation. Startup Weekends culminate in Sunday night demos and presentations.  Participants create working startups during the event and are able to collaborate with like-minded individuals outside of their daily networks. All teams hear talks by industry leaders and receive valuable feedback from local entrepreneurs. The weekend is centered on action, innovation, and education.  Whether you are looking for feedback on an idea, a co-founder, specific skill sets, or a team to help you execute, Startup Weekends are the perfect environment in which to test your idea and take the first steps towards launching your own startup.

These are just a few of the tools to bring to Startup Weekend. Can you think of anything else worth mentioning to newcomers? Leave a comment below.

Mike Merrill is Director of Marketing for ReachLocal, an online marketing company that helps businesses acquire, manage and retain local customers online. He serves as Chairman of Social Media Club of Dallas. Personally he's interested in applying the Lean Startup methodologies to customer development and marketing. Additionally, he's active in Startup Weekend Dallas. You can follow him on Twitter @MikeDMerrill