5 Lessons Learned from Atlanta Startup Weekend

Last weekend, techies, designers and marketing gurus alike came from all over the metro Atlanta area, convening in Tech Square for 54 hours of entrepreneurial crunch time. “No Talk, All Action” boasts the Startup Weekend website, and last weekend in downtown Atlanta over a dozen hopeful teams buckled down to the task of launching a start-up in just over two days.

As a proud sponsor of Atlanta Startup Weekend, Pardot had front row seats to all the action, and now we want to share a few things we learned with aspiring start-ups. Zach, Raz and Stuart (our Pardot reps at the event) weigh in on what they observed over the course of the weekend. The general consensus? Developing an organized plan for your start-up is just as important as having a great idea. Here are five tips to make sure that your start-up is not only brilliant, but makes it off the ground:

1) Don’t get lost in tech talk. “When pitching your startup, focus 80% on the ‘what’ (problem) and the ‘why’ (validation) and 20% on the ‘how’ (tech/product),” Zach tweeted Sunday night.  Several teams in the competition delivered whiz-bang presentations that left the audience and judges wondering what exactly they were being pitched. Remember that your audience may not have in-depth technical knowledge, so focus more on the purpose behind your product than the technical details of building it.  “Why, then what, then how,” Stuart agreed. “The best pitchers are the best story tellers.”

2) Practice, practice practice!  Many teams seemed to be unaware of the time limit for pitches. Come prepared! Having an organized and professional presentation can make a big difference in the audience’s impression of your product. One or two dry runs of your presentation can ensure that you’re able to get all your key points across in the allotted time.

3) Do your research.  Again and again, the judges would ask a presenting team to explain how their product/service was different from something similar that already exists on the market. It was uncanny how familiar the judges were with what’s already out there. Make sure you have conducted sufficient market research and can differentiate your product from others out there (hint: “market research” requires more than a quick Google search).

4) Show them the money.  Okay, not a requirement for Atlanta Startup Weekend, but having a well thought through monetization plan is a sign that you’ve thought through the complications that might arise and are prepared to deal with obstacles. That being said, don’t be afraid to pitch an idea that’s more about benefitting society than monetary gain. The QuitFor team pitched an idea to help people stop smoking, and the judges rewarded the social conscience of the group with third place.

5) Most importantly, have fun!  At the end of the weekend, the room was all smiles because those who participated met some new people and had fun. One of the greatest things about start-ups (and one of our greatest points of pride here at Pardot) is the energetic, innovative atmosphere that surrounds a team that’s truly excited about their product. So make sure that you’re developing something you’re passionate about — and having fun while you’re at it!