Bring a decent machine to work on.
I attended the even with a surface pro loaded with Ubuntu and wi-fi dongle. Not an ideal solution when attempting to create a prototype to show the judges and the crowd. It didn’t help that when the power was plugged in the touch pad would send the cursor jumping across the screen even when my finger would not move. I learned later that the if I pushed down on the top left corner of the device this would correct the issue leading my to believe it was an issue with the device being properly grounded. On top of all of these issues I was working in vim for everything, an un-configured copy of vim and the keyboard in use lacked an insert key making pasting a rather annoying procedure that involved pushing down the left side of the tablet while right clicking to past.
Lord of the flies, the sequel…
When you hop into a group of people where everyone is a stranger of everyone, two things happen. The first thing that happens is there is an immediate and unnecessary power struggle between some of the people in the group. I found that a good cure for this is reminding people that there is a group leader followed by asking what the group leader thinks of the idea. Side note, it’s amazing how much buying you can get by asking people the correct questions. Never demand, simply let them find them understand your reasoning by asking the correct questions.
If you want to have a really good time at a startup weekend make sure that you do some download preparation. Things like downloading your repo code ahead of time and making sure that you have all of your android SDKs up to date will make things magical when you don’t know what the internet will be like. The first 3 or so hours were spent just getting everything in line for one of the developers on the team. This could have been easily handled with some quick prep.
You aren’t allowed to pre code something before the event but you are allowed to hack something together with existing frameworks and libraries.
Book the next Monday off
I quickly learned that after spending 30 plus hours of solid development time in a 2 and a half day window is really not as enjoyable if you were to do the same thing at home. The added stress of making sure that what you contribute is done in a timely manner and you aren’t letting anyone down can take it’s toll on you when it’s 6:30 in the morning and you still haven’t figured out how to efficiently query a database of latitude and longitude coordinates within an N kilometre range.
Also, because I live a fair distance away and was sleep deprived I ended up missing the after party which would have been great to attend.
Commend efforts not just results
It is amazing what people can accomplish in a few days and even if there are less than ideal results it is important to make sure that they feel good about themselves. Startup Weekend in my opinion is all about learning new things, helping people out and connecting with people that you would not normally meet. It is important to give back and help out creative communities and part of this involves recognizing peoples feats and giving them encouragement to continue.
On a final note
Fake everything. Fake the presentation, fake the product, pad the numbers and make it look good.
We created an actual application, it worked on the back-end. Connected to the servers and handled the information coming back through the wire. We created a prototype not an MVP. A minimal viable product should be as simple as possible and just for demonstration purposes. It doesn’t need to work, it just needs to look like it does.