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“You’ll be amazed what you can achieve with such a time constraint”

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Back in 2011, Silicon Valley Comes to the UK (SVC2UK) organised a hackathon and Mark Dessain, a University of Sheffield student was in the winning team. Mark has since attended several similar events, including Startup Weekends in other regions and has decided to travel up from London to come to Startup Weekend Sheffield in July. Here’s what he has to say about his experiences so far…
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There were three main reason I attended SVC2UK. 1. I had never done anything like it before, and it seemed like a great way to meet new people and hopefully end up building something; 2. I wanted to see what was possible in such a short space of time; and 3. Since I was a student at the time, it seemed like a great activity to go on my CV.

The event was a great success, the experience has been fantastic and I learnt lots of new things from it. Credit goes to the organisers who provided some very useful mentors and facilitators to help which made the event run smoothly.

I’d highly recommend having a go if you haven’t done anything like this before. SVC2UK was my first type of HackWeekend / StartupWeekend event, and is what really got me interested in just taking a weekend out and seeing what you can make. You’ll be amazed what you can achieve with such a time constraint.

I have attended a few Hackdays / Startup Weekend since then:
– ( http://london.startupweekend.org/ ) London Startup Weekend last November
– ( http://www.thegivinglab.org/ ) TheGivingLab have hosted a few smaller event with a focus on giving to charity. Which my teams also won with http://tweetbribe.com/
– ( http://hackinthecity.com/ ) HackInTheCity – however this time I was just there as a  mentor / sponsor of the event

There are a few others but I’ll leave it there for now.

If I was to give any advice to teams attending Startup Weekend, it would be:

  • At the start of the event you’re going to have a flood of amazing ideas when all the team is pitching in with their thoughts. Before you start building make sure you sit down and strip everything back to the core functionality of the product, look at the brief and go from there. You’re not going to be able to make everything you want, instead you need a “Minimum Viable Product”.
  • Try not to get bogged down, keep the momentum going. Time boxing possible difficult tasks is usually quite useful.
  • Use outside help (from your team) as much as possible, and test / validate the idea.
  • Practice your presentation – it’s what the judges will see. Try and anticipate what questions they’re going to ask you, (i.e. that it’s a viable business proposition)
  • Get a good night sleep on the Thursday!

Mark Dessain
@markdessain