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Why is design so important at Startup Weekend?

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At Startup Weekend, it’s really important that we get a good ratio of developers, designers, marketers and hustlers. These are some of the team elements you need to build a great startup. But in a 54 hour period, why is design important at all? You just need to show that your product works and will make money, right? Wrong. Absolutely, dead wrong.

Reading this article on Design Thinking and Startups by Laurence McCahill, I was amazed by how much I kept thinking this is so true. One of my favourite quotes from the article epitomises the reason why designers should come to Startup Weekend and why Startup Weekend teams should LISTEN TO THEM and not elbow them aside, focusing solely on build:

“Founders need to believe in the strategic advantage a design-driven approach can give them. The earlier they can bring in design, the more they can reap the benefits. It’s a lot harder to bring in design when a product or service has already been developed.

I believe the best way to do this is either to have a designer as part of the founding team … or to recruit the best freelance designer you can afford to help you shape the product and better understand what your customers want.”

And not bringing in design right from the start is where some of the teams at Startup Weekend fall down time and time again. Startup Weekend is NOT a hackathon! It’s an experiential learning event that hammers home the importance of customer validation, validating problems and then solutions, and iterative development – it requires ‘design thinking‘. If the idea you are presenting on the Sunday is the same as the idea you pitched on the Friday then you’re either incredibly lucky, or you haven’t gone through the process properly.

Of course, it’s important we have kick-ass rockstar developers at Startup Weekend too, but this will test your ability to be flexible with your coding, patient in not jumping too far away and be able to iterate or even pivot when you realise that one of your hypotheses isn’t confirmed and an alternative hypothesis now needs to be validated.

This isn’t an event you can sit back and relax at!

Designers: we need you in our Startup Weekend teams to inject design thinking right from the beginning. If you have an idea, or even if you’re just curious, sign up! You could be the difference between a team that builds a product and a team that builds a GREAT product that people want and enjoy using.

Developers: this will test you if you you’re not used to lean and agile development. But you’re key to the success of a team. It’s very difficult to build an awesome Minimum Viable Product in 54 hours without awesome, dedicated coders.

Marketers/hustlers: don’t think we’ve forgotten about you. Putting customers at the centre is great and so is building a great product, but a startup needs to generate revenue and eventually profit. Don’t let your team forget this!

But whichever ‘category’ you fit into, this is about building startups. You’re all as important as each other. But yea… we need more designers.

Register now for the greatest weekend of your life.

If you’re a designer and you’re struggling to afford the ticket price of Startup Weekend, but really really really want to come, contact sheffield@startupweekend.org. We might be able to help you out. Might.