7 Surprising Lessons I Learnt from Winning Startup Weekend

Posted by Carmelo Romano


You can learn a lot in a very short amount of time.

During Startup Weekend you are surrounded by people who have their best being brought out of them.

Apart from being stimulated by the energy of other participants, mentors continuously push your boundaries through their questions, insights and experiences.

I’ve participated in two Startup Weekends. The second time, me and my team won.

The way I approached the second Startup Weekend was really different to how I approached the first one. In my second one, I had a much better idea of how the system worked.

The fact that I was part of the winning team had a lot to do with these 7 surprising lessons:

The Team is More Important Than The Idea

The way Startup Weekend works, people first pitch their ideas, then teams are formed around the more popular ideas. Important: Don’t focus on joining the team with the best idea but join the team made up of the best participants.

A great team can get a crappy idea, turn it around, develop it and end up with Gold.

A mediocre team with a great idea will probably not develop their idea enough and end up with nothing.

Always Be Networking

On the first day, there is a lot of time to get to know other participants. Make friends. At the start, many people like talking about their idea or their skill sets or just about being at Startup Weekend.

When making friends, people will ask you what you do. Make sure you communicate a skill that’ll be helpful during the weekend.

In my second Startup Weekend, half of the teams asked me to join their team whilst a few individuals were asking around to join teams. I joined what ended up being the winning team. I’m not saying this to boast, but to outline how important networking can be.

Focus On Winning

From the get-go, you want to have a winning mentality. Working in the startup space is a competitive business. Personally, I don’t love working with people who are in it just for the ride. I look out for people who are driven, motivated and ready to really push themselves.

Finishing second means you’re first from the losers. Bring out the best of yourself.

Ultimately, Startup Weekend is not about winning, but it’s a much more interesting experience when participants push themselves to win and succeed.

“Winning is not everything, but wanting to win is” – Vince Lombardi

Validate, Validate, Validate

There’s a misconception that Startup Weekend is about building an innovative prototype product to impress people. It’s not!

Startup Weekend is about getting an idea, validating it, building a business case for it, and selling it to a panel of judges.

You don’t have to build anything.

That’s why it’s important to have business-focused people in your team. If your team is just made up of developers, that’s a red-flag.

Your Primary Priority is your Presentation

Ultimately, everything depends on your presentation.

A business case, that is poorly presented will leave people uninspired, unexcited, and with little faith in you and your team.

A stand out business case, that is impressively presented will capture the judges’ attention and they might just give you the benefit of the doubt you need to win.

Enthusiasm is contagious, but it’s not enough

The first time I participated in Startup Weekend, I joined a team of Italians whose energy was infectious. Everybody loved them.

During my second startup weekend, one of the teams stood out because of their amazing enthusiasm and energy.

Both teams lost. Enthusiasm and passion are great. But alone, they’re not enough to win. Look out for teams with the right skill sets, a promising idea and the right attitude.

Having fun helps!

Although learning, winning, and working hard are all great, make sure you have fun throughout the weekend. For energy, having a laugh is better than having a red bull. Besides, Startup Weekend is a great opportunity to make friends beyond the weekend itself.


The lessons I mentioned above apply beyond Startup Weekend. They apply to the startup world in general.

Startup Weekend is a great learning experience and an introduction to startups. After my first Startup Weekend, I co-founded a startup project, an online accounting software called Clever Accounting.

After your first Startup Weekend, you’re going to be full of energy to start your own special startup.

If you’ve read this far, I really encourage you to take part in an upcoming Startup Weekend. Click here for a list of upcoming Startup Weekends. Push your boundaries and try this unforgettable experience.

Check out the Startup Weekend Trailer

About The Author

Carmelo Romano- .

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  1. you are right, team is more important than idea. I have an idea of local startup business but i’m lacking of right kind of people to join with me.

    Comment by Minhaj on 20/10/2014 at 18:09
  2. Minhaj, do you like reading books? Yes, a team is critical; more so..the right team. Would you be open to meeting the right people? 🙂

    Comment by Norman Cristina on 22/10/2014 at 18:01

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