Inside a Hackathon: 2011 Startup Weekend NYC

by / ⠀Startup Advice / December 2, 2011

startup-weekend nyc 2011

Startup Weekend is an all weekend (Friday to Sunday) event where developers, designers, marketers, product managers and startup enthusiasts come together and share ideas, form teams and launch tech startups! Following the Raise Cache event Thursday night (11/17), there was a lot of energy and momentum going into Startup Weekend from the Silicon Alley community.

If you’re attending a 54-hour hackathon for the first time, you’re not sure what to expect. We’ve provided an insider’s perspective to Startup Weekend as well as tips and advice for preparing for your first hackathon.

Pitch Night (Friday)

Friday night is a lot of fun. People are mingling. Almost everyone is wearing his or her assigned colored t-shirts (maroon for developers, blue for designers and green for marketers).  This is a great time to network, make sure to bring your business cards. If you’re planning on making it to Startup Weekend, spend time thinking about an exciting startup idea (and a business name) that you’re passionate about to pitch. Friday night is “Pitch Night” and you will hear about 50 different pitches. Be patient on selecting an idea, don’t commit to a team until you hear all of the pitches. Most importantly, keep an open mind when selecting a startup, this is very important!! Sometimes the startup ideas that people are most passionate about are the ones that win.

After the pitches, attendees will walk around with post-its (not a very technical way to handle the voting process) and place them on the ideas that they like. The top startup ideas then get selected and attendees are then responsible for joining a team. Make sure that you not only like the idea, but you can see yourself working well with your team (we’ll explain later). Once you’ve joined a team, try to get the majority of your brainstorming, planning and strategy done. This is important for you and your team to have a productive weekend.

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Time to Start Hacking (Saturday)

Startup Weekend took place at General Assembly and had a few conference rooms available with IdeaPaint on the walls. If you want these rooms, make sure to get their bright and early (8:00am).

Don’t spend too much time on brainstorming, it is easy to get wrapped up in making your startup bigger and better by adding new features. Stay focused on your core business model and basic functionality. It is important to balance strategy/planning and execution. Expect arguing, people are going to be passionate of their ideas and defend them. Mentors will be walking around, helping teams execute their ideas. Make sure to listen to their advice; they have had experience with successful tech startups.

We’ve outlined below a sample project checklist for your team to divide and conquer:

  • Obtain a domain and set-up hosting
  • Design a logo for your startup
  • Design and develop a coming soon splash page if you’re unable to complete your project/website.
  • Build a following on your Facebook fan page/Twitter account. Post a status update and invite your friends to join.
  • Get survey data through Take a walk and survey people on the streets to collect information.
  • If you’re unable to build a working demo for Sunday, focus on designing the user flow and basic user interface (UI) to include in the presentation.
  • Create an outline for your presentation and start framing it out.

Remember to fuel your body; you’ll be working like a machine. I drank lots of coffee and ate a ton of these mint chocolate energy bites.

Presentation Day (Sunday)

Crunch time! Push hard on completing all of your tasks. On the last day of the hackathon, it is time to polish your materials for your presentation later on in the evening.

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There will be a tech check to test your presentation on their projector. Make sure everything works and the presentation is displayed properly. Practice… practice…practice at least 2 hours before it is time to present. You’ll have only 5 minutes to present. This goes by quick, so be sure to be to the point and don’t fill up slides with a ton of text. Judges are interested in your business model, validation and differentiators.

Once everyone has presented, there will be an opportunity to mingle with the different teams, judges and mentors. Use this time to network and make connections. There is a lot of talent and successful individuals in the room. I would highly recommend Startup Weekend looking to become immersed in the tech scene.

Photos from the event:

Startup Weekend NYC

Credit: Frankedenbow

Startup Weekend NYC

Credit: Frankedenbow

Startup Weekend NYC

Credit: Frankedenbow

Mitch Wainer is a young entrepreneur with over 13 years of digital marketing experience and a passion for graphic design. Mitch lives in NYC and works as a Director of Digital Marketing and Branding at a boutique marketing and branding firm where he is responsible for developing and executing marketing strategies for clients and designing digital assets/interfaces.

About The Author

Matt Wilson

Matt Wilson is Co-Founder of Under30Experiences, a travel company for young people ages 21-35. He is the original Co-founder of Under30CEO (Acquired 2016). Matt is the Host of the Live Different Podcast and has 50+ Five Star iTunes Ratings on Health, Fitness, Business and Travel. He brings a unique, uncensored approach to his interviews and writing. His work is published on, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, Huffington Post, Reuters, and many others. Matt hosts yoga and fitness retreats in his free time and buys all his food from an organic farm in the jungle of Costa Rica where he lives. He is a shareholder of the Green Bay Packers.


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