Oh no! Not another article about the pandemic. Relax! I’ll need some information first… oops, got carried away. I don’t want to sing Comfortably Numb. I only want to share the experience I had at Techstars Global Online Startup Weekend COVID-19 GREECE | April 24th, 2020 | Athens | Techstars the past week.
For those who don’t know what a Startup Weekend is, here is a quick breakdown:
- It’s a Friday, Saturday, Sunday event
- Happens all over the world, traditionally in person
- With Organizers, Judges, Mentors, and Attendees
- Anyone can attend
- Two kinds of attendees: (1) Those who have an idea and are looking for a team, (2) Those who don’t have any idea and want to offer their skills to those who are looking.
- 10-20 ideas make it through after going a quick filtering mechanism before Friday.
- On Friday, the folks that got through do a one minute pitch with the goal to attract the talent that is missing, and make sure they have at least 3 folks in their team.
- Saturday is all about validating their idea with customers, talking to mentors, and preparing their final presentation deck.
- At the same time, various happenings like workshops, shared resources, and mentorship help the teams improve their final presentation.
- Sunday is all about finalizing the presentations, getting more help, and lightning talks from guest speakers that have wisdom to offer.
- The teams that did the work, do a 5 minute presentation, and a 2 minute QA by the judges.
- The top 3 win, and get a small price. But every team really opens up opportunities beyond Start Weekend to network and move their idea closer to market.
The ideas this time had to be connected to the pandemic in some way. Help improve people’s situation, protect them, enable industries (like tourism) etc.
Networking and opportunities
It’s been said many times since the start of the pandemic. All these events used to be in person. People could only attend if they were in the region or could afford the travel.
Now anyone can attend from all over the world to almost any online event. A larger pool of people from all corners had the opportunity to network. They also had the chance to find new opportunities and ideas.
It is amazing organizers of events like a Startup Weekend, have the courage to run it completely online. Startup Weekends rely heavily on close human interaction.
Nevertheless, this is what it means to adopt. We humans can adopt to almost any situation, and what happened the past 3 days (and more) was a proof.
Special shout out to Amalia Agathou who is one of the most positive and energetic person I’ve met. She was one of the mentors, and kept spreading out positive energy to everyone throughout the event.
I was also a mentor in the event. I tried to help as much as possible, although I always feel I don’t have any insights or wisdom to offer. I guess this may be just the impostor syndrome. Things are so obvious to me that I feel everyone already knows what I have learned in the past 22 years.
A good mentor does not offer solutions. It helps you find the solution yourself. The whole process is closer to the Socratic Method.
A good mentor asks open-ended questions, in order to help the teams think for themselves. Help them uncover gray areas. Maybe change their approach. Simplify things to increase the feasibility.
A mentor, even if they have a suggestion, should not immediately jump into suggesting it. They first need to ask a few questions to help the teams reach that revelation themselves. And if they can’t, they offer their suggestion in the form of a question. Let the choice to the team.
The work needs to be done by the team, not the mentor.
That’s not easy of course. I am glad I was able to help, and I learned a lot through the process. I am also building my own company and have to follow my advice. But also learn so many things along the way.
Here is my mentor introduction:
One of the million things I have in my to-do list is to learn how to sketchnote. I saw an opportunity to practice this during the opening session on Friday, and a lightning talk on Sunday.
Here are the results:
- Comfortably Numb is a great song.
- The pandemic opens up new opportunities.
- Event an event like Startup Weekend can be held online.
- Mentoring is not easy.
- Sketchnoting rocks.