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This last weekend, I got the opportunity of attending the very 1st edition of Startup Weekend University in India that was held at BITS Pilani, Hyderabad. If you don’t know what is a Startup Weekend, read this post to get a better idea.

Honestly, when I heard about this concept, I was a bit skeptic to begin with. The thought of an “entrepreneurial idea” being turned into a full-fledged startup in just 54 hours and that too, collaborating with people you don’t know is farfetched. But you know what, they were right – about the startup, and about the experience.

The event was attended by a gamut of people with skill sets ranging from Developers, Designers, to the Non-Technical ones. With students coming from A-list colleges like BITS, IIIT, IIT and ISB, the quality of startups was obviously expected to be unique and efficient. And they surely dint disappoint anyone. The event witnessed the highest number of real demonstrations at any Startup Weekend in India.

Startup Weekend University IndiaFriday: Pitching your Idea and Building a Team

The event started on Friday night with introductions and finally pitches from the participants. As each person went pitching up on the stage, I could gauge the excitement about their idea and anxiety of being selected for the next round. In all, I heard 54 ideas of which the top 15 concepts were shortlisted after online voting by the participants. The energy in the room was buzzing – and people were excitedly talking about which team they might want to join. The ‘Team Heads’ (People with the ideas with the highest votes) went hunting for designers, technical experts and other talent in the room to round out their teams – it felt a little like a matrimonial convention. Participants wanted to be on the team which could showcase their talents and the team leaders wanted the best people in the room.

After an hour long process of head-hunting, the teams congealed and proceeded to the accommodation provided at BITS Pilani – Hyderabad.

Startup Weekend University IndiaSaturday: Developing your Idea and Creating a basic prototype

After a sumptuous breakfast, the teams defined their first release backlog for their Minimal Viable Product (MVP), embracing the Lean Startup principles. The teams explored business models and target customers while building a landing page, gathering Twitter followers and interviewing potential customers. As I walked around and met with teams, I saw the level of dedication that people had for their ventures – some teams worked into the night, some woke up early to be at the venue. Many teams met with as many of the mentors as possible, taking every opportunity to soak in their experience and wisdom. I saw a lot of the mentors being completely forthright – not sugar coating where teams needed to tighten up or improve – but I think it served to make them stronger.

Sunday: The final touchups and PresentationsStartup Weekend University India

On the final day, the energy amongst the teams was frantic as everyone rushed to perform a dry run of their demonstrations and finishing their presentations before the assigned deadline. At five o’clock the organizers began the process of kicking everyone off the tables so they could set up for the presentations. Presentations started around six o’clock. Each team was given 5 minutes to present and 3 minutes to answer questions from a panel of three judges. For each presentation, the team would congregate on stage. Most teams had built something that stood as a testament to their passion and hard work – and a lot were dedicated to actually launching their ideas in the real world. Many had support from mentors beyond the weekend, and teams stuck together post SWHyd to continue working.

After the presentations got concluded, with lot of deliberations and serious thought, the judges announced the winners to much fanfare, and the weekend was finally over.

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My favorite startups were:

  • RedControl: It is an infrared based automation system that makes your home a smart home with help of any old remote control at your house! It offers centralized control for all electrical appliances integrated at one place. With integrated control at one’s fingertips, managing home becomes simplified. The startup was awarded the well-deserved 1st prize.
  • I Crush U: “Ever had a problem expressing your feelings to someone you like?”
    I Crush U’ is your solution to find out if the feelings are mutual. A one click process to know whether you are indeed liked by the one you like! To them anonymity is godliness. ” The startup was awarded the 2nd prize.
  • Fukat Me Khana: A unique business model where it offers free food provided a challenge game, puzzle or quiz is solved in a stipulated timeline when food is booked through their website. The startup came 2nd runner-up in the event.
  • Vocabular: Lead by Aakash Jain, a 3rd year BITS Pilani – Hyderabad student, Vocabular aims to help you learn and remember new words using innovative memory techniques and improve your vocabulary. Vocabular also helps you prepare for GRE, GMAT, CAT from anywhere, anytime with ease!! Hyderabad Angels has offered to help them build the content and traction.
  • Story Xpress: The students from IIT Hyderabad have come up with an app that lets you simply upload their pictures, video clips, can add words in a chronological order so that it makes a story and app will publish it in form of a video which can later be shared with friends, relatives through social media.

Lessons learned from Startup Weekend

  • Startup Teams consisting of 6-8 members can bulldoze through obstacles and gain traction fast. I witnessed one team define their MVP, then immediately dispatch two team members to BITS Hostels to test the concept and return with customer feedback.
  • Focus was on “real work with actionable tasks”.  The best teams put all of their members to work, quickly.  The best teams collaborated, divided the workload into teams of two, set a time box to reconvene and went to work.
  • The best teams created their Lean Business Canvas before calling it a Friday night.  They tracked their iterations using a validation board methodology to manage pivots.

Everyone can benefit from attending a Startup Weekend. Be it the CEOs, Sales, Marketing, Finance, Business Development, or Coders, UX/UI, IT and students. I guarantee, you’ll learn something and have a lot of fun. It will make you better in your day job, and it will re-energize you.
It’ll be an experience that changes your life.

( Disclaimer : Inc42 is a partner of the Startup Weekend University,Hyderabad. )

Have you attended a Startup Weekend? What was your experience like?

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