My Top 10 Tools for Entrepreneurs at Startup Weekend

When I was invited by Greg Langdon to speak at Startup Weekend, I was told my speech could be anything I’d consider inspirational to the startup/entrepreneurial crowd.  What I know about entrepreneurship is that, while the rigors of starting and running a business can wear down even the most hardened laborers and thinkers, there’s no shortage of inspiration to be found when you reach out to peers and mentors.  I wanted to leave everyone with real tools they could use when evaluating their Startup Weekend ideas.

For those unfamiliar with Startup Weekend, the worldwide event consists of leaders and entrepreneurs coming together to share ideas, form teams, and launch startups.  This year’s local event took place at Velocity, a non-profit leadership organization in Southern Indiana that focuses on the development of our region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.   I went to our Startup Weekend thinking it would be a small group of people who wanted to get a crash course in entrepreneurship.  I was wrong, in fact, and the turnout filled the entire Velocity space.

Since this was a group of mostly aspiring entrepreneurs, my goal was to not just give the same speech that every entrepreneur gives on struggling, pivoting, raising capital, or exiting — those are much deeper topics that are more relevant further down the road.  So I took out some old notes from my “Building the New Venture” class and emailed my professor from the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, Dr. Waverly Deutsch, to help craft ten helpful tips for anyone who considers forming a business.

The response to my speech was overwhelmingly positive.  Due to me having to leave immediately after my speech, I didn’t get a chance to talk to as many people as I wanted to; however, I was able to reply and respond to numerous emails and tweets from many attendees and other Startup Weekend participants who contacted me with questions and kind words about the content of my speech.  I am doing a few video calls to help a few people as well, and even started discussions over Twitter on some of my points.  And, thanks to the Startup Weekend social media team, my Twitter account did get a record number of new followers, almost as many people as retweeted Ellen’s selfie at the Oscars! 😉

It’s no secret that entrepreneurs with experience are more inclined to help out other entrepreneurs because we all know what it’s like to start with nothing but an idea.  In fact, this experience made me think of the many people that have whole-heartedly helped me along my own journey.  Waverly Deutsch, Joe Steier, Mayor Greg Fischer, Beth Comstock, Madison Silvert, Craig Wortman, Malcolm Bryant, Mary Shea, Bob Saunders, and Kent Oyler, to name a few.  People like them didn’t have to help me out, but gave me a tremendous amount of attention and time.

One of the biggest lessons I learned on my own was the focal point and #1 tip I gave in my own Startup Weekend speech: “Just Do It.”  A lot of people get nervous about the risk involved in entrepreneurship, or are wary of it due to the opportunity cost of giving up their salary.  All these concerns are absolutely worth pondering, because there certainly is risk.  But hopefully Startup Weekend gave participants a process that they can apply to any business idea, and make them a little more comfortable about taking the Entrepreneurial plunge.

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