In the context of startup weekend, ‘mentors’ are folks who have graciously given up their weekend to come and offer advice to the participating teams. Mentors come in all shapes, sizes, and degrees of real world experience. As such, talk to three mentors, and you are likely to get three different opinions. They may not know the niche your product is being marketed to, or have any real interest in your product.
In hindsight, I get it. It was a mentor who told me in the hallway after the initial pitches that he ‘liked my idea,’ a much needed pick-me-up when it appeared I wouldn’t get the votes qualify for official participation. It was a mentor, who despite not really digging our idea, helped us get organized by pointing us to website with a ‘pitch outline’ that served as the framework for our presentation. It was a mentor who told us the idea was cool, so cool that we should check out a company from his native Seattle (arrgh!) that just landed $300k in financing to do something similar- and that this was a good sign! So even though I joked that the mentors should be outfitted with T-shirts reading “prepare to pivot”, I humbly thank them for their input and time as they made the Startup Weekend experience much better.
All that said, we now declare a ‘mentor free zone.’ We simply cannot afford to pivot again!
While Marcie and I work on the presentation, Yevgeniya is busy coding a prototype website. We collaborate back and forth- me finding Google images while Yevgeniya tweaks code that makes those images rotate like horses on a carousel. The site won’t have any real functionality, but it’s starting to look pretty. It’s starting to look real!
I fall into my comfort zone of putting together a deck, something I do regularly for the restaurant chains I work with at my regular job. By now, Startup Weekend feels like my regular job! And I’m liking it. A lot. Especially the other participants. In the natural course of events, I mend fences with my original team. Keith, the leader, ‘totally understood’, and we note some interesting overlaps in what our respective teams are developing. Another participant, Josh, helps us create our logo. We have picked up some twitter followers and facebook likes! Let’s do this!
More tweaks to the preso. Each team has five minutes to present, followed by three minutes for Q&A with the judges. Marcie is making notes on a separate piece of paper. I insist that whatever we are going to talk about needs to be in the deck. From the creative tension we fashion the opening remarks. Then we begin to allocate slides that each of us will cover.
With the deck nearly complete, we suspend the mentor moratorium and ask Ravi to give us some feedback on the dress rehearsal. His advice: make the bullets in the Powerpoint more succinct, and speak more s l o w l y. We finish the third rehearsal with about 15 seconds to spare.
”Health Carrot’ is the 15th (of 17 total) presentations tonight, and we’re up next. . . .