7 Ways You Can Prepare For Startup Weekend Milwaukee

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This is a guest post by Jon Hainstock. Jon Hainstock is a co-founder of ZoomShift, employee scheduling software made simple. You can meet Jon at this year’s Startup Weekend Milwaukee, where he’ll be a Mentor. Connect with him on Twitter: @jonhainstock

Startup Weekend Milwaukee is about fostering innovation. It’s an opportunity to build a company from scratch in a weekend and connect with some of the brightest, most influential people in Wisconsin. Here are seven ways you can prepare for the big weekend.

1. Find Your Idea

Finding an idea worth pursuing is tough. Start by creating a list of all the things in your personal and work life that are frustrating. What sort of products or services do you complain about? If you run short on ideas, reach out to your friends and family and see what kinds of things make their lives difficult. Try to come up with solutions that could solve these problems.

 2. Get Basic Feedback On Your Idea

Once you have an idea, run it through the gauntlet. Ask people who could potentially use your product if they would be willing to pay for your solution. Ask them questions that help you understand why they would or would not use your product. Ask them to give you an estimate of how much they would be willing to pay for your product or service—in round numbers.

3. Do Your Research

Use Google Trends to find out if people are looking for your product or service. Determine which keywords are being used to find your product or service and get a rough estimate of searches per month using the Google Adwords Keyword Planner Tool. Use exact search numbers so you have a better number to work with.

4. See If Your Idea Has Legs

Create a simple landing page with LaunchRock or SquareSpace and ask people to sign up to be notified when your product or service is available. You should also consider buying some ads from Facebook or Google—targeting the keywords gathered from your research—to see if anyone signs up. If you do get some signups, email these potential customers asking for payment and see how many respond. You can always refund them if your product or service isn’t ready.

5. Prepare To Pitch Your Idea

Make your idea easy for people to understand. Try to answer the following questions in a few sentences:

  1. What does your product or service do?

  2. Why should anyone—especially your customer—care?

The goal is to distill your thoughts down to the very essence of your idea so people will remember it. Memorize your pitch and keep it on the front of your mind so you can explain it quickly to anyone who asks what you’re working on these days.

6. Prototype

Try to create a prototype of your product or service. This doesn’t need to be fully functional, but it should help you tell your story and give people a tangible representation of how your idea will solve a problem. If you’re working on a web-based or mobile product, use a program like Jetstrap or Codiqa to build a prototype.

 7. Build A Team

Figure out what kinds of skills and experience you need on your team. Do you need a developer, or a business person? Scan your LinkedIn contacts and see if you–or the people you are connected with–know anyone with the right expertise. Find at least one person you think might be able to help you with your idea, and take them out for coffee. Invite them to join your team. If it’s not a fit, don’t sweat it, there are a lot of people that come to SWMKE without a team.

Hope you enjoyed these tips for how you can prepare for SWMKE. If you have any questions or feedback, please leave a comment below or shoot me an email at jon {at} zoomshift.com