Student Perspective: The Power of Startup Weekend

We asked Kyle Bye, a third-year student in U.Va.’s McIntire School of Commerce and president of the Entrepreneurship Group at McIntire, to write a guest blog on his experience at Charlottesville’s Startup Weekend Oct. 26-28. Read on for his take on the power of Startup Charlottesville.

Startup Charlottesville

Team leaders selected on Friday night pitch to potential team members for the weekend hackathon. Photo courtesy of Kyle Bye.

Startup Weekend is a 54-hour event that brings developers, designers and business enthusiasts together to try and form businesses in a weekend. It is an exciting initiative adding another leg to the growing entrepreneurial ecosystem here in Charlottesville.

How does it work?

Friday evening, individuals line up to pitch their concepts. Teams form around the best ideas (pictured). Saturday is filled with seemingly endless work sessions, and then teams prep for Sunday’s presentations to a panel of esteemed judges and industry leaders.

Entrepreneurs are salespeople at heart, with an unyielding sense of pride and determination for their ideas. From the initial pitch on Friday to recruiting those top-notch team members and even when presenting to potential customers for feedback, it is clear that success at a Startup Weekend event can be attributed to how well you can sell yourself and your idea.

The weekend’s events are all about experiential learning.

Local Charlottesville mentors are always floating around the room to coach you on specific topics, such as UX/UI design, user validation and the business model canvas.

One of the most useful aspects for students is that you can apply skills learned in the classroom. For instance, in my Project Management class the week before the event, we were discussing the differences between the traditional waterfall method and agile methodologies. Who knew that a few days later I would be working on a team with a professional agile coach?

Kanban, scrum, stand-ups and sprints are no longer theoretical terms buried in a textbook. I am now able to fully appreciate their real-world applications as productivity drivers in software development teams.

Following these streamlined, iterative approaches led our team to focus on a minimum viable product, share ideas efficiently among our team’s diverse functional areas and build a working prototype by the end of the weekend. My team’s concept, called Spur, provides viral fundraising for charitable organizations by harnessing the power of social media.

I also had the opportunity to lead a team during Charlottesville’s first ever Startup Weekend last March. As a second-year student, I remember walking into the tech incubator downtown overwhelmed with the energy and technical talent in the room. Sure enough, I pitched my idea of an online volunteering platform called Flash Karma, selected as a finalist, and was able to receive invaluable feedback over the weekend.

One of the most amazing feelings as an entrepreneur is having a vision for a concept and then watching others connect with your vision as you work together to bring it to life. That’s the power of Startup Weekend.

Reach Kyle at kdb2hz@virginia.edu.

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