Winning Startup Weekend Hamilton with Walkbug: how MBET prepared me

Wladimir DaurelOn the 26th of April 2013 I participated in Startup Weekend Hamilton 3— a 54-hour event where developers, designers, marketers, engineers and startup enthusiasts came together to share their ideas, form teams, and launch viable startups.

 I was part of a team that developed a business strategy, a revenue model, customer validation research and a mobile application demo for a product for Startup Weekend 2013. Our product, WalkBug, won 1st place among 7 other finalists. It was a phenomenal experience which has helped me understand and reflect on how best I can contribute to a team and how my contribution, in part, helped us reach the 1st place.

I'm currently a Master of Business, Entrepreneurship, and Technology (MBET) student at the University of Waterloo, and am launching a mobile travel-planning venture called Rioko. The MBET program has really helped me understand the importance of strategy and the processes that a technology start-up must go through, which was invaluable knowledge during the Startup Weekend. 

In order to efficiently complete all the necessary tasks, our team split into three groups. Each group worked on either Business Development, Customer Validation, or Technical Development.

On the Business Development team I completed the Business Model Canvas, incorporating the insights gained from our customer validation, and incorporating feedback from all of the mentors who were present. I also had the benefit of receiving some advice from a couple of my fellow MBET classmates who won Startup Weekend Waterloo.

During my weekend with WalkBug, my contribution to the team was based on a strong grasp of the fundamentals of that business, an appreciation of facts, and a strong understanding of how to focus our ideas and efforts, which are attributes that the MBET program has helped me foster.

  1. Fundamentals

The most fundamental need for a start-up is developing and understanding your company’s strategy, and how every aspect of the business model connects. Next, cash is king, so it’s vital that you understand your Cash Flow. If you run out of cash, it’s Game Over! The third thing, which many start-ups tend to overlook, is distribution. How will you engage all your channels to get your product to your users and customers?

  1. Facts

One of the most important things that I’ve learned this year is the importance of facts to making business decisions. We must always find accurate information, and be able to distinguish between what is relevant and what must be left out. When writing your business plan and doing an investor pitch, it’s therefore important to present the relevant facts and not just guess.

  1. Focus

“Ideas aren’t cheap; they’re free” (Tina Seelig, inGenious). Therefore, it’s really easy for us to get distracted by contemplating all the great things that could be done with the products we are developing. Startups must focus on the core of what they’re trying to build, state their hypotheses, and then validate them with potential users and customers.

The MBET program was exactly what I needed to understand the process of technology entrepreneurship. I hadn’t realized how much I had learned and what exactly I brought to the table until I decided to join Startup Weekend Hamilton 3 this Spring. It’s great validation to see how best I can contribute to a team and how that contribution, in part, helped us win the 1st place.