54 hours: A glimpse into the experience of Startup Weekend

By: Avani Parekh
My first Startup Weekend experience started normally enough, I was a volunteer with a team of ultra-cool people I had met during a fellowship program when I was in New Delhi for a year. This event’s theme was health, and in the final weeks/days/hours before the event, I scrambled to try to be helpful as I saw the people around be hustling to make sure the event was a major success. Nothing could prepare me for the 54 hours of fun I was about to have the weekend of the event – while working the front desk for registration, I had the chance to meet all of the people who had signed away their lives for 54 hours to build a company or  an organization. There were designers, techie people, mentors, people who just wanted to observe, doctors, students and everyone in between.
Friday night started with introductions, and finally pitches from the participants. As each person pitching went up on stage, I remember thinking how nervous people were – yet still with the courage to get up on stage and talk about their (sometimes crazy, sometimes brilliant) idea to get votes to make it to the next round. The energy in the room was buzzing – and people were excitedly talking about which team they might want to join. After a quick round of voting, the people with the ideas with the highest  votes went hunting for designers, technical experts and other talent in the room to round out their teams – it felt a little like a matrimonial convention. Participants wanted to be on the team which could showcase their talents and the team heads wanted the best people in the room.
After the teams were formed, teams spend all day Saturday and Sunday working on heir ideas. As I walked around and met with teams and members I saw the level of dedication that people had for their ventures – some teams worked into the night at each other’s houses, some woke up early to be at the venue – fueled by chai and coffee. Many teams met with as many of the mentors as possible, taking every opportunity to soak in their experience and wisdom. I saw a lot of the mentors being completely blunt – not sugar coating where teams needed to tighten up or improve – but I think it served to make them stronger.
On Sunday the final day the energy amongst the teams was frantic as everyone rushed to finish their presentations before the deadline. The winners were announced to much fanfare, and the weekend was finally over. What was greatest to see however, is that winning or losing the competition didn’t matter. Most teams had built something that stood as a testament to their passion and hard work – and a lot were dedicated to actually launching their ideas in the real world. Many had support from mentors beyond the weekend, and teams stuck together post SW Del to continue working.
What SW did was just a catalyst – it brought people together and forced them to articulate game-changing ideas in a high-pressure environment. But the lasting effects of the weekend – creating energy and excitement around pursuing an idea, is something that lasted well beyond the event. What a great way to spend a weekend – and and even better way to create lasting connections and drive to pursue the next big thing.
About Avani Parekh:
Avani has been a volunteer for StartupWeekend Delhi Health and was also the winner of the StartupWeekend Delhi Team “Love Doctor”.