entrepreneurship, startup

On NEXT Cologne Q4 2012

So we successfully brought Startup Weekend NEXT to Cologne! Here’s a little update on how that turned out.

Startup Weekend NEXT is an intensive three week educational program to help more startups survive by having the startup teams getting out of the building and into the real world applying customer development and business model generation to help validate their startup idea and find their product-market fit.

Teams, organizers and coaches hard at work

SW NEXT Q4 2012

A video summary

The Startup Weekend NEXT Q4 2012 cohort

SW NEXT Q4 2012 Cohort

Lessons Learned:

  • It is indeed possible to organize a NEXT and get enough teams to participate on short notice even in a nacent startup ecosystem.
  • People is everything. If it hadn’t been for the incredible organizers and mentors, we wold not have been able to pull this off. Let alone on such a short notice and without falling completely apart.
  • Sometimes saying “yes” without knowing what you are getting yourself into is the best way of getting stuff done. If we knew how much work this would be up front, we’d probably have had reservations. As things turned out, we would have done it again, and again, and again…
  • You don’t need business experience or education to get tremendous value from participating in a NEXT program. It is perhaps even an advantage as you’ll have less bad habits and useless knowledge to unlearn.
  • You don’t need a product or a detailed idea of what your product should be to join a NEXT program. It might even be advantageous as you’ll have less of an emotional invest in a product that was most likely built on faith alone before coming into the program and you’ll have an open mind a
  • Doing enough customer interviews to matter is damned hard, but it is indeed possible to do 10-15 interviews a week even if you have another day-job if you just try hard enough
  • No matter how much time and care you think you put in to prepare your coaches, it was probably too little. Remember that most investors and entrepreneurs are still just as new to customer development and business model generation as most teams are. Insist on preparation meetings with your coaches up front before the program starts.
  • Pivoting is not an eufemism for giving up when things get hard. Teams have a hard time recognizing when just try harder instead of pivoting to something else.
  • You can lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink: Some teams might pivot 360 degrees during the program to end up with the assumptions they came into the program with even if there are not enough facts to support it.
  • Three weeks is probably too short for the program as it is now. It feels more like a four to six week curriculum.
  • My personal lesson learned as a startup entrepreneur is that the best and most brutal way to publicly commit and expose yourself to customer development and business model generation is to become a NEXT instructor yourself. The heavy repeated exposure does wonders for your understanding of the methodologies and how you can, nay must, apply them to your own ventures. I recommend every fellow startup entrepreneurs to get involved with NEXT in their ecosystem: If there isn’t a NEXT where you are, there should be – so make it happen!

The organizing team’s immediate thoughts after the program ended

The people who made it possible

A huge thanks to my organizer team mates Lukas Strniste (@yeromee), Puja Abbassi (@puja108) and Till Ohrmann (@tohrmann). And to Startplatz(@StartPlatz) for supporting us with an awesome venue for the program.

And to the AWESOME coaches that made all the difference:

  • Dr. Lorenz Gräf, CEO of Startplatz – Incubator in Köln
  • Francis Dierick, Entrepreneur and developer
  • Manuel Koelman, Entrepreneur and advisor
  • Thomas Grota, Senior Investment Manager T-Ventures
  • Axel von Leitner, Entrepreneur and developer

And of course the awesome teams who were crazy and hungry enough to join this first NEXT program on such a short notice:

  • Cabismo
  • Helping Hand / Horst Hilft
  • Yoga School / Seal of Pedagogical Value
  • Intrip / Snoozzz

See you all at the next NEXT Cologne in 2013?