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A 54 hour Hack-a-thon of the magnitude of Startup Weekend is a bit preposterous to those of us whose timeline usually consist of months not hours. Think about it. We need to come up with an idea, develop this idea in a team environment, develop a working prototype, and develop a comprehensive business plan. All in 54 hours… umph, Sounds Crazy! But, guess what, it is crazy, and such an Awesome experience. So, what does a savvy Hacker need to bring to this event? Or is the question what doesn’t a Savvy Hacker need at this event?
Here are a few things are more seasoned Hackers recommend bringing to the event. If you plan ahead, your first Startup Weekend can be a success. If you don’t plan ahead… Well, let’s just say your head might explode!
1) This is a Social Event
Bring your Hacker skills, but don’t forget this is a networking event and you have to mingle. The first night is all about networking. Here you will ask people, what they are (Biz Dev, Designer, Coder, Human, or Zombie), What they do for a living, What brought them to the event, etc. Just small talk. The point of this exercise is to find some people you wouldn’t mind working with. A lot of people are active on social media and blogging, use this to your advantage. Be Friendly & Social!
2) Ideas are free, as in FREEDOM!
Don’t be afraid to share your idea. Remember, you are here working in a collaborative work environment and the only way your idea is going to get some ideas to move is to share. Everyone at the event has the next million-dollar idea. At the pitch session you will probably hear close to 50 pitches. If your ideas are good, you won’t have to force them on anyone. Good people will find you!
3) You are an Amur Leopard or Black-Eyed Tree Frog i.e. you are Rare & Special 😉
Unfortunately, there aren’t a ton of Hackers who show up to these events. You are a commodity and lots of people will be coming to you. Every project needs programmers and most of the time, people will approach you. Use this to your advantage and pick the idea you like the most. Chances are you won’t be the only Hacker on your team. Also, the mentors have experience and will offer guidance throughout the event. Enjoy the ride my Black-Eyed Tree Frog, just don’t wound up like Steve Irwin!
4) It is a LONG Weekend…
Yes, it is a long weekend, but the food is free and it won’t be all work. If you find good team they may let you sleep an hour between Hack sessions. The reality of the situation is that you will put in a couple of long rewarding days. If you need personal space, we recommend bringing headphones with you. This will enable you to tune out those around you and get some work done. Remember from our last point, YOU ARE A COMMODITY. Let your team know that you need some uninterrupted time to get the next feature done. Stock up on energy drinks, do some yoga, and bring some positive energy. You’ll need it!
5) Ruby on Rails is King!
Just get over it. Your Java skills won’t cut it. Your late night hacking on the Linux kernel won’t give you much help this weekend. Ruby and Ruby on Rails seems to be very popular at these things. The one thing that rails gives you that other frameworks don’t are the fast scaffolding of an application. Python junkies can still be useful, as a few groups will go towards the Django/Pylons/etc. route. You can even go as the sole developer in a group if you find yourself better than average at another MVC framework.
Also, that windows laptop really won’t cut it. I hate to say it (as I’m typing on my Windows 7 laptop), but Ruby on Rails sucks on Windows. No worries though, just download VirtualBox and the latest copy of Ubuntu and go wild. Installing Rails on Ubuntu is a breeze if you follow the simple instructions. For those still inclined to stick with windows, you can follow those instructions instead.
6) Have A Blast
Remember, this is your weekend. You are doing something different, exciting, and worth bragging about. Don’t stress out about adding last minute features and just roll with the punches. There are no managers riding your coattails nor is anyone harping on you about extra features. Complete as much as you can in the time given and try go for the gold. If you’re on a good team, follow the rules laid out before you, and come in with a great attitude then, and only then, will you survive Startup Weekend.
I look forward to seeing you at Startup Weekend