Student blog: Why international students should try Startup Weekends
Ocean Cheung is the Managing Director and Co-founder of Startup Interns, where he connects international students to Queensland’s tech startups to accelerate students’ employability and entrepreneurial mindsets.
What is a Startup Weekend?
“Startup Weekend is a weekend-long, hands-on experience where both veteran and aspiring entrepreneurs determine if startup ideas are viable. Beginning with open mic pitches on Friday, participants bring out their best ideas and inspire others to join their team.
On Saturday and Sunday, teams are focused on customer development, validating their ideas, practicing LEAN Startup Methodologies and building a minimal viable product. On Sunday evening, teams demo their prototypes and receive valuable feedback from a panel of experts” — Techstars
Why you should join at least one Startup Weekend in Australia?
Learn new skills
Doing a startup means validating problems, executing ideas and collaborating with people. A Startup Weekend can be a simulator of a startup founder’s journey. On the weekend, you will be working on market research, talking to strangers on the streets (if they are your potential customers), prototyping and practicing pitches as a team. In fact, research, interpersonal communication, problem-solving, working under pressure, teamwork and technological literacy are critical skills nowadays.
By the end of the event, you will acquire techniques and tools such as 'Value Proposition Canvas' and 'Business Model Canvas' that can help you better evaluate your ideas and understanding of entrepreneurship fundamentals. One of the most useful things I learnt in my first Startup Weekend is to make a nice pitch deck using Google Slide and Icon Finder. My PowerPoint skills have also impressed a lot of people in my uni group assignments.
Experience Australian entrepreneurship culture
Although Startup Weekends has an increasingly recognised global presence, Australian Startup Weekends has its own uniqueness. The diversity of people in Australian Startup Weekends is amazing. The participants are from different cultural backgrounds, age groups and social status. You will meet locals, migrants, other international students and even travellers in Australian Startup Weekends.
In university, you may work with people who have similar skill sets and knowledge about your courses or engage in extracurricular activities with people of similar age groups. However, you will definitely collaborate with people from diverse backgrounds in a Startup Weekend. According to Techstars, half of Startup Weekends' attendees on average, have technical or design backgrounds, while the other half hold business backgrounds. For example, I got to work with an Engineering student from QUT and a senior UX designer from Chile at a Startup Weekend in QUT Creative Enterprise Australia earlier this year. These are not the kind of people I usually come across in life.
Startup Weekend is not a student event in Australia, but a learning opportunity for everyone who wants to explore entrepreneurship.
In other words, you will:
- Broaden your mind and boost your creativity
- Experience the excitement and frustration of an entrepreneur
- Be inspired by your team members, mentors and guest speakers
- Keep up-to-date with global ideas
- Explore the startup eco-system and environment
- Resonate in the dynamics of the startup movement
- Meet awesome people
The best part of joining a Startup Weekend is the networking opportunities. You may not be a big fan of the hustle and bustle, but you would definitely be amazed by the energetic and innovative startup enthusiasts. Their stories and ideas are highly inspiring and motivating.
Aside from student participants, there will also be working professionals attending the event. This means that there is a chance for you to meet a career mentor on the weekend. Networking in Startup Weekends can be different from networking in professional events. You are definitely more than welcome to pitch your 'crazy' ideas to everyone!
If you are not confident enough to talk to people at events, you may want to check out Student blog: A student’s guide to networking events.
You have already left your comfort zone to study overseas, so why not challenge yourself and experience something new in an exciting and innovative environment? Remember, Startup Weekends is not about what you have done, but about what you have learnt.
You have a bigger chance of winning
You are global-minded and have international experience. Your ideas may be way different from the locals! If you have seen some startups or businesses in your home country, but have yet to see them in Australia, you may want to refer to this business concept idea and localise it here. According to a recent study by the National Foundation for American Policy (Forbes), nearly one-quarter (20 of 91) of U.S. billion-dollar startup companies had a founder who first came to America as an international student. So, what are you waiting for? Head up on stage and impress the crowds!
Incredible personal branding
Going to a Startup Weekend is an amazing experience and your potential employers would love to hear your stories! Obviously, you can talk about how participating in a Startup Weekend can help you develop 21st-centuries skills (e.g., critical thinking, creative thinking, communication, collaboration and teamwork, personal and social skills and information & communication technologies (ICT) skills). It looks great on your LinkedIn profile, CV and cover letter; and sound impressive at your job interviews!
You don’t have to bring an idea to a Startup Weekend, but if you have ideas in mind, pitch it on Friday evening! You will definitely have a fantastic time, be it as a participant or leader of a team!
Still want to know more about Startup Weekends?
Check out how startup weekends work.
So… Be sure to join at least one Startup Weekend while you still have a student discount in Australia!
Global Startup Weekend Brisbane 2019
Date: Feb 15 - Feb 17, 2019
Location: River City Labs, Brisbane
$32.5 for students (Promo code: STUDENT); $65 for public (Early Bird ends on 1 Feb)
$39.5 for students (Promo code: STUDENT); $79 for public (Sales end on 15 Feb)