Exeter Start Up Weekend 20th – 22nd November 2015

Exeter Start Up Weekend is an exciting, informative and daunting challenge to set up a business in 54 hours. It is very well organised with links to information and videos about pitching, business planning, weekend schedule, etc sent beforehand. I with Sophie, another Business Champion at Exeter Library, wrote and practiced our pitch. We took advantage of a 1:1 pitch practice session with Matt Morley of Tickbox. Lots of helpful tips and a recording of our pitch sent to us!

Exeter Library business pitch

The Book Chooser start up idea one minute pitch

7 teams were chosen from the 30 pitches. Our pitch got lots of votes but unfortunately there weren’t enough tech attendees and as our idea was more technically difficult than others the Exeter Start Up Team could not pick us to go through. Still we came to learn so joined different teams where our interests and expertise could be of best use. I chose an accessible events platform as I have many years experience of teaching children with additional needs and supporting people to access library resources.

After team introductions it was all about the website to match accessible performances with people who have additional needs.  What was the value proposition? What did the website need to be able to do so that the amazing Tycho from Koncept could do the tech work on the website (while also doing the tech work for another team at the same time)? We booked mentor slots for the next morning so what questions did we want to ask them? 11pm and the Exeter University Innovation Centre closes.

Innovation Centre

Team Canvas, Value Proposition & Business Model Canvas templates

8.30am back at the innovation centre. Mentor support great so we now have a name and tag line: Cushion – making events more comfortable. Michael and Louise out and about doing face to face customer validation while Toby and myself on our laptops. I make my first Survey Monkey survey and reach out to my contacts in support organisations to disseminate it to their users. I use the local theatre and cinema websites to find out what accessible performances they are putting on for the website. I collect data from Exeter City and Devon County Councils about the number of people with additional needs to get statistics to back up our customer validation. We pull everything together and its 10pm and the innovation centre closes.

Michael making himself comfortable

My Social Media photo: Cushion – making events more comfortable

8.30am Sunday and it’s all about the pitch. The 5 minute pitch must be structured: MVP, validation, execution, business model and growth. The slide presentation will now have to show screen shots, not a working model of the website, as Tycho has flown off to Spain early this morning (he does have company offices there). Matt Pocock, the voice coach who won the previous Exeter Start Up Weekend, gave us some really helpful advice about our pitch. We alter the wording of the pitch and reduce the words on the slides for more impact.

Cushion Team

Toby, Louise, Me and Michael = the Cushion Team

It’s time to go up in front of the 5 judges. The pitch goes smoothly and we answer all the judges’ questions expanding on the information we had left out of the pitch. We are the people’s choice winners of the attendees and we achieve 2nd place from the judges.

I learnt so much and had so much fun. Different caterers set up outside for meals and snacks. The table tennis competition was hotly contested. The weekend was exciting and exhausting at the same time. Thank goodness I had booked Monday off!