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a year of talent and skills

StartUp Weekend – “not just for students”

The 8th StartUp Weekend is on June 26-28. Read why it's a great place for designers and developers to test out new ways of working.

[alert style=”dark”]This is a guest post from Samantha Deakin Hill, Sheffield StartUp Weekend organiser and tech/lean startup coach at the University of Sheffield.[/alert]

I can barely believe we have our 8th Startup Weekend on the horizon here in Sheffield. In some ways it doesn’t seem like 5 minutes since we ran our first event, with no idea how people would react to it and certainly no concept of how much of a community would grow out of it. But it was more than 5 minutes ago. It was 3 ½ years ago, in November 2012.

Since then, we’ve been fortunate enough to be the launchpad for several great companies in Sheffield. Some are instantly recognisable to many people in Sheffield’s digital community. Airstoc founders, Andre Ferreira and Giles Moore, met their founding team at Startup Weekend in November 2013. The judges loved them and they came away with first place.

But you hear less about the runners up, Goodvidio. Konstantinos Bratanis and Dimitrios Kourtesis travelled all the way from Thessaloniki in Greece to attend Startup Weekend, having completed their PhDs at The University of Sheffield. The reason you hear less about them is that they moved back to Greece to launch their company. But they have a registered office here in Sheffield.

Both Airstoc and Goodvidio have raised significant investment since launching their companies at Startup Weekend.

Have you met Celina and Laura, founders of Freshly Squeezed? Did you know Celina (a Sheffield Hallam student at the time) had one of her first forays into the world of entrepreneurship at Startup Weekend in March 2014 with her idea, Events Den?

And then what about the successes that don’t involve companies and investment? Take Alireza Parandeh, an engineer who attended our first ever Startup Weekend and tried his hand at graphic design for the first time. He came back the following year, registered as a designer, went around all the teams who didn’t have designers and helped them design their logos. Ali won a special award from our judge, David Bailey (Creative Director BBC) who offered to help him construct his portfolio following on from the event. Ali then formed the Graphic Design society at The University of Sheffield teaching other students how to use design software. He told us that when he went for his first interview as a graduate, his interviewers were more interested in Startup Weekend than anything else he’d done throughout his University career.

The stories are endless and they come in all shapes and sizes. Just writing this is giving me tingles thinking of the possibilities for the next event. What impact will we have? Whose horizons will we help broaden? To whom will we give new or alternative directions?

It could be you. Whoever you are. Startup Weekend is by no means ‘just for students’. A Startup Weekend cohort is diverse – in terms of ethnicity, background, experience, and increasingly, in terms of gender (hurrah!) as we fully commit to a 50/50 mentor/judge list for the first time this Summer.

Designers and developers who have looked closer and seen that Startup Weekend isn’t just ‘a University thing’ are often the people who get the most out of the event. Opportunities like this often start to dry up once you get past a certain age or leave University. Trust me, I’ve felt this myself. Calls for you to ‘get involved’ and ‘try something new’ are fewer and further between once out of the University bubble.

In July 2013 we saw a team (Heaty) that had no relation to the University travel from Manchester to use Startup Weekend Sheffield as the forum to try out a new programming language they’d been meaning to learn. They challenged themselves to build their entire MVP (Minimum Viable Product) in code they’d never used before.

We see designers who work in agencies use Startup Weekend to experiment with a new pace of design, using iterative design techniques, applying Lean UX principles and working to their own brief. Often a welcome relief from a constrained 9-5, or more often a unique opportunity to build and develop skills that can be applied once they’re back in the office on Monday morning.

This is an open invitation for you to come (back) inside a University bubble for a weekend and test new ideas in a safe environment.

Oh… and we also have a lot of fun 🙂

Startup Weekend is run entirely on a not-for-profit basis which relies on volunteers, sponsors and ticket sales to survive. June 26-28th 2016 will be our 8th event. Do you know how unusual it is for a city in the North to run Startup Weekend as often as Sheffield does? It literally doesn’t happen. We’re really leading the way on this.

Come and be part of the 8th chapter of the Startup Weekend story.

Date: 24-26 June 2016

Venue: The Diamond, Sheffield


If your company wants to show its support for Sheffield’s startup community and has budget set aside for sponsoring grassroot entrepreneurship events like Startup Weekend, please get in touch. We’ll buy you coffee and have a good convo about how we can work together.