I recently participated in my first Startup Weekend event: the unfortunately-named: Techstars Startup Weekend Seattle: Space Edition.

As someone interested in the commercial space industry, I was so excited for this event, which required us to think like entrepreneurs in the #NewSpace industry.

My personal goal for the event: How can I create a business that increases awareness of space technology and generates revenue for the space industry? And because satellite technology is one of the fastest-growing sectors of the space industry, I focused my attention on a satellite-based business.

If you’re interested in trying out the lean startup philosophy, a Startup Weekend is a great experience, regardless of what industry you want to work in. Here’s some advice from me on how to make it great.

What’s Startup Weekend like?

Our eight-person team invented, tested, and iterated a product for the space industry in less than 72 hours. It was an exciting and educational experience!

And I realized that there are a number of tasks you can do ahead of time as a group leader to prepare for the event. If you’ve never done Startup Weekend before, let me assure you it’s harder than you think to do everything in one weekend.

  • Identify the product assumptions
  • Conduct online research and meet with mentors
  • Create a prototype
  • Promote and sell the product
  • Make product decisions
  • Keep your team and organizers informed — our organizer required teams to report for standups every 90 minutes
  • Keep everyone on the same page — and productive
  • Satisfy the judging requirements and create a winning presentation

That’s a lot, right? Startup Weekend organizers gave us two tips ahead of time: A) Research your project idea. B) Gather a list of prospective customers so you can pitch your idea.

Both of these tips would be extremely useful and will save you at least 8 hours of work — IF you had a project idea. But I went to Startup Weekend thinking I wouldn’t pitch. I thought I would tag on to someone else’s project. (I was wrong, but that’s a separate story.)

The fact is, there’s a lot you can do to prepare for Startup Weekend even if you’re thinking “I don’t have a startup idea.” Get some of the project management and promotional stuff out of the way so the team can do the real work.

Create these 10 things to prepare for Startup Weekend even if you have no idea what to do.

  1. A working name for the project (like a code name — you can change it)
  2. Trello board for task tracking
  3. List of contact emails — your friends, co-workers, or family members who agree ahead of time that they’ll take your customer development surveys to give you feedback. Load your contact emails into an email service like Mailchimp. After you join a team, ask your teammates for even more (opted-in) contact emails where you can blast your surveys.
  4. Google Forms survey set up with some basic customer development questions (fill in the details when you’ve picked a project)
  5. Link to a Google Doc for immediate idea sharing, with sections for “Product Assumptions” and “Questions” and “Ideas”
  6. Link to a Google Slides document with a pre-built template including the ~15 points you’ll be judged on
  7. Profiles/pages on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn with your project’s working name (again, you can change it easily)
  8. Generic square logo for your accounts (later, when you have a project name, make a $20 logo with BrandCrowd)
  9. Ads accounts for Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and Google Ads that are:
    • Pre-verified (if you wait until the start of Startup Weekend, Google won’t finish verifying your account in time for you to run ads). Keep in mind you usually can run ads on your personal social accounts.
    • Pre-loaded with free advertising credits, if the platform offers starter credits
  10. Account on a page builder like Launchrock or one of many alternatives so you can start creating your project website right away

Bonus: create a way to share all the passwords with your team!

You’ll save hours of time if you can do all or most of the above. Which means, unfortunately, you now have hours of work to do before Startup Weekend begins. Get going!