My Experience at Blackstone LaunchPad & Techstars Startup Weekend, California

I attended the Blackstone LaunchPad & Techstars Startup Weekend (Oct 23- Oct 25) hosted by UC San Francisco (UCSF). I would like to share my personal experience of the event. Fun fact: our team placed first!

group picture taken after the award ceremony

But first, what is LaunchPad Startup Weekend?

LaunchPad Startup Weekend is a crash course for students early in their entrepreneurship journey. Within 2.5 days, attendees form teams around their ideas to learn about the basics of entrepreneurship such as market research, defining minimum viable product, customer validation, business model canvas, etc. In only 54 hours participants learn how to launch a startup! At the end of the event, each team is given the opportunity to pitch their final presentation to a panel of expert judges.

Now, let’s talk about my personal experience!

Spoiler Alert: I had a great time and networked with young talents, successful entrepreneurs and highly experienced coaches and mentors. The weekend was both challenging and fun! I highly encourage every student with a passion for entrepreneurship to participate in future Startup Weekends. You’ll have a lot of fun!

Ok, here is what happened…

Friday:

We virtually kicked off the event at 5pm with a little over 100 participants. The organizers gave us an introduction of the event while giving more time to the participants to submit their ideas. We played a fun game in which we practiced brainstorming, pitching, teamwork and more. Around 30 ideas were submitted by the end of the game. Then we gave 1-minute pitches of our ideas. It was impressive to see how varied the ideas were. We then voted for our top 3 favorite ideas and the 7 most voted ones got into the next round (8 ideas were chosen originally, but the organizers decided to continue with 7 as there were many ties for the 8th place). Now it was time to form teams. At this point, some decided to leave the event and some decided to stay and join other teams even if their own idea was not selected. We were advised to have at most 8 people in each team. Given the criteria of having at least 3 members in a team, only 5 ideas were able to continue to the next round.

A team made in heaven! I decided to continue with the Eye Lead team to launch a startup around improving the life quality of visually impaired or completely blind individuals. We were 5 students with complementary backgrounds. Even though none of us knew each other prior to the event, we clicked perfectly and enjoyed every second of our teamwork!

Eye Lead team with Sumiko Hong from the event

Saturday:

Our team decided to meet before the first session to discuss our weekend plan. We then joined the first workshop at 9am which was about customer validation. We were also given a list of highly experienced coaches with different backgrounds to work with. Our team managed to schedule 5 private meetings with them. Our coaches provided us their invaluable feedback and helped us navigate and narrow down our idea to a specific use case. They also guided us on conducting market research, creating prototypes, viability of our product, technical considerations, etc. I was so touched by how much our coaches cared and supported us in our idea! After we were done with the coaching sessions, we spent the rest of the day baking our idea while investigating customers’ interests.

Sunday - Demo Day!

Like Saturday, we started our day with a group meeting in which we recapped our so-far discoveries and Sunday plan. Then we attended a Pitching Workshop and started working on our pitch deck. Like before, we had a private coaching session with several coaches where we practiced pitching and got constructive feedback on our pitch deck. Other than that, there were several team check-ins during the day, in which teams could ask for more help, and a tech-check session to make sure everything looks good for the demo session.

5pm - Demo Time!

It was finally time to present Eye Lead! We were so tired yet so excited to share our hard work! All 5 teams presented their startups after the judges were introduced. We then had a guest speaker who talked about his inspiring entrepreneurial journey while we were waiting to hear back for the judges.

Award Ceremony:

It was Sunday evening and we were already pretty happy and proud of how far we had come in only 54 hours. We were there to learn and we knew we were all winners. Still it felt really nice (in fact, a cherry on top) when the organizers announced that Eye Lead placed first. We also didn’t know there were cash prizes for the top 2 teams! More importantly, we got the chance to discuss our idea further and celebrate it with the judges.

My Biggest Take Away:

The event started with around 100 people but only less than a third stayed and worked hard till the end. I believe it paid off for all of the teams. Resilience always wins!

*Below I bring some of the resources our team found helpful throughout the weekend:

For Creating Prototypes:

For Creating Pitch Deck & Logo:

Event Social Media Handles:

  • Event Hashtag: #LaunchpadSW
  • Twitter: @BXLaunchPad @Techstars @Startup Weekend
  • LinkedIn: @Blackstone LaunchPad & Techstars @Techstars