Last weekend we’ve been visiting Startup Weekend Cologne. And it was very inspiring! We met nice people, listened to pitches, enjoyed the food & drinks and felt part of something greater than ourselves.

Like other startup weekends, Startup Weekend Cologne was organized by a voluntary team. They did a great job! There was even some nice sponsored beer. Oh, sorry – it’s Kölsch, not beer! 🙂

Why did two Dutch entrepreneurs go to Startup Weekend Cologne?

Basicly because our city Zwolle will host Startup Weekend from 10-12th of November this year. For my buddy Henk, Startup Weekend Cologne was the 4th weekend already. But since I had no experience with this event, visiting Cologne seemed a great opportunity to me.

So in order to get some inspiration, Henk Beijert and I took a look at and we ended up participating in 54 hours of some hard work at Startup Weekend Cologne, which took place at Startplatz.

takeaways from startup weekend cologne

arriving at SW Cologne, Startplatz

Will you organize a Startup Weekend yourself?

And do you like to know what we have learned?

Below your will find our takeaways from Startup Weekend Cologne:

#1 Have some great sponsors

Startup Weekend is run by volunteers and there’s no commercial intent. So if you want a succesfull event, you’ll need sponsors. Great sponsors, in fact. Startup Weekend Cologne managed to get sponsors like KPMG and Startplatz. Sponsors like these definitely understand the value of supporting startups.

#2 Make sure to attract developers

Every startup team should have a developer (“techie”), so you have to make sure enough developers will attend Startup Weekend. Probably every organizing team must put a lot of effort into this. At Startup Weekend Cologne, there was a lack of developers so most teams had to improvise in order to come up with ‘working prototypes’ for the finals on Sunday evening.

takeaways from Startup Weekend Cologne

Participants at Startup Weekend Cologne

#3 Smart organizing your workshops

At workshops, participants gain knowledge about specific topics like Growth Hacking. Also at Startup Weekend Cologne, participants could join a couple of workshops.

This was great, but there are some learnings as well: you might want not all team members being in the same workshop. Just one or two, because they can bring in new knowledge later on while the rest of the team is building their startup.

Besides that, we think it’s a good idea to organize short workshops at the same time and present the workshop material right afterwards – so teams can implement tips and tricks for their startup.

takeaways from Startup Weekend Cologne

workshop Growth Hacking, by Hendrik Lennarz

#4 Provide fruit and water

At Startup Weekend Cologne, the food was great. It’s true, it’s ridiculous. Breakfast, lunch, diner: plenty of choice, tasty and variety. Beer, special drinks and coffee were available as well. We loved it!

For me this is just fine, but facilitator Stavros missed fruit and bottles of water and possibly more people did. Since water gives people more energy, this is something to keep in mind when you will organize a Startup Weekend.

Startup Weekend Cologne

Pizza at Friday evening

#5 Prepare your Pitch and be specific

At Startup Weekend Cologne, about 25 people pitched their idea and so did I. However, looking back I would really take more time to prepare my pitch. Simply because I found that my solution wasn’t specific enough. So if you’re planning to pitch: please present a specific idea. It will help you gain more votes and a team to build your startup.

Startup Weekend Cologne

Great working space at Startplatz

#6 Organize a photo booth 

A photo booth is not just for fun: you will also get traction for the event when participants share their Startup Weekend pictures on social media and private networks like Whatsapp groups. As a marketer I think a photo booth is a great marketing tool and would like to thank Stavros for mentioning this. Adding a Twitter wall could also help to use the social media power of attendees at your weekend.

#7 Q&A with judges

At Sunday late afternoon the teams had 3 minutes to do their pitch. Afterwards, the jury had just 2 minutes for the Q&A. Personally I think this is a little short, because the crowd likes to have a better understanding of how judges challenge the teams. More questions from judges could highlight more aspects behind the pitches.

#8 Offer different prices to win

At Startup Weekend Cologne, the team organized multiple prices and categories and we feel this is great. So all participants could win other prices like books or tickets to festivals. So having more prices will give more people an even better feeling about the weekend.

Startup Weekend Cologne

Main room at Startplatz

#9 Invite a tech journalist

At Startup Weekend Cologne, the organizing team had invited Thomas Riedel, ‘online Redakteur’ at DS Media GmbH and also a tech journalist who publishes on his own blog Droid-Boy. We think inviting a journalist is a great move to get more media exposure. And exposure is valuable to your sponsors, of course.

#10 Mentoring of startup teams

At Startup Weekend, mentors are available to help teams with issues like finance, marketing & pr, organisation, legal and sales.

We feel it’s a good idea to make sure every team gets mentor support they need. Mentors could pick teams to help, but maybe the otherway around is a better idea. This could be done with specific time slots that teams can book for. It would also be helpful to provide enough information about the mentors and their skills.

In the end, I think it’s all about the progress teams can make during 54 hours of Startup Weekend.

takeaways from Startup Weekend Cologne

building your startup in 54 hours

#11 Give your weekend a Kick-start

Having a great facilitator will defenitely help to get into the right mood for your Startup Weekend. We found that the right facilitor can unleash the entrepreneurial spirit and we really enjoyed how Stavros performed as facilitator at Startup Weekend Cologne.

takeaways from Startup Weekend Cologne

Facilitator Stavros getting us in the right mood

We think the team in Cologne did a great job overall, especially when you keep in mind it’s a completely voluntary job.

So a huge ‘THANK YOU’ for the team in Cologne!

Hopefully you liked our takeaways from Startup Weekend.

Are you planning a Startup Weekend?

If you are thinking about organizing your own Startup Weekend event, please feel free to contact us. We love to share ideas and are willing to help you.