This gig's like Game of Thrones with whiteboard markers

NICK CHURCHOUSE
Last updated 05:00 25/06/2012

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If you had a spare 54 hours to kick around what would you do?

OPINION: Watch an entire series of Game of Thrones, Deadwood and Twilight back to back? Run an ultra marathon? Clean out your gutters and those of 24 close friends?

How about packing yourself into a room with half a dozen strangers, and building a business from an idea you had in the bath?

Startup Weekend is in full swing in New Zealand, into its third year, with the Auckland event last weekend at Massey University's Albany-based business incubator eCentre. With four events delivered across three cities and counting, Startup Weekend keeps getting better and there is nothing but upside from the energy it inspires.

In a nutshell, it's a boot camp to turn good ideas into muscle and traction. About 100 people work the open mic on Friday night, putting business ideas to the room.

Ideas with the most votes amass teams around them. Fast forward through the next 50 hours (a medley of billion-dollar aspirations, spirited arguments, high fives, patchwork business models and hurried customer surveys) to Pitch Night, 5pm Sunday.

A panel of investors and business people face the teams and the judging begins.

Some pitches show businesses that have built prototypes, signed up customers and actually started a cashflow stream inside one weekend.

Other pitches show different experiences from the weekend, a few not so pretty.

The Auckland winners SmileToday are packing charity into happiness, runners-up JumpOnBoard are pushing collaboration into travel planning.

Filtering freak flatmates, doing a PhD on the bus, wrapping virtual shopping in a virtual bow; all ideas being stretched, kicked and bent into a business model and tested.

It's like Game of Thrones with whiteboard markers instead of swords.

Drama is inevitable, factions form and alliances emerge, passion fires and ideas clash. It's inspiring. Some splinter and regroup better for it, others lose the plot and find their solace in another team.

As a mentor, you add as much as you can, they take on board what they will and there are some you just can't help. There's no time for philosophical discussions.

A Startup Weekend's essence is the fact that pressure matched with the right support makes things work.

Startup Weekend facilitator and Wellington investor Dave Moskovitz boiled it down. "Startup Weekend is about inspiring entrepreneurs. That's it."

Inspiring them to do what? That looks different to every person on Friday night, and different again on Sunday.

But if 54 hours on the clock inspires you to do anything, it's to execute something.

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Nick Churchouse is venture manager at Creative HQ and is helping organise Wellington's Startup Weekend, July 27-29. Palmerston North and Tauranga sessions are later this year.

Check StartupWeekend.co.nz for all events.

- BusinessDay.co.nz

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