Athens Startup Weekend revisited

    Από: Startup Team

Source:, by Thanos Kosmidis

If you could bottle the enthusiasm in some startup events, you’d make a fortune – and the recent Athens Startup Weekend was no exception. I happened to be a mentor and a judge, so I got an easy ride, while the teams competing were working hard around the clock.

This post is an attempt to make it up to them – with some general feedback and comments.

Business Plan: User & Customer development

Many ideas follow the marketplace structure: identify an inefficient market, connect buyers & sellers for their mutual benefit, and leave something on the table for the startup as well. While this can be a fine model, it requires sufficient traction from buyers & sellers.

Therefore, a sensible plan must be in place to build up both sides of the market, recognizing that their needs are very different. This plan should pay attention to (a) the current distribution model and level of sophistication of the sellers (b) the process necessary to shift buyers to the new marketplace and keep them there (c) key elements of trust and transparency (d) logistics of payments (e) sustainability, especially if the buyer & seller can bypass the marketplace in the long run.

Validation & surveys

The teams made a conscious effort to attain external validation for their ideas and approach. This is very important; however, the way validation is sought should not be self-fulfilling, but should generate real feedback.

In case you are considering a survey, think of the participants as your first judging committee that can help you craft your value proposition and message. Come up with questions that go beyond measuring the “interest level” for a product or service, but address the merits compared to the current alternatives, and the perceived value (hint: a good indication is the amount one would pay).

Also, please note that Startup Weekend attendees are not representative of the public: pose your questions to a broad and diverse audience.

Revenue model

For a startup competition, my key advice on revenue models is: Make sure you have one!

The numbers are not absolutely critical (they will change every time you think about them) but the process itself as well as the structure of the model are very important. The resulting model is a great tool to help you decide which activities to focus your energy on.

Regarding your revenue sources, beware of the “A” word (“Advertising”). Yes, it can be a viable model for some companies, but are they really the rule or the exception? Remember that advertisers, too, will need to be persuaded about your offering and market reach.


For the purposes of a brief startup competition, acknowledging your competition is half the battle. Identifying potential future competitors is even better, and illustrates that your thinking goes beyond launch day.

Admittedly, it is hard to design bullet-proof protection against competition, especially within a weekend. Instead, focus on differentiation that is sustainable. Differentiation comes from things you’re doing better, cheaper, faster, etc. Sustainability is derived by elements that your current & future competitors will have a hard time replicating or focusing on.


There is abundant advice on presentations, pitching, etc, which you can tailor to your idea, style, audience, and immediate goals (that is, to persuade the judges!).

Consider the “Rude Q&A” concept, one that is frequently used by Public Relations officers in public companies: Imagine that you are presenting to a cynical audience (not the case in Startup Weekend!), think of the most direct questions a skeptic may ask you, and prepare your best answers.

Part of the battle here is to show you are prepared, whet the audience’s appetite, and shift the conversation to the next level by illustrating an opportunity they’d be eager to talk to you about afterwards.