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Tips for success at Startup Weekend Miami at FIU this weekend

By Adam Boalt and Tara Demren

AdamSouth Florida entrepreneur Adam Boalt is founder and CEO of tech company LiveAnswer. Tara Demren, an international business major at Florida International University, is LiveAnswer’s communications and strategy manager. Boalt, who hired Demren after her team took third place at a Startup Weekend event in May, will be the keynote speaker at Startup Weekend at FIU, scheduled for Nov. 20-22 at the university’s Tech Station on the Modesto Maidique Campus.  The event is designed to enable aspiring entrepreneurs to create, pitch and launch their startup ideas over one 54-hour weekend. To register visit StartupWeekend.Miami.

Why should someone attend Startup Weekend at FIU?

Adam: People think starting their own company is impossible or being an entrepreneur is something that they aren’t capable of. Helping them overcome that fear and take the plunge is the reason that I love going to Startup Weekends. I used to shuck oysters on the weekends at Monty’s. You can go from there to running a successful business in a relatively short period of time if you work really hard.

TaraTara: For me, the success of going to Startup Weekend is not necessarily walking out with a company built but it’s more that you create this new sense of awareness that there’s more to life than just being idle and going with what you’re familiar with. You get out of your comfort zone, you pitch your idea to strangers and you begin to understand that there’s a lot more you can do in life.

What’s the best advice you can give participants?

Adam: You have to embrace failure in order to be successful. You can’t be afraid of the one thing that prevents so many people from becoming an entrepreneur. Once you can accept that, it becomes a lot easier. If you can remember where you came from and remain humble, you know you can always go back and you’re not afraid to move forward.  

Tara: You have to portray confidence, that you are sure of what you’re doing and you really believe in your idea. You can be unsure inside but you have to project confidence to your team and to your mentors. And bring a yoga mat. Take breaks. You’re going to be sitting for an absurd amount of time.

What are some pitfalls to avoid?

Adam: Don’t try to take over the world in one weekend. Be hyper-focused on the goal, which is to build your team, build out your concept and refine your pitch for the judges. Don’t get hung up on details that don’t matter. The teams that are successful are structured, organized and they’re not biting off more than they can chew. You’re not going to go from zero to Uber in one weekend.

Tara: Look for the “MVP” – the minimal viable product. You want something that is valid but it could be the small, most minimal part of your startup. It doesn’t have to be a full-fledged company. It could be a small, bite-sized idea that you are able to prove is viable.  

Is there anything participants can do to prepare?

Adam: Yes, get your friends to go with you. And don’t overthink it. Be open-minded. It’s a wonderful learning opportunity, a way to experience entrepreneurship without taking a big risk.

Tara: Be flexible. You shouldn’t prepare too much with your own personal idea because that might not be the one you move forward with and that can be demoralizing. That’s not the attitude you want to have, that it has to be your idea.

Why is FIU a good place for startups and entrepreneurs?

Tara: The biggest thing is they are willing to support students like me who want to get involved with the startup community. I’d like to see a ripple effect, where more professors begin advocating for events like Startup Weekend to give students the confidence they need to get out of their comfort zone.

Adam: Miami is riding this wave of startup activity and it’s because we have pulled our resources together to work as a community. That’s true of FIU and other universities as well. Fear prevents students from taking risks. Anything universities can do to allow students to experiment with entrepreneurship without taking a huge risk is a good thing.

What’s the biggest takeaway you want to leave participants with about Startup Weekend at FIU?

Adam: I do what I do because I love it. The money is a byproduct. You can’t do this just to make money. You’ve got to love what you do, that’s the most important thing.

Tara: Go big or go home!

 To register visit StartupWeekend.Miami.