54 hours to turn ideas into action

Participants transformed ideas into real business projects during the 7th edition of Startup Weekend in Aarhus

By Muyu Xu

Participants of the 7th edition of Start Up Weekend in Aarhus. Photo: Mads Johansen

Participants of the 7th edition of Start Up Weekend in Aarhus. Photo: Mads Johansen/madsfoto.dk

What will you do in your free time during a weekend? Grab a beer with friends in bars? Catch up with some readings before the deadline of your assignment? Or perhaps you can turn your crazy ideas into action? At least that was the option made by a group of people who took part in the Startup Weekend in Aarhus, during November 21st to 23rd.

Startup Weekend is the largest non-profit community of passionate entrepreneurs. Since 2010, when the initiative was launched, more than 1900 events were held in more than 127 cities around the world. In Aarhus, the 7th edition gathered 60 participants interested in business, design, innovation and networking. They received exactly 54 hours to expand their networks, pitch ideas, form teams, and start companies.

Thirty-one ideas were presented by participants during the event, but only nine were selected to the final competition. After hours of hard work, the teams presented their achievements and received critical judgments from four local entrepreneurial leaders.

The winner of the competition was a mobile app called Nu, developed with the aim at helping people to meet others or to engage in activities when moving to new city. Lajla Berglann, the leader of the winning team, said that she was glad to be able to meet so many talented people and felt empowered by this experience. “I truly believe that my life will change from today. And I encourage everyone who are even a bit curious if they could be an entrepreneur to just give it a shot.”

A new genereation of entrepreneurs. Photo: Shulung Huang

A new genereation of entrepreneurs. Photo: Shulung Huang

Time to make ideas become reality
It is never too late to execute one’s idea. Rita Westergaard, a 57 year-old Danish lady who currently owns a local company, is now seeking partners for her new business. During Startup Weekend, Rita was just as passionate and energetic as the crowd comprised mainly by young people. Before starting her own company, she worked as IT supporter for most of her life. “I had accumulated enough resources to make my idea real. So why not give myself a challenge and an opportunity?”

Mark McGuire studied Economy and Communication in Canada, and moved to Aarhus a year ago. But he could only find work as dishwasher. “This is definitely not what I expected. I had the idea to create a job platform where candidates can directly meet and match with clients. It could help people, especially foreigners, a lot in reality.”

Nikolai Laursen is currently working as a program designer in a local company. He always comes up with some small ideas inspired by details in life. This time he brought an idea about inventing a QR-scanned shopping cart to replace current coin-inserting cart, which eventually won him the Innovation Prize.

Keeping it simple, making it easy
One principle of Startup Weekend is to build entrepreneurship on something simple. “Never be afraid of your idea being too simple. In fact, the simpler you make, the easier you get,” said Lasse Chor, the host of the event and also the CEO behind the Happiest Man Alive company. “Done is better than perfect,” he added.

“Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted”
Obstacles and frustrations are part of the trajectory of many participants. Reyhan and Fresh are sisters from
Palestine. They had a hazy idea about building a health website to help people with injuries or lack of nutrition. They did not manage to pitch their idea to the participants, but the sisters did not give up and presented their ideas to a mentor, who immediately pitched the idea to his colleagues and they will soon arrange a meeting with the sisters to learn more detailed information. “We are so excited that our idea finally gets chance to turn real. It is really a valuable experience, and it lets us grow.”

Muyu Xu is a journalist from China and a contributor for Jutland Station.