I’ve been an MC and speaker at a few Startup Camps including the annual Sapphire Coast Startup Camp  run by Liam O’Duibhir   also a Social Enterprise focussed event for for Startup Social.

I think the Startup Camp format is a fantastic way to introduce and develop people’s understanding of entrepreneurship in an engaging and fun way. Here is some information about how to run one of your own.


A Startup Camp is a particular style of open event designed for people to get together over a weekend, brainstorm ideas, form teams and “start up” new businesses.  

The objective of the Startup Camp is to put a bunch of smart and passionate people together, provide inspiration and education from various mentors and speakers, form teams and work through a semi-structured hands-on approach to taking a concept and developing it into a viable business, all in the space a few days. The continual feedback from other participants

Often the event wraps up with a series of presentations from each team to a panel of judges, often including successful entrepreneurs, experts, mentors and investors.


Also known as “Startup Weekends”, the Statup Camp is based on the idea of the open technology-focussed “Bar Camp” event format.

The idea of the Startup Camp is not owned by any one organisation and anyone can run an event. However, there are also many organisations running these events on a professional basis, including Startup Weekend http://startupweekend.org/ which is backed by Techstars LLC and Google.

There is no camping!

Well not typically.  Typical events start on a Friday evening and run over the weekend until the Sunday afternoon, although there are many various to this.  

Do business actually get launched?

It depends on how you define “launched”.  Every team develops a business, builds a prototype, written the business plan, and pitched the idea to a panel of judges and potential investors. Many participants go on to do However, businesses are always evolving, and entrepreneurs always have new ideas, so while it can be difficult to attribute any particular business to a specific event, I like to think that the entrepreneurs that have gone on to launch a business (or businesses) have taken learnings and inspiration from the work they did at the events.

How does the Event Work?

There is no official way to run a Startup Camp , but there are various resources published.  Startup Australia’s StartupCamp Manual is available here.

Startup Weekend is an organisation that run professional startup events on a regular basis, but they have published a very detailed organisers guide for their events here. 

A blog which documented the 2013 Sapphire Coast Startup Camp is still available here. 

The Magic

The magic of these events arises from putting a bunch of smart and passionate people together, and focussed on working hard towards a shared goal of launching a business in a ludicrously short period of time.

A lot of the value comes from the intensity of the event, the hands-on nature of the activities, constant reworking of the business model, repeated pitching and meeting and working with similarly passionate people.

The Agenda

There is no ideal agenda, but a combination of presentations from advisors and mentors on key concepts, pitching and and actual work on the projects.

The agenda from the Startup Social event in August 2015 is published on slideshare here. 

Start with a structure, but be flexible and adapt to the rhythm of the room to keep the energy up.

Remember, frequent interruptions, shifting priorities and a constant feeling of anxiety is the natural state for an entrepreneur, so don’t worry too much. Advice from Startup-Australia “No complaining about anything…just find a way…remember you’re an unstoppable entrepreneur”

Team Deliverables

Having a number of deliverables forces teams to think about their business from multiple angles, and gives the teams opportunity to split up and delegate pieces of work. Examples of deliverables include:

Business Name

Each team needs a name for their business.  Consider whether the name has already been used, similar trademarks, and the availability of web domain names.

Business Model Canvas

Use a Business Model Canvas or other similar business plan that describes how the business operates, how it makes money, how it goes to market etc.

Investment Pitch

Prepare a “Pitch Deck” presentation for potential investors, and for the judging panel.  

Consider Guy Kawasaki’s 10-20-30 Rule of Pitching, but bear in mind that the pitch to the judging panel may be as short as 5 minutes. 

Elevator Pitch

Prepare the elevator pitch.  This is the description of your business that you can deliver in a to someone in a 60-second ride in an elevator.  Here’s one model for an elevator pitch.

Logo / Website

Design a logo and develop a website for the business.

Media Release

Write a media release announcing the launch of this new business.  This site has some good tips


Prepare a demonstration or presentation that illustrate how your product or service works.  Consider using prototypes on paper, web mockups etc.

Key Startup Concepts

There are many key concepts in the startup world that every entrepreneur should know, but  that are not covered in traditional business books or courses.   The Startup Camp provides an opportunity to introduce these ideas.


Pitching a business idea, the process of getting very good at telling the story of what you do and why, is a critical skill for any entrepreneur.  Understanding the various types of pitches for different audiences including pitching for investment, lightning pitch, elevator pitch, sales pitch etc.

Skills in the Startup Team

Understanding the types of skills that are important when starting a business, and that an entrepreneur doesn’t need to have all these skills themselves, but understands how to put together a high performing team. 

The Hacker, Hipster, Hustler  concept is a good introduction to this idea.

Vitamin or Pain-Killer

Is this product a Vitamin or a Pain-killer?

Minimum Viable Product, Lean Startup and Market Validation

Introduce the idea of minimum viable product, rapid market validation and Lean Startup (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lean_startup). The idea of hypothesis-driven experimentation and rapid iteration to prove and improve the product or service the business.


Introduce and discuss the various free and inexpensive technology tools available to startups including tools to publish websites (e.g WordPress and Instapage), mobile app prototyping (e.g. https://popapp.in/)  design tools (e.g. Canva.com), royalty-free images (e.g. http://www.freeimages.com/) etc.

More Information

If you have any questions about this list, or any suggestions you’d like to make, please feel free to contact me.