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Two weeks ago my startup team went to London to spend a few days team building. It was crucial since three people had just arrived a few weeks before. It was also the right time to discuss what we want to build together, where we want to go with our startup and what our DNA is.
Every team and startup has their own workshop recipe. I learned a lot about team building and workshops, and I’d like to share the method we used.


1 – preparation

The first step for the organiser is to define the goals.
Our goal was to establish a vision for the future. Once that was clear, I got on with the organising and here are some of my tips.

– Keep it to one day

– Choose a place that is new for the team. Preferably somewhere cosy, with a sofa and a big white wall.

– Prepare snacks or set up a lunch break

– Make sure all your team is free and send invitations

– Buy your equipment: Big white sheets of paper, different coloured post-its, A4 paper, stickers, markers and pens

– Make some slides to signal each stage of the workshop

– Remember to take pictures of the wall with all the post-its


2 – A few rules

It’s important to keep the team focused. There were 10 of us so a few simple rules helped to keep us on track.
No technical questions or barriers of any sort accepted.
Assign a time keeper, a scribe and a photographer
Appoint a Mr Loyal to lead the workshop
And a referee, to intervene when things heat up.

Workshop during team building


3 – From Individual to Startup

First we did an ice-breaker to get us all into the same space and then an exercise on the team followed by one about the startup.

Strengths and weaknesses

– There are lots of good things about this exercise both for the individual, the group and the workshop.

– Everyone has 2 different coloured post-its. The first one is for their weakness and second for their strength

– Write one word on each post-it in 1 minute

– Share these two words and explain them to the team


Team Values

This helps you learn a little more about each other by answering one question:“What matters to you at work?”. It’s about atmosphere, pace, pressure, task management.

– Hand out 7 post-its to each member

– Write one word on each post-it in 5 minutes

– Collect all the post-its and stick them on the wall anonymously

– As a team, categorise the words into 4-6 groups.

These are the team values.


Startup DNA

Your team values are a good starting point but to define your DNA, you have to consider your user, your brand, your product.

– Hand out 5 post-its and one A4 paper to each person

– First shot: 5 seconds to write a word to describe the startup DNA on one post-it – no time to think! Repeat this for the 4 other post-its.

– Second shot: 2 minutes to write a sentence about it on the sheet of paper. Be careful, it’s not about finding a catchword or a slogan, we are not in a marketing meeting.

– Get everyone to stick their papers and post-its on the wall

– Categorise into 5 groups maximum.

There you have your key DNA points.


5 – Vision

The next step could take 30 minutes and is about what you want your startup to be? No more post-its! The referee is really important now because everyone breaks into groups to talk so the referee has to ensure everyone is contributing and no one has been left out.
Start to ask questions about other company before thinking about yours. Here are two examples: What do we love and hate about our competitors or the big companies?
Write the questions up on the wall and the scribe will make a note of all the answers below. And finally, the big question “What do we want to be?”.

Recast.AI - Workshop with lo of post-its


6 – The future

So how close are we to that vision? Today we are at 10%, what do we have to do to be at 100%?

Short term measures

Think about short term measures and then long term plans. Keep it concrete and specific because this step will shape your startup roadmap.

– Hand out 2 A4 sheets of paper

– Fold the first paper into 3 to have 6 workspaces

– 4 minutes to draw, write or sketch 6 short term measures. One in each workspace.

– 5 minutes to sketch one of the 6 ideas with more details. A good example is to draw a storyboard of the product/service experience. Think about the user, how he will use it, what’s the benefit?

– Everyone presents their sketches and sticks them on the wall.

– Vote on favorite measures

Voting helps to rank the outcomes and this will help establish the actions needed.

Recast.AI - A startup workshop

The next 3 years

Now let’s see the future. What’s your ambitions in the next 3 years.
The game is to ask questions beginning with “What if…”. This is not about finding risks, but more about imagining the impossible.

You are a software startup, “What if we make hardware now?”, “What if we open source some pieces?”, “What if we start a second software for a new business problem?”…

Once you have from 10 to 20 questions, start to answer. What does each scenario mean?

If we made hardware now, we would do an object for everyday use, or we would do big deal with big hardware company, or we would start to do research on robotics, or we would make a small electronic chip and plug it in every IoT object…

Let your imagination run wild. Don’t forget it’s the end of the day and your team will probably be more tired. So scenario will be a little crazy but it’s the game 🙂


7 – Make it happen

After this workshop, it’s important to do something concrete with all the ideas
The first step is to digitalize all the notes.

Then take all of your questions and sum up the big ideas that emerged during the workshop your DNA definition, your startup values, and vision. Write it up in a report and share it with your stakeholders.

So good luck, and enjoy your startup workshop!

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