I recently participated in Startup Weekend Corvallis and I thought I would share my experience and offer a few suggestions about how it might be improved for next time.
I generally enjoyed the experience. It was interesting to work with new people (especially Michael and Chris at Peak Internet!) and I think we created something useful if not super-lucrative (Web Project Wizard). I also learned some new skills that will be great professionally for the future. I'd do it again once I have time to forget about the week after :). I haven't programmed until 1 am in a long time... (I'm a morning person)
We have continued development on the Web Project Wizard and will have a Beta product before the end of the year. Whether it ever makes it to revenue for us remains to be seen, but we have agreed to spend the first $500 on a big party! :P
* Have roving experts or skilled people available for "rent" throughout the weekend. We didn't have a graphics designer and really could have used one for about 3-4 hours (have you seen our logo? Michael, no offense :)). I imagine others could have used a Linux admin or PERL guru. Having people not attached to a team but available to be scheduled would be nice.
* Have a "start quickly" period where everyone gives suggestions/options on tools that can be used to help with the process. This could be project management web sites, easy source control, design templates/resources, easy CMSs, marketing tools, etc. Maybe it could be a quick 30 min. session to brainstorm, then just a running list throughout the weekend.
* Have a way for teams to network more. Maybe make dinner a forced break and networking time for 45 mins. Basically, I didn't "get to know" many of the people I didn't know on the other teams because everyone was pretty heads down.
Another way to do this and tackle the "roving experts" side of things could be to trade team members for a time period. Say we needed a designer and a team with a designer needed a jQuery expert. We could "trade" for 3 hours and both teams could gain from the expertise of those people and those people get to know the other teams better.
What did you think?