Startup Weekend: Lessons Learned – Part 1


http://blog.woodofstartup.com/

This post is to share my last year Twin Cities Startup Weekend experience back in Feb 2012 in a 2 part series of posts (my attempt to keep me motivated to do blogging more often).

It is a long over due post. I originally wrote this March 2012 and it had been sitting in my draft since then. This year, I have made a goal to actively blog and share my experience with technology adventures with you all. So, here the story goes:

After watching the buzz around startup weekends locally in MN, Iowa, and Omaha, I was excited to finally be able to attend TwinCitiesStartupWeekend 03 on Feb 10, 2012.

I started preparing the pitch for my idea and reached out to the people I knew in the community to learn how to make the most effective pitch. I googled the web and met with former Startup Weekend winners and mentors (Thanks to Sarah Young – RockYourBlock.com, Scott Davis – Qonqr.com, and Casey Allen – ProjectSkyway.com) and received valuable advice. After much practice and preparation prior to the event, on Friday night I pitched two of my ideas and ended up not having enough votes for either one to be selected (there were 14 ideas selected out of 40).

 

Quick Summary of Startup weekend TWIN CITIES 03

 

The room was full of almost close to 100 people with 50% college students. I was reluctant to join a group with many college students, as they comes with related risks of conflicting priorities, commitment, study load, and dependability 🙂 On the other hand, I knew few professional people who were there and forming the team. I had no doubt that their product would be great and might win the prize as well. Though, my goal was not to win the prize or spend all days and nights there. I was more focused on going through the startup weekend experience and building something in less than 3 days.

Thus, I ended up joining a team who was lead by very enthusiastic college student. We were 8 people in the team that consist of 4 college students (developers), two iphone developers, one architect (myself), one business analyst, and our team lead (the idea guy).

 

Here is the idea pitch by Kevin Walker, our product visionary:

TECHdotMN TV: SWTC 3 | Sharepulse from TECHdotMN on Vimeo.

Following is the quick break down how the 3 days go:

(I believe it will provide you a good story and the background, if you are not interested in the story then you can scroll down to Main Theme and Advice section below)

Friday:

  • Team got together and got to know each other
  • Shared everyone contact info and wrote that on the board
  • Wrote high level product plan on the board
  • Defined the roles and responsibilities of each person

Saturday:

  • One person (iPhone developer) decided to move on and join a different team
  • We wrote the tasks on the board and high level interface how the app should look like
  • 4 developers started coordinating and working on first prototype
  • Architect worked with business analyst and team lead (idea guy) and development team on business plan, customer acquisition, idea validation, overall development strategy, database setup, and functionalities for our Minimum Viable Product (MVP)
  • Business Analyst and team lead (idea guy) went outside to validate the idea and business case
  • We lost another developer (college student) on that day
  • Architect found out that development team got no where entire day and changed the platform couple of times, thus helped them to come back on track
  • Team realized that we started adding the scope to the project (e.g. Facebook app etc.) and it was becoming unrealistic to have a prototype or Minimal Viable Product (MVP) by Sunday 5 pm.
  • Great thing that happened to us on Saturday was visit from the mentors and advisors, who helped us narrow the scope and focused.

Sunday:

  • Another key developer left (college student) due to study load and decided not to come
  • The main Front End developer decided not to show up until 11 pm
  • The last developer was late due to existing commitments
  • The team lead realized that we are DOOMED, as we only have the first landing page so far to show and 5 pm was the presentation.
  • The architect looked at the situation and took charged and wore the developer hat to start making changes. Later front-end developer and last college student (developer) joined him and they worked under the gun at high speed to get the prototype ready.
  • Last but not least, we got a decent prototype and presentation ready for 5 pm final round.

 

In the end, it was a wonderful experience. Our Team, SharePulse.Co was number 3rd winner in the list. We won the best User Interface (UI) award.  I am proud to say that I have no regrets and I had a blast time during Startup Weekend. Thanks to organizers for putting it together, especially Jeff Pesek and Mike Bollinger.

You may see all the selected ideas pitches here: http://tech.mn/news/2012/02/11/startupweekendtwincities-3-whatsbeingbuilt/

Without further details, following are the key learning from the weekend!

Main Key Theme:

Keep Things Simple and Easy – Don’t over do anything

Best Advices I got:

  • Don’t over practice your initial pitch – most people do not come prepare for the pitch. Just be yourself and share your idea and passion to the audience
  • If you really want your idea to be selected for execution, you better work on selling if to the audience to get most votes – be bold and brave and be a seller to drive people to your idea and vote of you.
  • Don’t worry too much about the name of your company; it will come to you as you move along. (Thanks Scott D. & Sarah Y.)
  • Define your Minimum Viable Product and a happy path that you can demonstrate end-to-end working at the demo on Sunday, rest is bonus (Thanks Scott D.)
  • Start with the story and problem statement when you make final pitch, but keep it short and move on to the project and describe it (Thanks Casey A.)

 

Stay tune to my next week post (Part 2) that will list the Do’s and Don’ts’ of Startup Weekend based on my lesson learned and story during those 3 days.

I am sure many others would have additional tips on what to do and what not to do. Please feel free to share your tips in the comments section or share these with your friends.

If you have any questions, please post in the comments and I would be happy to answer. Please visit my Contact Page to connect with me via Twitter or Email.

Kashi



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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer’s view in any way.