Startup Weekend in Mobile, Alabama
I recently had a taste of my first Startup Weekend Competition powered by Google for Entrepreneurs.
Here is my personal experience --- it might help you decide whether it’s something that would be up your alley or not (in case you were debating).
What is it? It’s a competition. It’s networking. It’s summer camp. It’s pitching. It’s creativity. It’s teamwork. It’s learning. It’s fun. It’s intense.
It’s the opportunity to show up with an idea (not a requirement) on a Friday afternoon and then pitch that idea turned business to a live audience on Sunday afternoon.
If you’ve every tried this you’ll know just how much work this really takes.
You don’t get to polish details and speeches for weeks.
You get more like 48 hours.
Let me give you the overview of how this goes.
5pm, Day 1:
We show up. Meet. Eat. Wonder how this works.
Then we pitched an idea (60 seconds max).
sometimes you've got to wear some granny panties
I presented an idea called Panty Pockets - undies for women with storage built in them.
[It didn’t win, but I gave the crowd plenty of comic relief].
There were 60 pitches or so.
Each of us received a giant sheet of paper titled with our concept.
When pitches were completed, we placed our papers around the room and encouraged others to vote for our ideas (each person had 3 sticky notes to vote with).
Next, we narrowed down to the ideas with the most votes -- 10 ideas or so.
These folks had anywhere from 5 to 18 votes (for reference, panty pockets had 3 - so close!)
This is where the real fun began.
The moderator says, “great, now form your group. You have to have at least 3 but no more than 8.”
If you couldn’t get at least 3, then you had to close your idea and blob with another group.
This was 15 minutes of a Survivor Series episode.
You wanted to sell yourself to the leader with the idea you liked the most.
That person with the idea was also looking for folks with particular skills -- design, coding ability, public speaking, etc.
It was an interesting networking session.
I sold myself to my first choice team.
“Yes, I’m in!”
But then, the team got loaded with team members; clearly, I wasn’t the only one that saw its merit.
My 2nd favorite idea’s leader was enticing me to come and join his team.
Turns out he currently only had 2 others on his team and 1 was a coding guy (not me).
I could be a bigger fish in this smaller pond and hopefully utilize my skills better.
I told him I was in.
So I switched.
8pm, Day 1:
The real work begins.
We start to discuss the idea in detail.
Punch holes in it.
Firm it up.
Here’s the idea we’re going to build upon the next 36 hours and what our final product became (the name being finalized later in the weekend)...
Conference Cash: an app that is used to enhance the experience of both vendors and attendees at trade shows, expos & conferences.
11pm, Day 1:
Tired from the evening’s work (little do we know this is just the beginning!) we retreat home to rest up before the next day.
8am, Day 2:
We greet each other warmly and hop right back onto the saddle (but not before being well feed by the organizers - we had incredible food from local businesses all weekend long!)
Some heavy hitter coaches from local companies were in the room.
Each asked what we were working on.
We began to realize that this was a chance to pitch the idea to them.
We let them punch holes.
We started to refine how the app would look and feel.
Our coding guys discussed how to make a live demonstration of the product happen in 24 hours.
9pm, Day 2:
We’re the last team left in the building still working on our business.
Understandable; it was Saturday night and there was a beer festival happening in the streets less than 100 yards away.
Teams were dropping like flies.
But we had work to do.
We had the basic workings of our app.
We had an outline of an outline created for what we wanted to present.
8am, Game Day:
We had zero slides created for our presentation.
We needed to finalize our demonstration.
We needed to finalize notes for our pitch.
We had a long way to go.
3pm, Game Day:
I’m voted the pitch man and this is the very first time we attempted to put together my notes with the slides that we created (not having completed until 30 minutes prior).
Our first run through is beyond rusty.
It’s more like a junkyard with pieces spread all over.
5 run throughs; each time making adjustments to what we’re going to say.
I made the decision to use notes.
I’m not happy about this, but normally I would practice at least a full day for a presentation of this magnitude - not only an hour.
5pm, Game Day:
We decided to do a few run throughs without stopping to make edits.
Time to let it flow the way it’s going to flow.
In the middle of our 3rd run through, we were told we were on deck.
We closed our computers and walked downstairs to the presentation hall.
We gave it our best shot.
We gave it all we had.
5 guys that had never met before Friday took an idea and streamlined it into a real business by Sunday afternoon.
We worked extremely well together.
We took criticism and well.
We focused on what our core strengths were.
And we got the job done.
Now we have an obligation to the idea, the sponsors, and the City of Mobile.
The business must happen for this entire weekend to be a complete success.
And it will.
There was an angel investor group present and our first meeting was set up that same night.
More to come on that.
But next year it’s your turn...