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Startup Weekend Stories: Memories, reflections and lessons learned from Startup Weekend events in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, Iowa. 

Today we meet up with Shawn Harrington, a co-founder at Goquets which is currently going through the Iowa Startup Accelerator. Goquets originally hails from Startup Weekend Ames, and went through a few pivots before arriving in Cedar Rapids at the Startup Accelerator. Their story is a fantastic one showing how important customer discovery is.

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Shawn, co-founder Lyndsay, and Beau the Bear at the Iowa Startup Accelerator.

What were your hopes and goals going into the weekend?

There were two primary objectives when I headed up to Startup Weekend. The first was to get back into building a startup, since I couldn’t wait to get involved again after a break from my first venture. The other objective was to start showing there was a real problem in the floral industry and that more people than just myself were being affected by it.

What was the most challenging part of the experience?

Just getting in there was the hardest part. I was sitting at my desk for my corporate job in Des Moines at 4pm on a Friday finishing up a long week. By 6pm, I was standing in front of a room full of people in Ames pitching my startup idea and recruiting the most talented people I could find to come work on it for the next 54 hours.

How has the experience impacted you after the weekend?

There were so many awesome people I had the chance to be around for the first time during Startup Weekend, including the other teams and mentors who were in the room with us. It was also my first time working with Lyndsay Horgan, my business partner and co-founder of Goquets. The experience led to us forming our company in January of 2014 and of course getting us to where we are today.

Advice I would give to someone considering attending Startup Weekend:

Keep your mind open. Don’t think it has to be your idea for you to participate on a team, and don’t think it has to be the sexiest of businesses. Some of the most successful people I’ve been around in the startup community grew companies you may not have originally thought of as having the most profitable or biggest opportunity in front of them. Try to analyze who in the room is solving a real problem and be ready to take part in moving forward from there.

Any other thoughts you would like to add?

Once your team is working on the idea, don’t think you have to over-develop and solve the problem in a weekend. It’s more important for you to gather and analyze as much information as you can as a team to prove that it can be solved and turned into a viable business. When you present on Sunday night, be ready to show the road map to what will make this a successful business beyond Startup Weekend.

Oh yeah, and don’t be afraid to leave the building! For us, we had to get out and interview as many florists as we could find in one weekend while following up on leads that came from within the room. Don’t rely strictly on google searches or one person’s viewpoint. Focus on building your business model as a team.

To buy tickets to Startup Weekend Iowa City please visit our Eventbrite page.

Iowa City too far away? There will be FIVE Startup Weekends in Iowa Nov 20th – 22nd. Find one close to you at http://swia.co/.

Brian Kerr