Startup Weekend Cedar Rapids 2016: Meet the teams

Startup Weekend Cedar Rapids 2016 - photo by Flow Media
Startup Weekend Cedar Rapids 2016 – photo by Flow Media

Teams are hard at work at Startup Weekend Cedar Rapids 2016, with ideas ranging from sarcastic political humor to manufacturing education to help for the elderly.

“I’m amazed at how quickly time flies – you think ‘all day? We’re doing this all day?’” said Julie Shields, the director of the Millikin University’s Center for Entrepreneurship, who traveled from Illinois to be part of the weekend.

“But it goes by so quickly, it’s so intense, it’s so deep. Everyone is being so open and honest about conversation, and asking tough questions – you don’t get that in an office setting.”

While startup-curious designers, developers and idea-builders were a core part of the 60-some weekend warriors, there were also other types of participants. Large local companies, including our sponsor Rockwell Collins, sent groups; carloads of curious community builders came from Black Hills, South Dakota and Decatur, Illinois; a few groups of Iowa Startup Accelerator alumni came to be part of a hackathon environment, and high school students and youth as young as 12 participated.

“It’s really fun and cool that you can be there, they don’t treat you any differently because you’re a kid, you can still participate,” said Mats McGrath, a 7th grader who spent Saturday working on customer discovery interviews.

Without further ado, here are the 10 teams of Startup Weekend Cedar Rapids 2016 (in alphabetical order):

Alzheimer’s app

  • We talked to: Actually, this team spent so much of the day out of the building doing customer discovery that we couldn’t track them down for quotes.
  • The idea: A wearable tracker, or a way to raise awareness about existing technologies, for patients with Alzheimer’s to give their loved ones greater peace of mind.

ASAP venues

  • We talked to: Anna Lessman, a freelance graphic designer
  • The idea: A simple website with details on renting local venues, including the cost, location, number of people, etc. “Finding venues for people who have life events – we’re geared towards bridals, baby showers, any type of anniversaries.”
  • Teamwork makes the dream work: This group said they have utilized every person’s strengths. “We’ve been very organized, everyone has a lot of input and everyone is very cooperative. Everyone wants to take their time and make sure everyone’s opinions are heard. We seem to work together quite nicely.”

Bounty Learner

  • We talked to: Vero Smith, a recent graduate of the Harvard Graduate School of Design
  • The idea: “Get paid to learn’ is our main concept – it is a platform that connects manufacturers to high school students, and places [like makerspaces] where those students can learn basic manufacturing skills and get paid to learn.” They narrowed this from “a platform for anyone to learn anything,” which was too vague in value proposition and too competitive in the market.
  • Up and down moments: “I feel like it’s continuous – we think we have a lightbulb, and then it flickers out, or smashes, and we have to go find a new lightbulb in the dark.”

“Boy Scout camp for adults”

  • We talked to: Brian Rupert, designer, web developer and Black Hills, South Dakota road-tripper
  • The idea: Get a satisfying sense of fulfillment and completion through an outdoor experience that lets you try new skills. “It’s a vacation destination based on providing new and fulfilling experience, related around doing some new or forgotten skills that attendees are interested in learning more about.” By the end of the weekend, the team hopes to have a date set for their first event and start booking it.
  • Questioning the process: With a few Startup Weekend veterans on the team, this group jumped into customer discovery quickly, but still had room to learn and grow. Some of the younger members came back from initial interviews saying, ‘We got almost perfect validation, so we think that probably means our questions are bad,’ – rather than taking the feedback at face value and just saying ‘we’re awesome.’

Collaborative Music

  • We talked to: Aaron Van Noy, web designer
  • The idea: Rapid-fire jam sessions. “It’s essentially a speed dating for musicians – they go in a certain time interval from room to room, and meet potential new members of a band.”
  • Validation? “That [idea] is where we’ve seen the passion, where people’s eyes light up and say ‘I’d love to do that’…it was amazing.”

Podcast Pal

  • We talked to: Bryan Rennekamp, a software developer and serial Startup Weekend attendee
  • The idea: “’Many podcasts suffer quality problems’ – but that’s very broad. We spent some time analyzing, and really drilling down into what, exactly, was the heart of these problems.” The solution might take the form of content analytics, a consulting model, technical help for podcasters, or all of the above. “Our goal is to have something that we’re proud of, that we’re invested in, and if one of us decides we really feel that urge, we can take it and run with it. We don’t want to half ass it.”
  • You get out what you put in: “Startup Weekend is for everybody – there is something for everyone here to contribute. If your idea doesn’t take flight, you’ll be better prepared to make it take flight when the time is ready.”

Remember When…

  • We talked to: James Bailey, IT manager at Rockwell Collins
  • The idea: “We’re focused on helping people proactively capture important family memories and stories.” Rather than building on a technology solution, the team is trying to simplify the process of capturing memories – the minimum viable product might be a set of best practices or a guide to existing tech platforms. When we talked to them, the team members were just coming back from customer discovery interviews, so the idea may change again.
  • Trust the process: “I want to get through the process, reach the finish line, and get through the whole process having done everything.”

Side Project

  • We talked to: Julie Shields, director of Millikin University’s Center for Entrepreneurship
  • The idea: “Identifying untapped potential.” For entrepreneurs or would-be entrepreneurs who are working on passion projects on the side, “how to make side projects more profitable, a bigger story, a bigger part of the entrepreneur’s life.” Whether the side project is a potential business or simply a creative outlet, identifying resources to help it grow.
  • When a writer starts asking you questions in the middle of Startup Weekend (sorry!) “It’s a little confusing still – we’re in the stage of deciding how we’re going to narrow our project.”

Snark Nation

  • We talked to: Caleb Meyer, a computer science student at University of North Dakota and a Rockwell Collins co-op
  • The idea: Postcards with “snarky sayings or witticisms about political figures or topics, that you can send to your friends, to your coworkers, to the political figures themselves.” A way to show your political stripes either directly – by sending a message to your representatives – or among your family and friends.
  • Ah-ha moment: “I think every time we hit a good zing or a good topic for a card, that’s a lightbulb moment.”

Vacation planning app

  • We talked to: Mats McGrath, 7th grade at McKinley Middle School
  • The idea: Have a local plan your vacation for you. An app akin to AirBNB or CouchSurfing, where local people can share their knowledge and talents with travelers to earn cash.
  • Lesson learned: “If you have an idea, just say it. There’s no point in holding it back.”



Startup Weekend Cedar Rapids 2016: Meet Michael

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Michael, facilitating Startup Weekend Grand Rapids.

 

Today we’re very excited for you to get to know our facilitator, Michael Norton. Michael is from Seattle, and travels extensively visiting different communities and helping facilitate Startup Weekends. #SWCR16 will be his 23rd.

We caught up with him to learn more about his love for Kickstarter and his travels.

CR: You’re into songwriting, Anything you’re willing to share with us?

MN: Oh, I love writing songs. Many years ago I even used to finish songs, perform them, record them… Actually I’ve been working on a pile of new songs lately. In the past I’ve only written for myself, but I’d like to write for other artists as well.

CR: Tell us about your first Startup Weekend experience. Did you know what you were getting into? What kept you coming back?

MN: I discovered Startup Weekend from the inside out. I served as technical project manager in Up Global’s Seattle-based office where I became intimately familiar with the program’s infrastructure and design. My day job was to improve the resources we created for the organizers, attendees, etc. During my first Startup Weekend as an attendee, I was just as interested in observing the event’s dynamics as I was engaged in my team’s project.

My first experience as an attendee was actually a little strange. The team I joined was not the kind of strangers-as-cofounders, built-from-scratch type of team which is normal at a Startup Weekend. It quickly became apparent that several of the team members knew each other and had been developing the concept for months. They’d already taken the concept further than basic market research or the survey of competition which one might expect. I didn’t mind it because I was there for education purposes. But I sensed that other team members felt less like equal co-founders than they’d hoped. I’m sensitive to this scenario now and suggest that first time attendees review the FAQ on StartupWeekend.org before Friday night.

I keep coming back (this will be my 23rd Startup Weekend) because I always learn so much. I’m inspired, educated, empowered, and connected to innovative, talented, collaborative people. I enjoy helping them, and I learn how to ask for help when and where I need it. I can’t imagine better reasons to do anything.

I love Startup Weekend because it invites people to work together quickly toward a common goal. It requires us to be creative about how we solve problems, create value, test our assumptions, access resources, and present our ideas to others. The skills we practice at Startup Weekend are some of the most important skills we can acquire and hone. The Startup Weekend experience benefits us in many areas of life, far beyond startup or business applications.

CR: You’re a self-described vagabond experiencing Startup Communities and Startup Weekends across the US & Canada. Tell us about some of your favorite places you been.

MN: With one exception, the cities I’ve explored are filled with compassionate, innovative, intelligent, beautiful people. I was just kidding about the exception. Seriously, the most memorable and meaningful things are all the wonderful friendships.

Hmm… I could say similar things about most cities, but I’ll just pick one — Fargo, North Dakota may surprise you with its thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem. They’re making waves in drone technology, don’t ya know. They have the most active and well attended 1 Million Cups chapter. They champion Startup Weekend with the best of them. Fargo is also fostering some fine artists, musicians, coffee, beer, and food. It’s an all ‘round friendly town. And yes, I touched the real wood chipper, signed by the Coen Brothers — oh for fun!

I’ll toss in some touristy highlights. There’s a coffee shop in Kansas City called Thou Mayest which feels like walking into a Wes Anderson film. In Austin, you have to try Gus’s Fried Chicken, or if that’s not on your menu find G’Raj Mahal on Rainy Street for dinner and then follow the sound of great live music in any direction. Central BBQ in Memphis. The architecture and interior design at St. John’s in St. Cloud are mid-century modern perfection. Don’t neglect the California Burrito at Adalberto’s in San Diego. Boulder, Colorado has seven bus routes which are officially named Hop, Skip, Jump, Stampede, Dash, Bound, and Bolt. Open a day with artisanal toast at Trouble Coffee in Ocean Beach San Francisco (see This American Life, episode 520, Act Three), or close one by watching the sunset just a mile north at the Sutro Bath Ruins. I could go on for days, but you may as well look up TheRedHype on Instagram. I’m not doing any of these things justice with words.

CR: You’re a fan of crowdfunding and consult for Kickstarter campaigns. What’s your favorite Kickstarter that you have backed?

MN: Yes! Crowdfunding and micro or group patronage are powerful tools for developing sustainable creative livelihoods. Platforms like Kickstarter and Patreon have ignited a renaissance amongst independent artists, artisans, and inventors who don’t have the backing of a wealthy benefactor or the resources of a large corporation. And from the other side, the transparency that characterizes marketing efforts in reward-based crowdfunding creates a much needed awareness in the audience of consumers around the nature of product creation and production.

The coolest things I’ve ever backed are Standard Spoon (a premium cocktail spoon), Sentris (a musical performance puzzle video game), and Patrick Norton’s album Easy Come, Easy Go.

CR: What is some practical piece of advice would you give to first-timers at Startup Weekend?

MN: For orientation, read the Attendee FAQ page on StartupWeekend.org. Then, to get a feel for what Sunday night pitches are like, search YouTube for Startup Weekend winning final presentations from around the globe. If you plan to pitch an idea, practice your pitch. Practice to a 60 second timer. Practice your pitch in front of friends and then ask them to explain to you what they think you’re trying to do, and ask you questions. You’ll discover where your presentation may be failing. Finally, come with an open mind, prepared to discover all kinds of interesting things, and I guarantee you’ll have a great time.

CR: Anything else we should know about you before Friday night?

MN: Hmm… not really. Enough about me. Let’s do this!

Startup Weekend returns to Cedar Rapids March 4th – 6th at the Iowa Startup Accelerator in the Geonetric Building. We’re also excited to announce Sunday Demo Day Pitches will take place at Whipple Auditorium in the Cedar Rapids Public Library. Get your tickets today.




The Importance of Customer Discovery

At Startup Weekend you’re going to be working on an idea that solves a perceived problem. While you or your team might think your solution is the greatest thing since sliced bread you need to get out of the building and perform customer discovery to see if the problem exists and if your solution solves that problem. This means talking to people who would be using your solution, not just sending out an online survey for someone to fill out a few questions on a 1 to 5 scale.

Steve Blank of Lean Launchpad fame explains this better than we can in the video below.




Consider Startup Weekend an investment in yourself

A guest post by Sarah Binder.

Startup Weekends are some of my favorite events for entrepreneurial communities. I have been to several throughout Iowa – sometimes in my day job as a journalist, some as a community volunteer, and one (so far!) as a participant. Every time, the energy is amazing.

Pitching at Startup Weekend Cedar Rapids 2014.

I frequently recommend the experience to others, so I know there can be an element of hesitation. You get 52 precious weekends in a year – why would you want to spend a whole 54 hours with strangers, working hard on a totally unpredictable project?

It’s true that attending Startup Weekend is an investment – to some extent, with money, but to a greater extent, with your time.

But, at the end of the day, it’s an investment you’re making in yourself. It’s a decision to spend time on learning and growing.

It’s a chance to make new friends and expand your network. It’s a chance to stretch yourself professionally or be introduced to a new skill. It’s a chance to introduce that idea that’s been living in the corners of your mind to the rest of the world. It’s a chance to break out of your normal routine and refresh your thinking.

What do you want out of it?

With the mindset that Startup Weekend is an investment in yourself – I’d recommend taking a few moments to think about your hopes and goals for the weekend before attending. You’re putting in the time, what do you hope to get in return?

I went into my weekend as a participant hoping to meet new people, learn something new and be part of a team that built something functional and useful. I was overwhelmed with how great I felt about all of these things by Sunday night.

There are always a few people who don’t come back after Friday night. From what I’ve seen, these tend to be people who only want to work on their idea, so if it doesn’t get picked they have no interest in joining another team. (Personally, I wouldn’t recommend this option.)

Other people might come to Startup Weekend determined to be on the winning team. Or to really start a business (if you can do that with people you just met – more power to you).

Some people just want to build something awesome before returning to their day job on Monday.

All of these goals are perfectly legitimate. They could all also drastically change how a participant feels and acts. Keep your expectations in mind throughout the weekend to shape the experience you want to have.

Read more via We Create Here: Reflections on Startup Weekend Cedar Rapids.

Startup Weekend returns to Cedar Rapids March 4th – 6th at the Iowa Startup Accelerator in the Geonetric Building. We’re also excited to announce Sunday Demo Day Pitches will take place at Whipple Auditorium in the Cedar Rapids Public Library. Get your tickets today.




Inspire, discover, build and pitch at Startup Weekend

Are you ready to build something? Startup Weekend Iowa City is your chance to test drive startup life in a magical 54 hours. You might create a team and work on an idea you pitched or you might join a team after being inspired their pitch, wherever the weekend takes you you’ll see the gamut of startup life.

In the weekend the team you’re on will dive into customer discovery. You’ll get outside the building to survey potential customers about the idea you’re working on and see if you’re solving a problem for those potential customers. You’ll Identify customer needs, validate ideas, and work towards Product Market Fit. It’s also important to keep an open mind the entire weekend, based on customer discovery your idea might pivot to being something completely different. If you think a pivot sounds silly keep in mind both Instagram and Slack started as out as games before becoming billion dollar startups in photography and team communication that they’re known for.

Your team will also work on a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) to show that your idea does have value. You might want to build the next Facebook competitor, but keep in mind you won’t be able to build the entire product in a weekend. It’s important to build a rough sketch of what your idea could be to show how that value could be created – Be it a simple WordPress site or a wireframe of how the idea could work. For instance when Dropbox “launched” it was a video showing how the service worked, the video garnered enough interest to become the product used by millions.

At the end of the weekend you’ll have a pitch to show off your teams to work to the entire group of Startup Weekend attendees and a panel of judges. You’ll want to show what your idea is in a quick manner for all to understand, who has the problem you’re solving (Customer Discovery), how you’re going to solve this problem (MVP), how you’re a better option than the competitors (Trust me, they exist out there), how you’re going to make money, and how your idea is going to take off in the future. For some final pitch inspiration check out Iowa’s own HowFactory and Men’s Style Lab at their respective Accelerator Launch Days.

Startup Weekend returns to Cedar Rapids March 4th – 6th at the Iowa Startup Accelerator in the Geonetric Building. We’re also excited to announce Sunday Demo Day Pitches will take place at Whipple Auditorium in the Cedar Rapids Public Library. Get your tickets today.




Startup Weekend Stories: Jesse, hacking for good

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

Today we meet Jesse Lane, a corporate employee who started showing up at events like open coffee longing for a side hustle. Two Startup Weekends later, he’s participated in multiple initiatives that mix social good with technology, and found the perfect project in Agropolis, an indoor farming service. He writes: “I hoped that I’d come out of the other side with a decent idea to keep working on and maybe a few people to work on it with me.” Members of the team are still working on the idea.

The Agropolis team at Startup Weekend Iowa City 2014. Team lead Jesse Lane is holding the plant.

What was your involvement (if any) with the local startup community before the weekend?

Before my first one (Cedar Rapids last March), I had been attending the Open Coffee meetups for a few months trying to figure out how to introduce myself since I didn’t have anything in particular I was working on. By my second (Iowa City last October) I was much more involved in the community with 1MC, lunches, etc.

I wasn’t at all sure what to expect the first time so I didn’t have any hopes or goals. For my second weekend I hoped that I’d come out of the other side with a decent idea to keep working on and maybe a few people to work on it with me.

The idea:

My first weekend the idea that was pitched was some app/community/process to address the numerous “zombie” homes around Cedar Rapids left by the flood. By Sunday night we pitched an app we had built that would allow a user to report a home and have it logged to a database. That project kept going for a couple months and then petered out after talks with the city fizzled and the team dispersed.

The second weekend I pitched a vague idea to hack a business model for vertical farming (large-scale indoor farming in skyscrapers). Sunday we pitched a small hydroponic tomato operation to provide year-round tomatoes to local restaurants. Today the idea has morphed into an, as yet undetermined, product to help indoor farmers optimize their operations. We’re called Agropolis and we’re currently going through Venture School to crystallize our idea.

What was the most challenging part of the weekend? What was the most exciting? Were there any unexpected moments?

The most challenging part of the weekend for me is always team dynamics. Both times I worked with large teams which take a while to settle on an idea and then take a bit more management to make it through. I feel that both experiences helped me be a better listener and collaborator.

How has the experience impacted you after the weekend?

I’d say it’s upended my life at the moment! I work a full-time job and have 3 kids and now I’ve thrown Venture School on top of that. If it weren’t for my wonderful fiancée there is no way I could manage it all. She’s also recently started her own venture, New Leaf Redevelopment.

Thanks also to:

Dave Tominsky for drawing me into this community through the open coffees, his enthusiasm for entrepreneurship in the Corridor, and cajoling me into applying to Venture School.

Sarah Binder, and We Create Here for keeping me up-to-date about my community and organizing community building events.

Finally, all of the friends I’ve made in the entrepreneurial community in the past year or so.

Advice I would give to someone considering attending startup weekend:

Go and pitch! The first time I didn’t pitch an idea (fear of public speaking) and I regretted it. The second time around I practiced and just went for it and it paid off.

Startup Weekend returns to Cedar Rapids March 4th – 6th at the Iowa Startup Accelerator in the Geonetric Building. We’re also excited to announce Sunday Demo Day Pitches will take place at Whipple Auditorium in the Cedar Rapids Public Library. Get your tickets today.




Anatomy of a Pitch

A central pillar of Startup Weekend is the Friday night pitch fire. This is where all attendees have the opportunity to pitch the unique idea that they want to work on during the weekend (As a side-note, we encourage everyone to pitch, though it’s not required).

From the pitch fire teams will be formed around the ideas pitched. We do this by giving everyone an opportunity to vote on what was presented and the top ~10 are chosen to be worked on.

We’ll give each person a hard 60 second limit on their pitch. A pitch should be unique to you, but some structure never hurts as a place to start.

A simple pitch template may look like:

[10 sec] Introduce and sell yourself
[20 sec] Describe the problem you want to solve
[20 sec] Describe your solution (e.g. explain the product)
[10 sec] What do you need to be successful during the weekend? ( people, skills, tools, etc )

Some pitching advice:

– Don’t go into too much detail about how your solution works – remember you only have 60 seconds.
– Focus on the problem you want to solve (i.e,. “I want to make meeting planning easier”).
– Don’t leave the stage without naming your pitch/idea. Give it a name so people can remember later when we decide what ideas are worked on.

Ready to pitch your idea? Startup Weekend returns to Cedar Rapids March 4th – 6th at the Iowa Startup Accelerator in the Geonetric Building. We’re also excited to announce Sunday Demo Day Pitches will take place at Whipple Auditorium in the Cedar Rapids Public Library. Get your tickets today.




Startup Weekend is More Than Learning How to Start a Business

Today we have a guest post from Levi Bostian. He’s spreading the message that Startup Weekend isn’t just for those who wants to start their own company, but for those for those who want to learn as well. Levi is the Founder of Curiosity IO and a Champion of Startup Weekend.

Startup Weekend is a 54-hour event from a Friday to Sunday evening where thinkers, creatives, inventors, designers, business people, non-business people come together to build real ideas over the course of a weekend. The pitch for Startup Weekend is “get a taste of what it is like to work on a startup.” Sure, startup founders do indeed use the process that participants of Startup Weekend use and founders go through the same challenges participants do but however, the event is not only for potential startup founders.

Some people think that Startup Weekend is not for them because they don’t want to run their own business. Myself along with the hundreds of thousands of past participants of the international event would disagree. Startup Weekend is about building ideas and making them happen. These sort of skills are extremely useful to employees of existing companies.

Startup Weekend teaches you the skills and tools to make an idea become real. Friday night participants have the opportunity to pitch an idea they have always wanted to build with others. After teams are formed around these pitched ideas, it is up to the team members to demonstrate how this idea could generate revenue and become a real business.

You will learn and exercise these extremely valuable skills:

  • Find true problems that people are having in their lives.
  • Talk to real people to determine if they are a potential customer and see how big the market opportunity is for this idea.
  • Take all of the feedback from your potential customers and determine if your idea is still valuable, if you need to change some parts of it and pivot the idea, or if you need to ditch the idea completely.

Monday morning when you go back to your day job and/or side projects I promise you that you will take another look at what you are working on. “Is what I am working on right now solving a real customer need? Are there other people out there feeling the same pains I am feeling or am I the only one? Can I dream bigger?” are some of the thoughts that will run through your head.

When you can prove that your solution is actually solving a real problem for real people then you have a good idea. That right there is exactly what Startup Weekend is all about. Come learn and have fun with us. I will see you there.

Startup Weekend returns to Cedar Rapids March 4th – 6th at the Iowa Startup Accelerator in the Geonetric Building. We’re also excited to announce Sunday Demo Day Pitches will take place at Whipple Auditorium in the Cedar Rapids Public Library. Get your tickets today.




5 strategies to make your ideas happen

This post is from Andy Stoll, a social entrepreneur and media producer. He is deeply involved with the Iowa Startup Accelerator, EntreFEST, and he co-founded Seed Here Studio, a media and marketing agency dedicated to building a stronger community of entrepreneurs and creatives in the Iowa City/Cedar Rapids area.

Andy Stoll at EntreFEST 2014.

I have spent the better part of the past decade helping entrepreneurs and creative people turn their ideas into reality–almost daily I get the question, “I have an idea, now what?”

Here are 5 strategies to get you started on turning your ideas into reality:

1. Tell a lot of people about your idea

This at first sounds counter-intuitive and is often met with the response of, “Won’t someone steal my idea?!” The truth of the matter is 98 percent of the time, you are not the first person to come up with an idea, and in most cases, your first initial idea is actually fairly crappy (because it needs sharpening). In entrepreneurship, success isn’t built on being the first to think of an idea, but it has everything to do with how well you execute and build your idea into reality. Facebook, for example, was not the first social network, just the one that executed the best.

Why tell others about your idea? Because it will make it better. The act of sharing your idea will help you get better at talking about it. When you share your idea, you’ll find that people will offer you critical feedback and often times recommend resources to move your idea along (“You should talk to my friend Dave who….”).

http://startupstockphotos.com – Born at Startup Weekend Cedar Rapids 2014.

 

 

 

 

 

2. Surround yourself with other creatives and entrepreneurs

It has been commonly said that you “become the average of the 5 people whom you surround yourself with.” I take that to mean, “If you want to be a dancer, hang out with 5 other people who are dancers.” The same holds true if you want to be an entrepreneur.

Also, by surrounding yourself with creative and entrepreneurial people, you will learn to dream bigger and push harder, while meeting other people who may help you along your journey (and it’s often a longer journey than you expect).

3. Expose yourself to specific strategies to be innovative

In the last decade two leading methodologies have emerged to help put into words the actual process of “innovating” and making ideas happen. The Lean Startup Methodology and the Business Model Canvas are two of these strategies that are taking the startup, creative, technology and business worlds by storm (trust me, Google them), spawning books, conferences, evangelists, workshops and thousands of more successful innovative companies. The best thing about these methodologies is that they can be learned.

4. Try and fail, a lot

Also, counter to most logic, if you want to get good at making ideas happen, you first have to be bad at making ideas happen. Though I certainly don’t wish failure on anyone, failure is often the best teacher.

5. Attend a Startup Weekend

The good news is there is a single place where you could do all of these things mentioned above for very little money and very little risk! Startup Weekend is likely the single best ways for you to “try” entrepreneurship and try to make an idea happen. The risk is minimal (a little bit of money and a weekend of your time) and you will come out of it with new ideas, new friends, new knowledge, and I almost guarantee you’ll be fired up even more to take action on your ideas!

Startup Weekend returns to Cedar Rapids March 4th – 6th at the Iowa Startup Accelerator in the Geonetric Building. We’re also excited to announce Sunday Demo Day Pitches will take place at Whipple Auditorium in the Cedar Rapids Public Library. Get your tickets today.




Startup Weekend Stories: Getting out of your comfort zone with Chris

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

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Chris pitching at Startup Weekend Iowa City

Today we meet Chris Ortman, a software developer by day and now a startup founder by night. Chris came to Startup Weekend Iowa City expecting to do some programming, but got inspired by an idea and ended up stretching his skills much farther: doing customer discovery, bringing together a team and setting them up to continue after the weekend. Sexy Life is still working, hoping to help ignite relationships with a monthly subscription box. Read on to learn how a “half baked” idea ended up winning the weekend and turned into a real business opportunity

What were your hopes and goals going into the weekend?

I went into the weekend just hoping to do some programming. I love the competitive nature of startup weekend and it can be a fun change to focus on building something that only has to last a weekend.

What was the most challenging part of the experience?

Customer discovery

Walking up to strangers on the street and asking them questions is difficult itself, but we chose to focus on a product geared at couples and focused on their relationship. This meant most of our questions were about someone’s relationship, so it was awkward squared.

How has the experience impacted you after the weekend?

I feel a lot better about my ability to do some of the non-programming related aspects of a business and have a better appreciation for how much work it is. Often times I think it’s easy to fall into this trap of envying people with success and better lifestyle. But you don’t see the failures and toil it takes to get there. Being able to experience it first hand for a small amount of time is a great way to decide if you are willing to do what it takes to get that lifestyle you envy.

Advice I would give to someone considering attending startup weekend:

There’s a million ideas out there. If all it took was a golden idea we’d all be millionaires. Being able to pick the right idea at the right time AND doing the work is what will lead you to success. So if nothing else just know that after your weekend you’ll have tools to help you separate the good ideas from the bad and an understanding of what it takes to make them real.

Even if you don’t go start a company you’ll be a more effective employee, volunteer, human.

Startup Weekend returns to Cedar Rapids March 4th – 6th at the Iowa Startup Accelerator in the Geonetric Building. We’re also excited to announce Sunday Demo Day Pitches will take place at Whipple Auditorium in the Cedar Rapids Public Library. Get your tickets today.




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