Startup Weekend OC 2016 Re-cap

z9-startupweekend_orange_county-40Wow, what an amazing event!  The Cove was packed with over 100 people on the first night. Investors, observers, people ready to pitch – we had it all.

For those that like numbers, we had a total of 47 pitches on the first night with 12 ending teams and 11 final pitches! From cheesecakes to VR meditation, we saw an amazing variety of pitches and teams. We saw hugs, tears, ping-pong, Starbucks, Tweets, dancing and so much more energy that was so contagious and amazing. We filled every open room in The Cove. For three days we became one, working together to refine ideas into teams and startups.

On behalf of the organizing team, we want to thank everyone involved: sponsors, mentors, judges, volunteers and participants! You made this event happen, but most of all we want to thank The Cove and IBM. Their support helped make this event a success and sets the stage for innovation and startups in the community. The Cove provided the food, support for the event, and an amazing facility that is full of innovation and startup energy. IBM contributed the funding and access to their products to facilitate rapid development and support to the teams. We can’t thank you enough for the support! All the teams benefited and will hopefully continue their ventures.

Another special thanks goes out to our facilitator, Brien Buckman, who kept our teams on task, facilitated a great event and fought a shark off with one hand (or so I was told).

Special thanks to our judges:

Ray Chan
Henri Duong
Tracy Kwiker
Ash Kumra

They had the hard task to pick the winning teams. The competition was stacked with 11 total teams:

  1. Kit & Kin
  2. Cardinal Scout
  3. Bark Love
  4. Meditation VR
  5. Phonix Comix
  6. Dap N’ Go
  7. GearHub
  8. College Confectionista
  9. Legal Alpha
  10. Job Ninjas
  11. We Groove

After each team had finished, the judges were escorted to a room for 15 long minutes to deliberate. The top three teams that convinced the judges about the problem, the solution, the market size, prototype and go to market were:

  1. We Groove: Music playlists that learn the type of music you want to listen to based on the activities you are doing. The presentation was great; the team not only sold the problem, they walked through a demo of a user on a typical day, with music and all. Congratulations to We Groove!z9-startupweekend_orange_county-34
  2.  Legal Alpha: Legal Alpha helps make case lookup and case relevance easier by aggregating case law resources. The team rocked with a solid presentation and a very simple working proto-type. The solution was targeted to a very tangible problem in the legal profession and the judges were able to understand the concept and market size.  Congratulations to Legal Alpha!z9-startupweekend_orange_county-30
  3. Third place was presented to VR Meditation: VR Meditation creates a virtual meditation using VR technology and your smart phone.  Meditate anywhere, relax and soothing messages were the pitch from the team. They had a very clear revenue model, connected with one of the judges on a problem he has, and provided a clean proto-type sample of the VR content. Congratulations to VR Meditation!z9-startupweekend_orange_county-18


Amazing work and amazing presentations to all the other teams. Everyone was a winner on Sunday and we hope that every team will continue to pursue the ideas they presented. Thanks for everyone that attended and helped out, we hope to see you next year!

Just because the event is over does not mean your idea is over. Make sure to look out for some email invites to join the post StartupWeekend OC group and future workshops sponsored by Gathermoss (TM) and The Cove. Anyone wanting information about the teams or event, please feel free to reach out to us and we will get back to you. Again, thanks and I hope everyone had a great experience!

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How Attending a Startup Weekend Changed My Life

I know the first question anyone has when considering attending a Startup Weekend event is what value will they get, after all it can be quite intimidating.  A full weekend, long hours spent with people you probably don’t know, and no guarantee of success.

Before I decided to help organize an event, I participated in several events from both a participant and a mentor.  For me, Startup weekend helped me overcome some of the roadblocks I was experiencing in my own life.

I had climbed the corporate ladder to an executive position responsible for providing Telecom access to 5 Million dial users on the Netzero product.  Under that position, I got bored as there were no more challenges I could not solve, I had received the best possible pricing, almost zeroed out our entire telecom costs, and was responsible for some FCC legislation that impacted anyone using telecommunications.  I parted from that position to a career change in IT and Analytics for DirecTV.  I now run an analytics and business analysis group that helps make critical operational decisions.  While the position is new with different challenges, something was still missing.

It was at DirecTV that I met Stefan that introduced me to Startup weekend and helped mentor me to find some of the things I have been searching for.  I thrive on providing solutions to complex answers, finding hope where everyone has given up, and most importantly, seeing people succeed from great challenges.

Startup Weekend provides a years worth of challenges and lessons in a short three day format.  Hope, overcoming fear, pushing the limits, doing what people say can’t be done, and most of all friendships that can last beyond Startup Weekend.

For me Startup Weekend provided fuel gave re-engaged my attention in some startups I have been working on.  I don’t what it will mean for you, but a weekend is all that it takes to possibly change your life!

Here is a story I wrote about my first experience, I hope to see you at our event!:

Recently I was introduced through a colleague of mine about an event called Startup weekend. I was naturally intrigued as I currently have a few startups of my own and was working on the next stage of my ideas. As I looked into the event, it seemed more and more like something I would want to attend and it was in line with one of my personal goals to gain more comfort in public speaking.

Startup weekend
Startup Weekend

That night I looked at the events and discovered that one was going to start on Friday (it was Wednesday) in my area. For those that do not know the format here is a quick run through:

Friday night: Pitch idea in 60 seconds or less. Form Teams on group selected ideas.
Saturday: Work on ideas to find an MVP (minimum viable product).
Sunday: Continue to work on idea and present to a panel of judges that night.

When I first saw the link I said no way, public speaking, freeing up a weekend on short notice, etc. I had a thousand excuses. But as I was driving home on Wednesday I thought about it, it is a good opportunity and it was certainly outside of my comfort zone. That night when I got home and told my wife she said just do it. That was it, Thursday I registered for the event as a full participant and on Friday wrote out my 60-second pitch as I was driving to the event.

Friday Night:
When I arrived, there were already a lot of people. I mingled a bit, met some people, and was just watching the event. It was time to start, this was it, pitch time. Now my idea was something I have had for a long time, have tested, and even at some point had subscribers on a test platform. I knew the idea inside and out, should be a breeze. Everyone that was pitching lined up (about 30 of us) to give our pitch to 70 people in the room. I was number 5. The person before me was a 15 year old pitching a universal social media app, I wished him good luck. He nailed it, great delivery, emotional, and sold the room. My turn, first 10 seconds perfect, next 20 seconds some stumbles, next 30 seconds forgot what to say. Time was up, I flopped.

After the pitch, I watched the rest of the people and considered going home and not participating in the rest of the event. But before I could leave I had more to do. Every one that had a pitch had to hold a sign and recruit people to work on the idea, the teams with the most people would be the suggested working teams for the weekend. I was able to get some takers, but not nearly as much as others. Perfect, after this I could go home and have my weekend back, but then I realized, the whole reason I did this is to help me overcome my fears and participate in something outside of my comfort zone.

I changed course and began talking with a lot of people, it was too late for people to join my team since they made commitments already, but I did get a lot of people interested and wanting to help with my venture in general. This gave me the strength to continue for the entire weekend. Six teams were formed out of thirty ideas with approximately 6-10 members each. With renewed confidence I joined a team and we were off to plan our product.

RoundIcons-Free-Set-12The next morning our team meets and begins the process to arrive to a MVP (Minimum Viable Product) by Sunday. Keep in mind, none of us had ever met and the only thing we knew about the idea we were working on was from the 60 seconds the team leader had pitched the night before. Throughout the day, the event brought in mentors and speakers to help us build, design, and identify key aspects of each idea. Our team was like a well-oiled machine, assigning tasks, pulling market data, interviewing potential customers about the idea, sending out social media surveys, designing mock up apps, and so much more. We worked past midnight along with six other teams that night.

RoundIcons-Free-Set-02Product pitch day. The product pitches would be held at 7PM in front of a panel of judges that included the mayor, high powered VC, and two angel investors. Teams scrambled all day to prepare all the necessary elements of their ideas. Another round of mentors came in to help the teams and a panel of mock judges arrived to perform test pitches. At 3, it was our turn to test our pitch, we had done so much but at that stage we had not even put together our presentation, we only had mock slides. We went up in front of judges and delivered a strong presentation for five minutes without any practice, no slides, and not one word written down. The mock judges were impressed and gave us some tips of things to improve for the final pitch that night.

Sunday Pitch Time:
At 6:45 we finished our six slides to present and went to a quiet area to rehearse for 10 minutes. We all discussed who should do the final pitch, it was decided that the person who formed the team would speak and me. I was worried, after Friday night’s disaster now I would have to pitch someone else’s idea for 3-minutes with a whole team depending on me, but I said I would do it. Here is how we practiced with the five minutes left, hold up slide and say something, good, next slide. We went through 1.5 times and it was time to start.

The teams were selected in a random order and we were third to go. On our turn, me and the other speaker went up to the mic with our presentation projected behind us and started. I had the last three minutes, as I waited I felt calm and different than Friday. When it was my turn, I began talking, looking across the audience, talking to the judges, 1-minute no problem, 2-minutes not problem, 60 seconds left, no problem. Did I just do that? Delivered a three minute speech to 70 people, 6 judges to pitch and idea that I had no knowledge of a day and half earlier? I did, time was up and we got a round of applause and some wonderful questions. Afterwards, a lot of people gave us positive feedback and so many people came up to me and said I was a different person than Friday. A lot of people came up to us and wanted to know more and we were invited to pitch the idea two weeks later to another group. All in all it was a wonderful success and for me was the single largest thing I have done in the last five years to improve myself.

After Thought
24_64x64Why I chose to tell this story is that it does not matter who, what, or where we learn how to innovate. What is important is that we find the ways to unlock inspiration, find the courage to think differently, and act. The event has had an extremely positive impact on my daily life in both my full time job as well as my startup ventures. Here are just a few things I got out of the event:

1. It helped show me how to overcome some obstacles in communication.
2. It showed me that the idea is not important, it is the team collaboration and the opportunity to succeed, along with the desire to improve upon one’s idea by gathering honest, valuable feedback.
3. It showed me that in given the right environment anything can happen.
4. It gave me new contacts that have helped in the after weeks.
5. It renewed my own innovation and gave me new energy that has already had positive results.

The thing that was most amazing at the event was the fact that a group of strangers could assemble viable business models in a weekend. Some teams had working web sites and one team even had two signups. Imagine if we could unlocking that talent that lays dormant in yourself or your peers. Imagine what you could achieve if you do not fear honest feedback. Imagine what we could achieve you had the tools and flexibility to test and innovate rapidly. It is all possible!

In the short few weeks after the event our team has continued with the idea and has since applied for an accelerator program, launched a landing page, built a viable business model, developed the framework for our micro services architecture, set up a full social media campaign, met with several angel investor groups, and have expanded our team to eight. Four weeks prior, we were all strangers with one person having an idea.

Change your life and attend one of the events in your areas!

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