“Wise men have said- Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars. When we started our journey for the first time at Startup Weekend, we thought we were also shooting for the stars. But after those 54 Hours, what we found was something that was even brighter than the moon.”
– The Pink Marbles Team (Delhi Startup Weekend 2013 Winner)
This post was written by The Pink Marbles Startup Weekend Team.
It all started on 6th December, 2013. The venue was American Center, New Delhi and the event was Delhi Startup Weekend – Women Edition. Outside the Center, it was yet another day of a cold and dull Delhi winter, but 50 yards inside the gates everything was just the opposite. For a hall full of people, there was so much energy, so much excitement that even the auditorium lights seemed a hundred times less brighter. The whole atmosphere seemed pretty informal, the kind of which you will expect in a typical college fest. Greetings and smiles everywhere. You could just say a ‘hi’ and the conversations will themselves pick up. Girls, boys, ladies and gentlemen- everyone was talking about something big that they had built, or something big that they always wanted to build. Boy, if you would have been there, you would have also said just one word- CONTAGIOUS. Yup! the enthusiasm and friendliness was infectiously catching up with everyone even before the event had yet started!
And there were we- Amlan Patnaik, Bhuvi Gupta, Punyata Gayatri and Saket Saurabh- four complete strangers in four different corners. We didn’t know much about the event except about the cool stuffs that we had heard from our friends or read from previous attendees’ blogs (like the one you are reading now!). It was our first time at any Startup Weekend. Nevertheless, no matter how vague our ideas were about what was going to happen next, we all at least knew one thing for sure that evening- we all wanted to do something extraordinary out of our mundane living.
But of course, what we all couldn’t have anticipated was the fact that the next 54 hours were going to be most exciting and busy hours of our lives so far. From ideation to team formation to customer validation to prototyping to final demo night, all in just 54 hours, it was like living a magical entrepreneurial journey. No doubt, we worked hard- religiously following every instructions from the organizers and making sure we were doing the right things at right point of time. And then the most amazing thing happened. The ‘first-timer’ Pink Marbles team had finally won the Startup Weekend!!! Looking back today, now we feel that Startup Weekend is one of those few moments of our life which we will cherish forever- not just because we won it in a true ‘rags-to-riches’ fashion, but more importantly because we are among the lucky ones who got a chance to live through this exciting Startup Weekend experience in its true form and spirit.
To begin with, it was indeed a long journey – 54 HOURS (even round the globe takes less time!). But it only seemed so, until we got started. As soon as the event started, these 54 hours seemed like 54 minutes. There was so much to talk, so much to plan &, so much to do before we could actually give tight competition to the other teams. Startup Weekend in a nutshell, is all about learning the art of entrepreneurship, team building and time management. We had a houseful of dynamic and vibrant people from diverse background such as business people from reputed companies, designers, techies, the humble executives from NGOs and many more such people all driven with one goal i.e to kick-off their jobs and do what they love to do. As for the four of us, it was our first experience and we were as apprehensive as you are right now. We’re sure you must have tumbled across this article with your head full of these puzzled questions:
- Is it really possible to launch a company in 54 hours?
- Is it worth the time?
- How’s the experience really like?
- Why Should I pay for it?
Well, before your list of questions grows longer, let us behold you and take you through our journey. We’re quite sure you might have already read about the process of Startup Weekend and how it goes around for 3 days with its basic itinerary which is same across globe, we would say ‘Don’t worry, just take a leap of faith’. Be shameless and talk to as many people as possible and try to know them. Networking and getting appropriate assets for your idea is the first key to the complex lock of entrepreneurship. In fact, we would recommend to think of an idea that excites you the most lately and come prepared with your own 1-minute pitch. Who knows your idea might get the top votes? But, even if your idea doesn’t get voted among the top ones, try to choose the one in which you believe in the most. Because this is the only way you can bring out the best experiences for both yourself and for the team overall.
So, that’s how we four happened to cling together and got started on our idea : Pink Marbles. Any guesses what it could be? Well, to take you quickly through, Pink Marbles is exclusive housing portal only for females ,which will serve as a one stop solution for all kinds of housing needs, be it finding a paying guest, or looking for house on rent for yourself.
Check out : www.pinkmarbles.com for more information!
While Firing Friday night was all about networking, getting to know more about each other and forming teams,Saturday was the day when the real work began. We started early on Saturday morning to get our thoughts onto paper and organize them appropriately with the help of Lean Framework. We brainstormed, challenged each others ideas to come out with best approach and set high standards than we had even imagined. We took feedback from the graceful and humble mentors who had started rolling in from Saturday afternoon. Each of our mentors was a highly accomplished individual in his or her own fields and each one gave us a valuable piece of insight which went a long way in refining our business model, prototype and our final pitch.
We had quickly chalked out our business model, built a landing page and started to work on the prototype by Saturday evening. Now was the time to hit the streets and meet & talk to our potential customers. Don’t be hesitant to go out on streets to get your idea validated from end-users and make sure you listen to them. The biggest mistake is to fall in love with your idea. Don’t ever do that- try to listen what your others have to say about your idea and keep on iterating on till you finalize what should be the “must-have” features for your minimum viable product that you will present to judges on Sunday night. Startup Weekend already specifies a fixed set of criteria against which your pitch will be judged on the Sunday night. Make sure you cover all of them. Don’t overspend your time on prototype and make it an excuse for no customer validation. Everything counts.
We did a Saturday night-out working hard to get exactly what we wanted- be it getting a trivial font size right on the Powerpoint or building the minimal yet impressive UI of our prototype. We laid emphasis on each and every single aspect of what we wanted to present to the Judges next day. Trust me, you have just 5 minutes! You never know when can one of your overlooked minor omissions be noticed by the judges!! It can immediately throw you out of the race. So from the very beginning, we laid emphasis on maintaining a high degree of perfection. Nevertheless, in a way we were also learning the art of ‘Perfectionism’, which is creating a flawless experience for your end users, even when you launch your company and your own product.
We would bump into each other, argue among ourselves but in the end it was logic and innovation which prevailed over all others. Startup Weekend is all about creating a democracy for innovative thoughts. Brush aside all your egos. You may be a developer for three years or more but be open to criticism in your design even from business folks. Likewise, you may be a master at business skills, but be willing to let a bright kid from the college lead your discussions if he has some really cool innovative marketing ideas. Thankfully, given the positive attitude of all our team members, we never had a hard time mastering the art of ‘Collaboration’.
On Sunday afternoon, we didn’t have enough time despite segregating activities and dividing work in small chunks. So we couldn’t go for rehearsal of our Final Pitch- umm! but that was the only thing we missed!! 😀 But apart from that, we had done a solid groundwork for almost all the areas on which we were to be judged. We did a powerpoint on our business model, we had prepared a small 1-minute pitch video and our prototype was working perfectly. We just had a rough idea of who’s going to talk about different sections of the work to be presented to elite judges and we took the deep dive without knowing the depth.We believed in our idea and that’s what helped us win confidence of audience ,judges and most importantly customers. We knew we either win as team or fail as individuals.We chose team and there we learnt ’Team Management’.
5 minutes seemed as 5 seconds and they went past like some F1 car passing by. It was time to present what we achieved in past 54 hours to our spectators in sheer 5 mins. Now this is an art in itself. If you can’t get the idea across judges the way you want, then your 54 Hours of hard work would go in vain. And that’s why we had worked so tactfully towards structuring our presentation to make most out of it: introductory fun video followed by customer needs and feedbacks, further taking to most complex slide of business numbers and finally ending with demo. That’s it and it summarized pretty much what we had done and what are our next steps in this direction. We were done with our presentations followed by some grilling questions from judges. Its ironical but after we were done with our bit, we were at ease to listening to what other folks had done and learn about their work and at same time we were little worried about ourselves too. We waited patiently about results and discussing amongst ourselves about next set of activities and we decided that irrespective of what results would be, we were definitely going to pursue this idea beyond Startup Weekend.
We had our dinner (anyways! did we mention about the food? it was super awesome!) and got seated for results. We had almost lost hope when second and first runner-up were announced, until we were jumping in air after being declared as the Winner of the season. We were highly elated. It was time for hugs, photos and celebrations. Click click, smile smile. The hard work had paid off. It was a wonderful end to an equally adventurous journey on a road not yet taken.
But in the end, we believe that the biggest moment of the day was not when we were declared the winner. In fact, it was the moment a little earlier than that. The moment- when we had committed ourselves to this idea, long before we knew that we had won or lost. That was the real winning moment. That moment our idea had won, the larger spirit of Startup Weekend had won. After all, Startup Weekend is never about the prizes or the money or even becoming the winner. It is all about discovering a new ‘YOU’ inside you, which can believe that doing a startup is not that difficult after all.
So you might be curious to know what, what has become of our idea these days? Well, these days we are busy in implementing our idea and soon by the end of January, 2014, we would doing an alpha-release. You can check our website http://pinkmarbles.com for latest updates.
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So, that was our story and we wish that someday soon you will also have your own story to tell. We would end by quoting 10,000 Startups- “Life is too short, start-up!”