Guest blogger Therese Hansen is the co-founder of Monzoom, the company behind the social media filtering service xiive.com.
Back in 2010 I begged and pleaded with my husband to go with me to Startup Weekend Aarhus. I had promoted the event on my programming blog and told all my friends to come and now I needed to convince my husband, who was already overworked, that it was a good idea for us to use a whole weekend working on a crazy idea for a new company instead of relaxing at home. He was not happy about it but eventually he gave in and we went.
I should add that we are both programmers and it was not the first time we had collaborated on a programming project, but only for fun and never with the ambition of starting a company.
Finding the Right Team
Friday evening we listened to all the pitches, the 10 projects were announced and suddenly we were the most popular people in the room. There were several teams that needed programmers and I guess we looked like a 2-for-1 sale. Friday ended late for us but when we got home we couldn’t sleep. The buzz of excitement from meeting all those interesting people and thinking about starting a company had us up talking all night.
One of the things we talked about was the team we were on. The initial idea was to work on online education with a focus on children’s different learning styles—the idea was very much in the earliest stage.
Since our specialty is programming we did not think that we could really contribute in this idea much in one weekend and we decided to talk to one of the other teams that we knew needed programmers. The other team welcomed us with open arms and our old team was very understanding—they knew that they were not ready for a coding phase just yet.
Our new team was working on a Facebook application for planning a trip to the movies with friends. The idea was to make an application where you could watch trailers, post on your wall that you wanted to see the movie, invite friends, and then plan when and where to go and buy tickets. After the movie you would receive a text asking you to rate the movie and when you answered you would get a coupon for a place in the area where you could go get something to drink or a snack. The ratings were used by the application to recommend future movies and to let you know if your friends liked a movie – and to recommend Facebook friends to invite to your next trip to the movies.
During the weekend we got a basic Facebook app to work and we were able to send text messages to the audience during our pitch, asking them to reply with a rating of our pitch and we could then show them the answers we received on the big screen. Some of the creative people on the team made a short video pitch and talked to local movie theatres that were very interested. We also talked to a company that promoted movies online about how much they usually spend and how they traditionally used Facebook for this. All the feedback was positive –
we knew we were onto something.
Startup Weekend Convinced Us to Jump Off the Cliff
We didn’t win any of the Startup Weekend prizes but after a few months the idea was accepted into Startup Bootcamp Copenhagen as the company Gruvi. My husband and I were still working full time, so we had to let others take over the idea and follow it from the sideline.
Startup Weekend was an eye-opener and though we didn’t continue with the team we had there, we just knew that we had to quit our well-paying jobs and start our own company.
Long story short: We did. We quit our jobs, sold the car and gave notice on our apartment. Bootstrapping a company is never easy but we had an idea to how we could stretch our savings; 5 months later we moved to Thailand while we worked on our first project – an idea we had talked about for 2 years. The details of the idea has changed a few times and we had to work hard at learning to work together, but now we have found a concept that we are both passionate about. And we have just had a private beta launch for xiive.com – a social media
Living in Thailand is so cheap that we can do this for a few years before we run into cash flow problems but we do a bit of consulting work on the side as well.
Our lives have changed a lot since that Startup Weekend: new jobs, a new address, and we have an even stronger marriage, now that we work together – all because of a weekend where it would have been so much easier to just stay at home and relax.