It’s been a year and a half in the making but they did it. TopFeed co-founders and Startup Weekend PEI alumni Vaughn Murphy and Rafael Aguirre proudly launched their first product two weeks ago, a feat they never anticipated when they first met at the event.
Startup Weekend attendees sign up for a variety of reasons. While Vaughn planned on making a pitch, he had no idea what it was going to be until he arrived that night and started meeting new people. Rafael, on the other hand, wanted to participate as a way to recover some of the knowledge he gained studying business administration at UPEI a few years earlier. He had recently begun considering entering the world of entrepreneurship, and thought Startup Weekend PEI would be a good place to start.
Inspired to develop a marketing platform for food producers different from what is currently available, Vaughn did end up pitching an idea – a platform where producers compete for the top of a social feed in a fun and competitive way through reviews and social media. Three other participants, including Rafael, liked the idea and joined his team. As is the norm, the idea changed several times throughout the weekend.
Just a few days after they launched, we sat down with Vaughn and Rafael to talk about their journey into entrepreneurship and the how Startup Weekend PEI made it happen.
Did you think you’d launch a business?
Rafael: “I thought it’d be educational, but didn’t expect to launch anything from the event. We realized pretty quickly we were moving into a very competitive space trying to be a marketing firm on PEI. It started to really come together after being introduced to tools like the lean canvas early on, and having the support of mentors to help accelerate a simple idea into something bigger.”
At what moment during Startup Weekend did you think, “This could be something”?
Rafael: “(During Market Research) when we were talking to different producers about an online marketplace, a lot of producers were very positive about it. Most (local) producers don’t have any online sales channels or don’t know how to promote themselves online so they liked the idea and saw potential.”
Vaughn: “We asked producers what is important to them. Producers wanted to sell their products to customers off PEI. Many felt like they were established in the PEI market and wanted to attract other customers, but there was nothing set up for them to do it easily.”
What was your biggest take away?
Rafael: “The first idea you have is never going to be exactly the same at the end. Most of the time ideas changed into something completely different. You need to be prepared to change.”
Vaughn: “I took away the power of collaboration. I went in with no idea of what I would pitch or talk about and was literally thinking about what kind of theme the weekend was and thought “I should pitch something to do with farm and food.” To see the support of a complete stranger who thinks “this could have legs” and two days later have started a business and the confidence to keep going. We didn’t even talk about whether or not we would keep going (after the weekend), we just kept working and set milestones and deadlines for certain things to be done.”
Since you two didn’t know each other before the weekend started, could you tell us how your relationship evolved?
Vaughn: “From the very beginning we saw each other as equals, which has helped us stay level- headed and able to work with each other. We talk about everything about where we’ll take the business.”
Rafael: “We keep each other grounded, and help keep expectations realistic but have a vision to walk towards.”
How did the role of the mentors contribute to your Startup Weekend experience?
Rafael: “Extremely important, especially if you have no idea what you’re doing. It’s great to have a mentor who’s been through it, it can really help morale-wise to encourage you and offer insight.”
Vaughn: “We still talk with the mentors who were there! The mentors’ suggestions and input pivoted us to close to what we are today. It was their ideas and input that brought us to better and better places.”
Any parting words of wisdom for future Startup Weekend PEI participants?
Vaughn: “If nothing came out of the weekend, it still felt pretty good because we saw what it took to get a business together in a short amount of time. One year later, we’re still digesting that information.”
Rafael: “Putting an idea out there and coming up with a business is manageable, it’s not as complex as you initially think it is. It isn’t easy, but it’s something the average person can see through if they just push on. You can get a lot more done than you think you could do.”
Be sure to check out TopFeed’s website to sign up for their signature snack pack and see new product offerings in the coming weeks!
If you’ve ever dreamed of being an entrepreneur, Startup Weekend could give you the support you need to get an idea off the ground! Register today for Startup Weekend PEI, happening November 18th-20th at Startup Zone in Charlottetown!