Alexandra Greenhill is the champion of Startup Weekend Vancouver in 2011 and founder and CEO of myBestHelper. We were able to ask her several questions regarding her journey of running a startup as well as tips on making the most out of the event. This year myBestHelper will also be running a child care services on the event site or at a discount in the home of participants to make life easy for entrepreneurial parents.
1. How did you come up with the idea of myBestHelper? How did you pitch the idea to the participants during the open mic pitch?
The two co-founders, Rob Attwell and me, had the idea for myBestHelper for several months, but we really needed to get a technical cofounder on board, so we went to events looking for one. Someone suggested Startup Weekend and leaving no stone unturned, we signed up. When I pitched, I thought it was probably not going to work, because in my 30 sec I asked “How many of you have kids?” Five hands went up. So on the spot, I changed tracks and said that the rest of the 300 were going to have to trust me – it’s a HUGE problem and I have a tech solution, if they wanted to find out more come see me. I ended up with a team of nine, built a working prototype, won 1st place and one of the team became our founding CTO.
2. You’ve been heavily involved in Startup Weekend for a number of years, and seen some great ideas and great teams. What sets the winning teams apart from their competitors when presenting your startup to the judges?
Ha ha ha, the million dollar question! I actually wrote a blog post on that and it really works as many of the teams that read it went on to win. Essentially, you need to do it all – big idea, big market, working prototype, team that can work together, but then to win – you need the X-factor, something that really makes you stand out in terms of your creativity and chutzpa (shocking audacity).
3. On the first night, Startup Weekend gives participants a small timeframe to pick the ideal partners and ideas, what do you believe are vital attributes to look for in individuals to build your team?
It’s a combination of passion for the concept and then the practicality of skillsets: you do need a developer, a designer, and a business person, but too many of each can be an issue with getting folks to consensus. One of the nice things about Startup Weekend is that it’s an opportunity to try something new – so if they are willing, I would accept people with redundant skills as they can add capacity for other tasks – research, ideation, competitive analysis, outreach – things that they’re not known for but willing to try.
4. The majority of small businesses including startups never make it past the first year but myBestHelper has been going strong since it won Startup Weekend in 2011. How can participants emulate myBestHelpers success after the event?
Startup Weekend is often a great place to try something and learn. I think it’s not the right place to start a business and it would not be the same if the pressure was on to expect most teams to go on to build things. I see many participants who enjoyed their first Startup Weekend go on and form teams around the same or other idea – so it serves its purpose of getting people interested and on the path to tech entrepreneurship.
5. myBestHelper is providing an amazing perks and service at the event for participants who may have children. Will you please give us the details on how this helps individuals who are on fence about participating due to familial obligations, how does this help them?
The idea came as I was thinking about why so few of the 300 participants when I did my pitch had kids, and yet, many parents are in tech and business. We asked around and learned that childcare was a limiting step – an entire weekend with no support for the kids is too much to commit to. So this is one thing we can actually help with! And I would encourage folks to bring their kids – this is how they get ideas about tech and coding being cool – and meet other kids whose parents share the same passions. It builds a community within the tech ecosystem.
UPDATE: Due to low demand, Startup Weekend WILL NOT be offering child care at the premise, but will provide child care at participants houses at discount.