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Directions for Direction: How Startup Weekend DC Helped Us Find Our Way to Landmark

Written and contributed by Stephanie Nguyen, co-founder and VP of Design of Silica Labs, and co-founder of Landmark | Twitter: @nguyenist

Photo source: Landmark Blog

Startup Weekend DC was my first DC tech event. In fact, I loved it so much I participated in 3 of them. Little did I know I would meet one of my now co-founders, Marvin, the lawyer, in line for free pizza. Startup Weekend DC #2 I met Antonio, the physicist. After winning that weekend and gaining some traction a few weeks later, so was born Silica Labs. We had the right team but needed to focus our vision. For a year and a half, we were completely bootstrapped and working with clients all over the world. We tried many different angles and realized the key was to ensure we were solving a real problem.

Fast forward a few months and we participated in Startup Weekend DC #3. The morning of the event because I was lost among a sea of ivory, beige and antique-white colored DC buildings. In hopes that the map showed my actual location, I relied heavily on following a wandering blue dot. It was this that made me realize we found a problem.

Enter Landmark, a navigation app that provides a more intuitive way to walk using the buildings and landmarks around you. “Go toward Dupont Circle Fountain. Take a left when you see the Starbucks. In 4 blocks, take a right at Chipotle on 19th Street.” This simple concept came to us after realizing how many people experienced this moment: You emerge from the metro and your app tells you to go Northwest. You hope you took the right turn out of the metro, only to find that your phone re-calibrated. The blue dot is off-track. You’re lost. You’re frustrated. You turn around, retrace your steps and begin again.

The time is ripe. Landmark wasn’t possible before today. Now, we have smartphones with cameras, geotagging capabilities, and mapping data sources. There are 350 million photos posted on Facebook and 16 billion photos shared on Instagram everyday. We can now use those beautiful photos of our cities to help people navigate.

As we continue to build Landmark, we rely heavily on the support of the community willing to take photos and share them with us. We would love your help in making navigation beautiful and intuitive. Sign up to be a part of our closed beta today at www.landmarkdirections.com and we will send you a link to download the app. For more information on why we built Landmark, check out this blog post and follow us @golandmark.

In retrospect, spending a weekend (or three) helps you really know people, test your boundaries, find co-founders and develop startup ideas. Startup Weekend DC gave us the space to come together as a team and grow.

 


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Babs Lee