Only two month in at The Nest i/o and I was made part of the Organizing Team for Startup Weekend Karachi 2017 which was to be held in less than 3 weeks. Not knowing much about Startup Weekend personally, I joined the team thinking it’s going to be just another event where people come, have fun, go home and forget about it the next day. With a quick crash course on Startup Weekend by our facilitator Anurag Maloo, we began our preparations. Unfortunately, Anurag was not able to attend the Startup Weekend and eventually Jehan Ara and Akash ended up becoming not only first time organizers but also facilitators!
Thanks to our amazing design team – Hira Fareed & Hafsa Jamal, we created enough buzz online with our posters and teasers. While many young men seemed eager to participate in the 54 hour weekend, we were a little concerned about female participation as very few applied initially. We dedicate the last couple days targeting females and kept our registrations open until the very last. The team even made a “Control Room” where no one was allowed to enter except the organizing team – which, to be honest, made me feel very special.
The final day arrived and our entire team was exhausted from making the final arrangements all week. To our surprise, participants started arriving at 4:30 even though the registrations were to begin at 5:30. The first two participants to arrive were Abdul Basit & Mohammad Ahsan Ejaz, two young men from COMSATS University Islamabad, who came to attend Startup Weekend Karachi 2017 with their luggage as they planned on staying over for 3 days. We were both thrilled and concerned at how fearless and excited they were to attend the event. Eventually their tickets were waived off and one of our team members helped them with accommodation. The flow of participants kept on increasing with time and eventually we had to turn a few back who showed up for on spot registration.
By 6:30 PM we had over 80 high spirited participants of whom 30 were females. Friday evening began on a high note when our facilitators, Jehan Ara and Akash took the stage to welcome everyone. After a short talk by Imran Moinuddin, the half baked ice-breaking activity took place which further increased the energy. By 9:00 PM 60 people had pitched their idea, many of them came up with ideas during the pitching session.
We had initially intended to shortlist 15 teams but the high energy in the room forced us allow 27 teams to pitch on the final day. Many teams even stayed back after dinner and finally at 11:15 PM we had to ask them to leave so we could all get some rest for the next day.
We were pleasantly surprised to find that almost all the participants were present at 9:00 AM. Most of the mentors and coaches were scheduled to arrive on Saturday and the first half of the day flew by. Thanks to our food partners, CoPakistan and McDonalds, we had amazing lunch and dinner planned for Saturday. We could feel the energy buzzing all around and it did not go down even for a minute on that 14 hour long work day.
We had an entertainment session after dinner with Hamza Amir who sang songs on request on his guitar. The short break was exactly what we all needed after a long day of building teams, networking, and learning. The teams were so excited and dedicated to their ideas that even at 10:00 PM they did not want to go home to get some rest.
We didn’t think it was possible but on the final day the energy levels went even higher as the final pitches approached. After a delicious breakfast from Dunkin Donuts, the teams were running around, preparing their final product. Soon it was time for a small workshop by Jawwad Farid on pitching, which was exactly what the participants needed as most of them were pitching on this scale for the first time. By the end of the session everyone was so immersed in updating their presentations that we had to force the participants to take a little lunch break.
The Final session began with a much needed stand up comedy skit by Junaid Malik which lifted everyones spirits and eased the participants a little. The next two hours flew by as teams pitched one after another to the judges who spared no one from their scrutiny. Only 30 minutes into the judging session, we found out that #SWKhi17 was trending on Twitter.
Besides the people present on the Final Day, we had plenty more following us on social media, anxiously waiting to find out who would win. It took judges another hour after the pitching session to decide the winner because so many great ideas were pitched.
Finally they decided on 3 winners and 2 special mentions:
Winner: MirrorMagican – a mirror that would take a picture using augmented reality and picture automation
First Runner up: TrashIt – a composting bin which enables people to dispose off their trash more efficiently.
Second Runner up: Gardener – an online gardening service, which provides gardening services through an App.
Auctee – a real-time auctioning service through secure accounts
Champion Mango – a service offering premium mangos with great packaging through a variety of distribution channels.
And just like that, it was time to wrap up the 54 hour long extravaganza. In an effort to capture this glorious experience, we took a group photo.
It has been exactly a week since Startup Weekend Karachi 2017 was hosted at The Nest i/o, and we are all still in a trance, living the moments over and again through articles published, photos shared, and memories made. It was a learning experience like no other.
The Nostalgia is here to stay!