Whoa. #PHLSW was amazing

PHLSW_form_teams
PHLSW participants form teams on Friday night after voting for the best pitches.
Photo by Laurie Satran from The Art of Breaking Bread

Wow. The PHLSW organizing team is STILL recovering from the whirlwind that was Philadelphia Startup Weekend. After a weekend of customer validation, brainstorming, and business planning (accompanied by delicious tea and food) we were exhausted!

Organizer Matthew Grande and Facilitator Nate Allen hanging out at the registration table. Thanks for the photo Laurie Satran from The Art of Breaking Bread!
Organizer Matthew Grande and Facilitator Nate Allen hanging out at the registration table.
Thanks for the photo Laurie Satran from The Art of Breaking Bread!

Our organizers (most of which were first-time organizers) – Matthew Grande, Alisha Neva (that’s me), Bill Hargenrader, Jon Wagner, Liz Brown, and Tracy Katz came together to rock a successful weekend. And thanks to our facilitator, Nate Allen, the weekend went off without (okay, practically without) a hitch.

On Sunday evening we had 13 (!!!) teams present their amazing businesses after spending the weekend with coaches and mentors – Jon Wagner, Ravi Bala, Matthew Grande, Bill Hargenrader, Daniele Hargenrader, Tracy Welson-Rossman and Chris Baglieri.

Forager, one of our 13 final teams, working on their final presentation.  Thanks for the photo Laurie Satran of The Art of Breaking Bread
Forager, one of our 13 final teams, working on their final presentation.
Thanks for the photo Laurie Satran of The Art of Breaking Bread

Our judges – Chuck Sacco, Mike Krupit, and Dave Clarke – then selected 3 top teams – it was such a hard decision that we ended up with 1 first place team and 2 second place teams.

First Place

should_i_app_2_screens
Screen shots of the ShouldI? app provided by Katy Lee.

The first place winner – shouldI – is an app to help people make decisions in real-time. Users post a question – such as “Should I eat turkey on Thanksgiving from McDonalds?” and other users get to vote yes or no. It’s that simple. And it’s beautiful. This can help you from deciding where to buy your socks to who to manage your financial portfolio. And the judges saw this beauty in action…and loved it.

The ShouldI? team glowing in their success!  Thanks for the photo Laurie Satran of The Art of Breaking Bread!
The ShouldI? team glowing in their success!
Thanks for the photo Laurie Satran of The Art of Breaking Bread!

The shouldI team received a membership at ic3401, free classes at Girl Develop It Philly, a web design and dev evaluation from WebJunto, the first company profile on started.in Philadelphia, and a bonus prize from Chris Baglieri – who offered to aid in the development in the app.

Runners-up and other teams

Our runners-up were StockJock and metoo.

The other teams are all featured on the f6s website including Food Connect – a startup that helps to donate food from catered events to those in need which they started doing at PHLSW.

Thank You

For such a great weekend filled with inspiration and butt kicking to all of the organizers, sponsors, coaches, judges, and of course participants!

Looking forward to seeing everyone at the next event – stay tuned for details or sign up for our mailing list to get details in your inbox (we promise not to spam you – nobody likes spam…except maybe these people).








The Role of Design in Startup Weekend

We at Up Philadelphia recently had our most successful event ever, and I attribute a good portion of that to an increased participation from designers. As a designer myself, I was a participant at the previous event in October 2011 and instantly became hooked, evangelically telling every designer I could get near about what a fantastic opportunity it is. Even after pouring my heart out, quoting Fast Company articles about designer founders, and explaining how as a result of Startup Weekend I was given an amazing job opportunity that allowed me to leave my miserable corporate job of a decade, these designers weren’t rushing to sign up.

But why is that? Do most designers lack that entrepreneurial spirit? Do they fear they’re going to exhaust their creative gas tanks? Are they intimidated by the amount of work involved? Why is it so difficult to encourage designers to participate in what is actually a highly creative and inspiring event?

Thankfully, due to persistence and badgering, we had over 20 designers register for Philadelphia Startup Weekend 3.0, and it was obvious in the aesthetic quality of the work presented on Sunday evening. Participants included Sharon McMullen, Interactive Designer at Anthropologie, and Amy Reyes, Senior Graphic Designer at US Airways. This was their first Startup Weekend event.

“I signed up to step out of my comfort zone,” Amy says. “To shake things up, learn something new, and see how far I could push myself.” The idea of creating an app can sound scary to a designer. They might feel as if they need to know how to code or must have experience with app development. Not the case. Creating the brand, making interface mockups, and formatting the final presentation are all tasks that benefit from the help of a designer. Not to mention, it’s advantageous for any Startup Weekend team to have a member who can offer up a different perspective in regards to creative problem solving.

Because designers are scarce at Startup Weekend events, they are hot commodities. Every team wants one and values the skills he or she can bring to the table. Sharon explains, “They appreciate you! I don’t think I’ve ever received so much positive feedback and confidence in my choices and development of an identity. With such a positive atmosphere it pushes you to make it the best it can be and it’s so rewarding.” The other attendees understand that good design can make or break a product and having a designer on their team is like having a secret weapon. She also adds that she liked how everyone enters the room as equals. “I felt like I walked in with a clean slate and no one judged me either way. It was amazing! I got to prove myself with the work I did THAT DAY.”

Of course, building a startup in a weekend doesn’t come without its share of challenges. Designers typically like to take their time with projects, patiently waiting for creativity to strike, but as Amy realized, that’s not an option. “Perfectionism is a road block to momentum, and there’s not really any room (or time) for it. You have to manage your time, and you have to be fast. Period. That was hard.”

But in the end, it’s more than worth it. When asked if she’d participate again, Sharon responds, “HELL YES.” That pretty much says it all. She adds, “The rewards you get from taking a weekend away and designing for some amazing new companies is priceless.” Amy’s reaction was quite similar. “Yes. In a heartbeat.” It’s definitely addictive, especially for a designer that might be working in the corporate world where they work with the same brand every day. You leave Startup Weekend with an incredible sense of accomplishment. As a designer, it’s easy to fall into a staleness, where you aren’t challenging yourself or learning new skills. Startup Weekend is like a creativity boot camp that recharges your system. Amy says, “I feel like I can take anything on and have been running strong all week. It totally re-ignited my passion for what I do.”

In addition to leaving recharged, you might walk away with some great contacts and possible future opportunities as well. Sharon received eight freelance requests from the weekend. “I highly recommend going and staying late at the very last happy hour celebration. I made most of my connections there because people could pin you with your work. And the drinks didn’t harm either,” she shares.

Still on the fence? Here’s Amy’s take. “On one side of the fence is this amazing opportunity to totally reenergize your career, meet new people, step outside your comfort zone and make something wonderful. On the other side of the fence is the same weekend you had last weekend…which, I’m sure was awesome…but not THIS awesome.” Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Original Post written April 27, 2012 by Melissa Ivone.








The role of Design in Startup Weekend

We at Up Philadelphia recently had our most successful event ever, and I attribute a good portion of that to an increased participation from designers. As a designer myself, I was a participant at the previous event in October 2011 and instantly became hooked, evangelically telling every designer I could get near about what a fantastic opportunity it is. Even after pouring my heart out, quoting Fast Company articles about designer founders, and explaining how as a result of Startup Weekend I was given an amazing job opportunity that allowed me to leave my miserable corporate job of a decade, these designers weren’t rushing to sign up.

But why is that? Do most designers lack that entrepreneurial spirit? Do they fear they’re going to exhaust their creative gas tanks? Are they intimidated by the amount of work involved? Why is it so difficult to encourage designers to participate in what is actually a highly creative and inspiring event?

Thankfully, due to persistence and badgering, we had over 20 designers register for Philadelphia Startup Weekend 3.0, and it was obvious in the aesthetic quality of the work presented on Sunday evening. Participants included Sharon McMullen, Interactive Designer at Anthropologie, and Amy Reyes, Senior Graphic Designer at US Airways. This was their first Startup Weekend event.

“I signed up to step out of my comfort zone,” Amy says. “To shake things up, learn something new, and see how far I could push myself.” The idea of creating an app can sound scary to a designer. They might feel as if they need to know how to code or must have experience with app development. Not the case. Creating the brand, making interface mockups, and formatting the final presentation are all tasks that benefit from the help of a designer. Not to mention, it’s advantageous for any Startup Weekend team to have a member who can offer up a different perspective in regards to creative problem solving.

Because designers are scarce at Startup Weekend events, they are hot commodities. Every team wants one and values the skills he or she can bring to the table. Sharon explains, “They appreciate you! I don’t think I’ve ever received so much positive feedback and confidence in my choices and development of an identity. With such a positive atmosphere it pushes you to make it the best it can be and it’s so rewarding.” The other attendees understand that good design can make or break a product and having a designer on their team is like having a secret weapon. She also adds that she liked how everyone enters the room as equals. “I felt like I walked in with a clean slate and no one judged me either way. It was amazing! I got to prove myself with the work I did THAT DAY.”

Of course, building a startup in a weekend doesn’t come without its share of challenges. Designers typically like to take their time with projects, patiently waiting for creativity to strike, but as Amy realized, that’s not an option. “Perfectionism is a road block to momentum, and there’s not really any room (or time) for it. You have to manage your time, and you have to be fast. Period. That was hard.”

But in the end, it’s more than worth it. When asked if she’d participate again, Sharon responds, “HELL YES.” That pretty much says it all. She adds, “The rewards you get from taking a weekend away and designing for some amazing new companies is priceless.” Amy’s reaction was quite similar. “Yes. In a heartbeat.” It’s definitely addictive, especially for a designer that might be working in the corporate world where they work with the same brand every day. You leave Startup Weekend with an incredible sense of accomplishment. As a designer, it’s easy to fall into a staleness, where you aren’t challenging yourself or learning new skills. Startup Weekend is like a creativity boot camp that recharges your system. Amy says, “I feel like I can take anything on and have been running strong all week. It totally re-ignited my passion for what I do.”

In addition to leaving recharged, you might walk away with some great contacts and possible future opportunities as well. Sharon received eight freelance requests from the weekend. “I highly recommend going and staying late at the very last happy hour celebration. I made most of my connections there because people could pin you with your work. And the drinks didn’t harm either,” she shares.

Still on the fence? Here’s Amy’s take. “On one side of the fence is this amazing opportunity to totally reenergize your career, meet new people, step outside your comfort zone and make something wonderful. On the other side of the fence is the same weekend you had last weekend…which, I’m sure was awesome…but not THIS awesome.” Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Original Post written April 27, 2012 by Melissa Ivone.








What the Judges are Looking For

Winning at Startup Weekend means lots of things. It means learning more than you ever thought you could learn in a weekend. It means meeting more interesting people than you ever thought you’d meet in your lifetime. It means starting something and changing your life.

It also means ranking as the best team as voted on by the judges.

Here is a rundown of what the judges consider. Bear in mind that there is no rubric for judging, and your best bet is to make as much progress in each of these areas as possible. Be careful not to put all of your eggs into one basket: don’t make beautiful mockups without validating your idea and don’t build features before you’ve built your core functionality.

Here’s what the judges are looking for:

Have you validated your idea and core value proposition with your target customer or market?

You came in with a smashing pitch, rallied a great team, and built some cool stuff. But does anyone care? Have you surveyed your Startup Weekend attendees and all of your facebook friends? Have you interviewed anyone and found anyone who will use your product? If you have, you’ve validated your idea and will win bonus points in the eyes of your judges.

Have you figured out the revenue streams that turn the product into a business? 

If the judges were investors, they’d want to know how their investment will turn into cold hard cash. If you can have cash in hand at the end of the weekend from a paying customer, even better.

Does it work? 

Focus your efforts over the weekend on building a functional minimum viable product. Once you’ve validated your idea with customers and built the first iteration of your product, it’s time to begin the cycle again by getting real feedback from real customers on the functionality and usability. Judges are looking for a baseline level of core functionality that can be used to get customer feedback for the next iteration.

How does it look?

Don’t go for pretty, go for usability. Design an interface that encourages people to sign up, pay for, and use your product. But don’t spend too much time on the details. Minimum viable product applies to functionality and design. You’re going to test everything and continue to improve the usability later on.

How do you and your team work together?

Remember: startups get funded when investors believe in the capability and perseverance of the founding team. Demonstrate that you’ve done your homework, that you can execute, and that you know what you’re doing.

Why should you win? Win for glory, but also win for cool prizes. Our sponsors have donated some great prizes, like a free table at the Philly Startup Leaders Entrepreneur Expo and all kinds of cool gadgets.  And if you see one of the sponsors at the event, be sure to say “Thank you!”

Stay in Touch:

Like PHLSW on Facebook
Follow  PHLSW on Twitter

Original post written by Alli Blum.








Preparing for the Pitch

The most formal parts of Startup Weekend happen at the beginning, with the pitch, and at the end, with the presentations before the judges.

If you’re going to pitch an idea, here is a guide that will help you think through your idea and structure your pitch. If you plan on joining a team, here is what you can expect to hear on Friday night.

1. Focus on the problem you want to solve :: There are lots of problems out there. And for every problem, there are many solutions. Take something as basic and primal as needing to eat. You can solve the problem by eating food you make at home or food from a Jose Garces restaurant downtown. You can eat a carrot or a double bacon cheeseburger. You can eat in many different ways, but the problem stays the same: you need to eat.

The same is true of startups. The problem you want to solve could have 140 different solutions from each of the 140 participants. Startup Weekend is about talking to other people and about using many ideas to turn them into the best idea for your market

2. Mention how you think the problem should be solved :: If you can, try to leave it as bare bones as possible. Try to talk about your idea using the following bare-bones formula:

I want to build a _____ that does _____.

Substitute web site or mobile app in the first blank and the core functionality in the second blank. For example, “I want to build a web site that helps Philly’s foodies keep track of changing menu specials.”

Leave it at that and move on. You only have 60 seconds.

3. Talk about your secret sauce :: We all have one. Take me, I’m a writer. I can write microcopy and know all the words to A/B test to improve signup on a landing page. Take Mel, one of our other PHLSW organizers. She’s a designer and a talented one at that, and could lay out a landing page for stellar signup. Together, we could make magic.

So think about your own skills and passion and why you have a special ability to solve this problem. Are you in medical school and at Startup Weekend to solve a medical problem? Are you in a band and at Startup Weekend to solve a musician’s problem? Do you happen to be very nice?

4. Tell us what you already know :: Maybe you’ve already done your market research. Maybe you even have real market validation from real customers. Maybe you know the market size of your industry or the market cap of your biggest competitor. Maybe there are 8,000,000 monthly searches for your problem.

Show your audience what you’ve already done to validate the problem, the customer, and the idea.

5. Showcase your winning personality :: It’s not about the idea after all, it’s about the team. You have 60 seconds to showcase the best version of yourself. No one wants to work with a jerk.

6. Show up with an idea that does something meaningful :: Think of how you can improve someone’s life for the better. Think big, solve problems that affect large or small groups of people in profound ways. You’re here to change the world, after all, aren’t you?

 Show us your best pitch at PHLSW 2014 November 14-16.

Stay in Touch:

Like PHLSW on Facebook
Follow  PHLSW on Twitter

 

Post originally written by Alli Blum.