Startup Weekend + Rapid Prototyping = Maker Startup Weekend March 2-4 in San Francisco

This March 2-4 at TechShop in San Francisco, Startup Weekend is bringing a whole new meaning to our emphasis on prototyping: teams will be able to create actual, physical products from the blue-sky vision they begin with on Friday night.

The event is only open to 40 attendees so register now to reserve your spot!

What Maker Startup Weekend attendees are getting:

  • Access to over $750,000 worth of rapid prototyping equipment at TechShop. There will be TechShop staff on hand all weekend to help with any machine or tool that you’re not familiar with.  If you can dream it, you can make it.
  • Expert Mentorship. We’ve got an incredible group of people coming in to mentor teams for the weekend. TechShop’s Dream Coaches, Autodesk Design Experts, as well as legendary makers like Tim Anderson and Brian Jepson.
  • Dale Dougherty! Dale Dougherty, Founder of MAKE, is coming in to speak on  Friday Night. Dale’s enthusiasm for making is infectious and we’re excited to have him. Check out his TEDx talk on Making More Makers.
  • Lots of great components and materials to play with. We’ve got an incredible line-up of sponsors: InventablesSparkFunJameco, and Maker Shed. Each of the sponsors is providing a ton of materials that the groups will be able to use throughout the weekend.  It’s going to be maker heaven!
  • Maker Immersion Training.  In addition to the tradition Startup Weekend format, we’ve added a full day (Friday) of training to get people up to speed with some of the incredible new rapid prototyping tools that are available to use at TechShop. We’ll be running classes on 3D printing, Laser Cutting, Autodesk 123D design programs, Arduino, and many more.
  • Feedback. In addition to the mentors and TechShop staff, teams will have the opportunity to present their creations to a panel of judges on Sunday evening.
  • Food! We’ll have breakfast, lunch and dinner Friday-Sunday.

Who should attend:

  • Makers! Combining the tools at TechShop, the materials from our amazing sponsors, and the great mentors is going to make this weekend a total maker playground.
  • New Makers! If you’ve been to Maker Faire or have always wanted to learn to 3D print, this event is for you. You’ll be able to take the classes on Friday and then try out your new skills all weekend under the helpful eye of the mentors and TechShop staff.
  • Product Ideas. If you have an idea you’ve always wanted to create, then this weekend is the perfect opportunity to bring your product to life.
  • Startup Enthusiasts.If you love startups, you’ve probably heard about the growing opportunities for businesses to create actual things. The original Square prototype was built at TechShop along with countless Kickstarter projects. This is the perfect opportunity to get your feet wet in the maker world.







Launching Valentine's Day, Couple Fire Makes Long-Distance Relationships Easier

This Valentine’s Day, couples get a website all their own!  Couple Fire, a brand new start-up is launching Tuesday to add spark to relationships on Valentine’s Day and every day after that.
What is Couple Fire?
  • A private social network for two, designed just for couples.
  • Together, couples can create stunning boards, much like virtual bulletin boards where they can post absolutely anything .
  • Couple can also get inspired by beautiful images, date ideas, conversation starters, trip ideas and quotes, all posted to the Inspiration Center by the Couple Fire community.
  • Free.
There are sites for dating, sites for the engaged and married and sites for friends, but few sites to genuinely help couples grow their relationship that are private and engaging.  Couple Fire will change that: http://bit.ly/CoupleFireVideo.
The Couple Fire (formerly Snuggle Cloud) journey began about a year ago when we won Seattle Start-up Weekend. We are so thrilled to make this dream a reality and greatly appreciate the support from the Startup Weekend community!







Weekly Eats Selected as Tech Cocktail Featured Startup

Congratulations to the team at Weekly Eats for being selected as a featured startup at Tech Cocktail’s 2012 Winter Mixer later this month.

As Dov Markowiz, a co-founder at Weekly Eats says, “Since Startup Weekend we’ve been working at Geek Easy and the team has been plowing ahead with developing our startup. It’s been a crazy time but things are really moving ahead! Come visit us at Tech Cocktail where we’ll be showing off our alpha.”

Weekly Eats last made Startup Weekend news by placing third in last year’s Global Startup Battle during GEW.








How to Get Your Startup Off the Ground Fast: Think Big, Work Small

By Janine Popick, Founder and CEO of VerticalResponse.

When you’re starting your business, you want things to happen fast. You have some choices to make. You can choose to have the perfect store layout where everything to the last shelf is quintessential, you can have the perfect office environment where every chair has to match and your phones need to be working on day one, and you can have the perfect website to launch your business that took you seven months to build.

But I question you: Do you really need all these things in place before launching your business?

Get It Out the Door Now

I always tell my folks here at VerticalResponse to do something and get something out the door, whether they think it’s perfect or not. The key is to learn what’s right and what’s wrong about it and make changes as you go. If they do nothing, they won’t learn and they’ll always be trying to be perfect, wasting precious time.

So as a new business owner, you need to be thinking: What are the bare minimums you need to really start your business? And does everything have to be perfect on day one?

Obviously you need a business license, you need to file for taxes, you need a name for your company and maybe a website address. If you’re selling products, you’ll need some inventory and a retailer’s license. If you have a retail location, you’ll need to secure the physical spot and make sure it’s safe for customers, and you’ll need to have your point-of-sale ready to go.

Here’s a dirty secret: Almost nothing is forever. You’ll always be making changes, so the key for you is to get people in the door or to your website and get them spending.

When I started VerticalResponse over 10 years ago, I can tell you that it was far from perfect. But I felt that launching our email marketing service sooner rather than later was important. Why? For one, it was important for us to learn how our customers were going to interact with us, then react and make changes to our business based on that data. Another reason why we needed to launch quickly was the fact that we didn’t have the luxury of a big bankroll, so we needed to get customers spending fast.

Read the full article on the Huffington Post here.

Janine Popick is the CEO and founder of VerticalResponse, which provides a full suite of self-service online marketing solutions for small businesses and non-profits including email marketing, event marketing, online surveys, social media and direct mail. She’s also the CEB (Chief Executive Blogger) of the VerticalResponse Marketing Blog for Small Businesses.








What do NYC, Startups, and the Super Bowl Have in Common?

By Joey Aquino, Startup Weekend Global Facilitator

I just got back from an amazing trip to New York City and let me say first off, “GO GIANTS!” Being in the city of a team that wins the Super Bowl is quite amazing let alone when that city is a place like New York the amount of chaos automatically triples! Instead of the normal 54hr time frame we give our attendees at regular Startup Weekends we decided it was best to make it a < 48hr event to get everyone out by kick-off. I mean in a 54hr event in hopes to launch a startup what’s 6 extra hours anyways? :) Good thing we did because this was the scene in the middle of Times Square right after the game got out.  I literally got swept up into the celebration and joined the hundreds of New Yorkers as they flooded the streets.

Winning the Super Bowl exactly aligns with symbolically what it means for the people who grow up in New York. “New York is the city that never sleeps… the financial capital of the World… New York is the center of the Universe!” The people who live and grow up in New York all have this big dream that they all will become someone in this world. That with relentless hard work (and I mean relentless, I wrote apost that incorporated the negative effects of that culture from a friend who moved to NY. Read the Ahonui section), they will win their version of a Super Bowl and conquer the world. This element is such a part of the New York culture that people flock there just because of it.

Knowing this, what better place to have a Startup Weekend? I helped facilitate a Startup Weekend EDU event which is a vertical within Startup Weekend lead by the incredibly passionate Khalid Smith, which is all about creating startups that disrupt the education space.

We had an amazing event with a packed house at the beautiful Mandell Schoolwhich hosted over 120 attendees. People all over the east coast traveled to be a part of this event and there was a huge turnout from some amazing people in the New Orleans area.

What I saw at this event that I hadn’t seen at any other event was the immense amount of passion and purpose people had for attending. These were people who not only had a passion to do something in this world but they all wanted to solve a huge problem. The difference behind regular Startup Weekends and this passion showed in its results. This was the first time I remember thinking to myself that there were some pretty high quality ideas here that I feel could really go forward and make some impact, but more importantly there were some high quality TEAMS that could actually execute the idea and become successful. The reason is simple, the people in attendance were driven by passion. They weren’t there to just see what Startup Weekends were all about but they were people who lived with major problems in the education space and were looking to solve these big problems.

What Startup Weekend has taught me is that ideas are dime a dozen (I almost see the same ideas every week just in different states/countries) but what makes an idea successful is the execution by the high quality team. My biggest takeaway from #NYCEDU was simple but life-focusing, passion supersedes all. If you want to be an entrepreneur, the ones with passion are the ones that will show the best results.

Here are a few clear examples of how I saw passion at work in New York:

1. Passion inspires actions

There are people who have ideas and then there are people who have passion. There are people who can sit at their office thinking of the next big idea and there were the 120+ attendees and over 25 mentors who came out to Startup Weekend NYC EDU eager to take action.

My best friend said this quote at our graduation back in High School, “…I encourage you all to NOT be dreamers. The problem with dreamers is that they are sleeping. I encourage you all to be the movers and shakers of the world…” Passion doesn’t allow you to just dream but it gives you the confidence to take a leap of faith which is what is needed to be a mover and shaker. Following your passion inspires you to take action.

2. Passion helps to fight through road blocks

There were two young men who came to New York from the Baltimore area because they had this idea that they knew could not only save teachers time but it would stop wasting days of students lives in the classroom (they even calculated it out as part of their pitch). They came to NY in hopes to find a technical team to help build out their idea but unfortunately they were one of the teams that got caught in the battle for the few developers in attendance. At a time where most people would be discouraged at hitting their first big road block of not finding any developers to join their team, I saw them handle this situation like not many others would. I saw them plow right through this problem. It wasn’t a matter of “I can’t do this” simply because they didn’t find anyone to join their team at the event, it was ” I will do this with or without you.”

Road blocks will always be there when you are doing a startup but passion is what helps you easily break them down.

3. Passion gives you confidence

When you are passionate about something it drives you to know the in’s and out’s of that space. It motivates you to understand things on a complete higher level than the average would and gives you confidence that you are an expert that can navigate successfully through that space. I saw a team at #NYCEDU that was lead by a group of Teach for America alums from New Orleans. You could easily see the confidence this team had and it beamed off of the team leader with every interaction she had with others. She had a vision of what she knew would exactly work and was at Startup Weekend solely to execute her vision. No indecisiveness, no flip-flopping, no wasting time, all executing.

Passion allows you to understand the space you are wanting to get into on a completely different level that drives a higher likely of success. Passion will be the reason others have confidence in you.

4. Passion helps connect

Networking events usually suck. They suck because they are awkward, filled with established cliques and they just lack numerous meaningful conversations. #NYCEDU was a little different because everyone there was connected by this idea that they wanted to help change this space. It seemed to make conversations easier amongst the people but it also gave them a bigger purpose of why people were interacting with each other. A high school assistant principal who had taught years in the heart of inner city Baltimore connecting with a leader of an ed-tech incubator that is revolutionizing the New Orleans community seemed to happen a lot throughout the event. The director of Teach for America’s social entrepreneurship initiative could share stories with a young mother who tutors autistic and handicapped children.

The stories and passions people share make the connections at this type of event that much easier to happen but that much more meaningful as well. Passion gives you meaning and passion gives you a voice.

5. Passion gives you hope.

Whether it is hope to change the education system or hope to win the Super Bowl, passion gives you this belief and hope that their is more out there for yourself. Like I said in the beginning, this hope is what is flooded throughout the New York culture. From all the immigrants who entered America through Ellis Island in hopes to create a better life for themselves to the relentless brokers on Wall St, their passion to become something gives them the hope and vision that they can achieve it. Find what you are passionate about and  define what that Super Bowl victory would be for yourself. Then, the rest is history.








4 Things Norway's Economic Approach Can Teach Entrepreneurs

By Joey Aquino, Startup Weekend Facilitator

I met some absolutely amazing people at Bergen Startup Weekend and wanted to focus this post on a subject in which I felt really influenced the startup culture in Norway; the influence of a more mixed economy approach versus the US’s more capitalistic economic approach. There are 4 major things I took out of my experience within this culture that I feel are valuable to any startup community.

1. Low taxes doesn’t mean more/better startups

In the U.S., one of the most debated discussions evolves around taxes. From a business perspective it is our belief that the higher the taxes the less small businesses will be created. We should give extensive tax benefits to startups so that entrepreneurs will be more incentivized to build companies and create more jobs for our economy. Now, I am not specifically against saving my startup money but I think ecosystems need to help create a culture that diverges this mentality that taxes have direct correlation towards thriving startup communities. Norway has a mixed economy which is partially influenced by socialism and focuses on equality for its people. Thus, they have some of the highest taxes in the world to help provide government programs that give back to all its people. The most successful entrepreneurs can pay nearly 50% of their income back to the federal government plus additional taxes. On top of that payroll taxes in Norway are double those in the U.S. Sales taxes, at 25 percent, are roughly triple. A normal person would think their startup economic output would be horrific but in reality they are not only beating the U.S. in small business creation per capita but they are leading the world. They also avoided the brunt of the last financial crisis (economy grew 6% between 06-09), essentially  have no poverty and have an unemployment rate of 3.5% compared to the U.S.’s 8.3%. Plus, there is actually no specific evidence that correlates low taxes to entrepreneurial success let alone economic success. Now, I know this discussion could go on forever but I believe if I could take one major thing about my study on the Norwegian economic and entrepreneurial success it would be regardless of high or low taxes, entrepreneurs need to focus on if their ideas are actually solving a problem and if there is true market potential for it. High taxes just cuts out the potential for more pointless companies to receive capital. If we can answer yes to both things, taxes are only a minimal aspect to the massive amount of other problems you will see trying to make your startup a success.

 

2. Invest in a community that motivates through internal incentives

Benefits in Norway are pretty impressive. Financial employee compensation isn’t the absolute highest but full health care plans plus education is paid for by the state. If you a student and want to travel from Norway to MIT (average tuition for the year $40,00), don’t worry Norway’s got it :) All of these benefits and perks give employees a mentality that is little more privileged than the average. The point here is that great managers in Norway can’t just give financial incentives to  employees in hopes to motivate them to perform at their highest peaks. The great managers have to come up with creative incentives where they turn to internal motivators. They finds ways to turn their job from more than just a job but one with meaning. The happiness advantage plays directly into affect with the Norwegian work community. Actually, based off of Gallup’s latest Happiness poll they ranked 3rd in the world which is showing results all around their economy. Learning about the culture in Norway helped reinforce my belief to invest in a community that motivates people through meaning not money. If you need more convincing, here is a great video by Daniel Pink who wrote an entire book on motivation.

 

3. Never get too comfortable.

The luxury of these benefits do have a downside within this rich culture as well. Since employees of Norway have such a big safety net, some may believe it may be almost foolish to leave your job to start a company that will most likely pay less and have less benefits. It’s like if every company that hired an employee treated them as if they were an engineer at Google. Too much comfort leads to complacency which leads to lack of innovation and risk taking. Don’t be scared to shake things up a little bit and throw something like a Startup Weekend that reinvigorate those creative juices in your community.

 

4. Why do you start a company?

The approach to starting a company is far different in the states than it is in Norway. I believe socialism makes the choice to start a company a lot less attractive than the major potential upscale to become the next Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates. The limitless of financial success and the pure American dream celebrity stardom is embedded into our culture. In Norway, the reason to start a company is obviously not driven by those same cultural incentives. The salary difference between a highest paid CEO and an entry level employee actually aren’t that different in Norway. The reason a person would choose to start their own company is more of either a lifestyle choice or a big opportunity. When building a startup community, the underlying question we should ask aspiring entrepreneurs should be “Why do you want to start a company?” The real successful entrepreneurs across the world do it because they love to be an entrepreneur or because they saw a big enough opportunity that they had to take action on. Let’s continue to reinforce the purpose that we should become entrepreneurs because of a passion we are following not because of celebrity stature and money. It will benefit us ten folds with higher quality entrepreneurs finding success in our economies.








The Power of a Great Final Presentation

Final Presentations Aren’t Just About the Backend

Last April, my company Be Scrappy pitched at Startup Weekend San Jose.  Be Scrappy is a tool rental marketplace – we connect people who need tools for home improvement and do-it-yourself projects with lenders that have them.

I’d like to start out by telling you three things:
1) We were the only team without any working product that presented to the judges.
2) We won first place.
3) Six months after the pitch, our service launched at one of most well known retail hardware store chains in San Francisco and is now used for 100% of their rentals.

Pitch with Passion

I arrived at Startup Weekend with the idea for Be Scrappy already in place.  You see, I had just started working on this idea as part of an accelerator program called Founder Institute and thought I’d put it out there and see how things went.  One of my friends in the program had told me about the event just a few days before –  so my participation was a last minute decision.  Needless to say, I’m glad I attended!

Over 50 people went up to the microphone and pitched their company the first evening.  As everyone voted for their favorite pitches…I was thrilled to see that Be Scrappy had bubbled its way to the top!

At this point, the process of forming teams and deciding on ideas for the weekend began.  Everyone was walking around evaluating who they wanted to work with and what they wanted to spend the next 48 hours doing.  Other people tried convincing me to join their teams and ideas but I also had a few people come up to me to work on mine.  Something told me to stick to my guns and run with this… so I did.

By the end, four others had joined my team – Gilbert, Lawrence, Raghav, and Subraya.  We started working on our strategy and going over what I had in place so far.  I showed them a few mockups and we decided to reconvene the next morning.

Divide and Conquer….but be Ready to Reconvene 

The next day was spent hard at work.  While Lawrence was starting to code up the site, the rest of us were working on messaging and bringing the idea full circle.  I started coding up the front end so that it could be plugged into what Lawrence was doing on the back end.  We also started putting together our pitch deck and focusing the product’s vision.

It’s weird, but so much of it is a blur now.  We had a quick deadline and we wanted to just do our best.  Towards the end of the day we had part of the product built but still a few things left to go.

The plan was that Lawrence was going to finish up the site that night and we would get back together in the morning for final touches.

But of course, there was the unexpected wrench thrown into the mix.  After Lawrence went home, he came down with a terrible fever and was unable to finish up the site.  The next morning we all reconvened with this news and were down to three total – myself, Gilbert and Raghav – it was crunch time.  We only had a handful of hours until our pitch and even thought about throwing in the towel since we wouldn’t have a product to demo (it was still in too many pieces…)

But we decided to go with what we had – I mean we had spent all weekend here and we might as well pitch and show what we had put together.  At least we’ll get some feedback on the idea.

So we decided to go with the only option we had left – tell a great story with screenshots!  Gilbert, Raghav and I put together the pitch deck and practiced several times before going in front of the judges.  I would walk through the user flow and Gilbert and Raghav would act out how the service would work.  We made giant signs that said “Have Tools” and “Need Tools” to show the two sides of our marketplace.  We even drew a drill on another piece of paper to show the tool exchange and how that would look online and offline.  As I talked through how the website worked via screenshots, Gilbert would take the paper drill and hand it over to Raghav who wanted to rent the tool.

Do the Absolute Best You Can with What You Have

While things started off a bit rocky between me being nervous and technical issues with the slide presentation, as we talked through the idea, the audience seemed to really like what we had.  We did our best and answered all the judge’s questions — the response was really positive.  I think the most important part was that we were up there having fun and making the best of what we had.
Walking away, there was no intention of winning.  I mean, we had no working product to show.  So you can imagine my surprise when the judges called us up for first place!  It was seriously one of the best feelings ever…winning is awesome.  And we were all smiles!

You see, this win meant a lot for me.  It wasn’t just about winning Startup Weekend…it was validation of the decision I had made to pursue entrepreneurship.  I was really new to the startup scene  – less than a year prior to Startup Weekend I had switched careers from aerospace engineering to interaction design and moved up to San Francisco.  I had been introduced to the startup space through Founder Labs (a 5 week incubator program) in July of 2010 and was hooked to startups ever since.

Coming to startup weekend, having people want to work on my idea, and then winning the event increased my confidence immensely in being an entrepreneur and pursuing this route.

Whatever the Outcome, Hit the Ground Running!

After Startup Weekend, Be Scrappy did get built.  Steve and Ilya joined on as my developers and the product is now used by Cole Hardware’s four locations in San Francisco.  Of course we are still early in the process – there is much validation, learning and scaling to be done as well as building out the rest of our team.  But the fact that customers are using our product to reserve tools, rent them online, and really liking the service is fantastic.  There is currently no easy way to rent tools online and we want to disrupt that space – allowing anyone to have access to any tool they need for a project through our website.

Startup Weekend was great for Be Scrappy because it created an engaging environment to validate an idea and make progress on it quickly.  I met great people and one of the judges has also joined as one of our advisors.

I’m so happy that I signed up for Startup Weekend.  It’s a fantastic community and venue for being creative, trusting your intuition and trying something out.  And if you continue to carry it through – some number of weekends into the future you’ll find yourself with a working product and customers using it.  Cheers!

Priya

Priya Sheth is the Founder of Be Scrappy, an online marketplace that connects people who need tools for home improvement and building projects with lenders that have them. Priya is an aerospace engineer turned interaction designer and loves the process of infusing a creative vision with users to create well-designed products. Priya works and lives in San Francisco, CA. She has a sock puppet named Graham. Follow her on Twitter at @priyasheth and her startup at @bescrappy.








Free Webinar with Ben Lerer of Thrillist.com

We’d like to formally invite you to attend a live, video Q&A that we are hosting alongside our friends from the Young Entrepreneur Council. The presenter of this event is none other than Ben Lerer, Co-Founder and CEO of Thrillist.com. RSVP here >>
Here is everything that you need to know…
WHEN: Thursday, February 9th, 12pm Eastern (9 a.m. Pacific)
WHERE: Broadcasting exclusively on Mashable.com (details to follow after you register)
WHAT: 60-minutes of startup/entrepreneurship Q&A with one of America’s top, young entrepreneurs
If you have any questions about this event, please email the event coordinator Jennifer at jennifer@theyec.org.
We hope to see you there!







3 Startup Weekend Teams to Present Alpha Pitches at DEMO Asia

Startup Weekend is very happy to announce that 3 of the 10 teams presenting Alpha Pitches on stage at DEMO Asia 2012 in Singapore are startups that began at Startup Weekend events!

Hobby Mash (Philippines), Coworkify (Japan), and TranscribeMe! (New Zealand), along with 7 other superstar startups will have the chance to tell their story and get the attention of hundreds of industry leaders.

The 10 teams are participating as Alpha Pitchers thanks to Microsoft BizSpark and their partners, Founders Institute and Startup Weekend.  Congratulations to all the teams and good luck!

Read about all the teams here.








SW Las Vegas Startup Rumgr Raises $500K

Rumgr, an application that brings the garage sale experience to peoples’ smart phones, announced that they raised $500,000 from Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh and others.  Congratulations Rumgr!  All of us at Startup Weekend wish you the best as you continue to develop your product and expand your operations.

The full article on the announcement can be found on the TechCrunch website.

Read our (previously published) interview with the Rumgr team here.