Destination Startup, WA: The Startup Weekend Crew Hits the Road

Seattle may be our home but last weekend, the Startup Weekend Core Team hit the road to take advantage of the not-to-be-missed photo op in Startup, Washington.

As of yet, we haven’t had a Startup Weekend in Startup, WA so if anyone in the community is looking for the ideal location for the ultimate Startup-branded Startup Weekend, may we recommend Startup!








An Insider's View of Startup Weekend DC EDU

This article was originally published by Ainsley O’Connell on the Women2.0 website.

I arrived at Startup Weekend EDU in Washington, D.C. ready to dive in and work on someone else’s idea. I ran into my friend, who said he was planning to pitch a couple of ideas and encouraged me to go for it, even if I hadn’t prepared anything. After all, why not? Surely I’d been mulling over an idea that had some promise?

I realized that I did have something, I had been thinking for a while about the shortcomings of our existing tools for communicating student data to parents. Complex assessment data increasingly guides educators’ work, effectively cutting even sophisticated, affluent parents out of the conversation about their child’s achievement.

We’ve made some strides in the right direction with school-level data. When I showed New York City’s Progress Report format to DC teachers, they were impressed. But for a parent, that kind of summative data at the school level isn’t actionable.

And as I said in my pitch, in the age of the infographic, I know that we can do better. My mission: making student data fun for families.

That message resonated with the #DCEDU audience. As we narrowed down the list of pitches to form 12 teams, I found myself joined by two developers, two teachers, and an e-learning specialist. We spent the next 48 hours creating a quick and easy way for teachers to generate kid-friendly, individualized infographics displaying local data for students and their families. This is the story of how we got there.

Friday

With the remaining time on Friday night, we talked through where we wanted to be at the end of the weekend. I had a solid sense of my vision, but only a vague sense of how exactly I wanted the product to work and what teachers and parents would value. The pitch was so new, I hadn’t had time to think through the particulars.

As the team raised idea after idea, I grew worried. We were entertaining dozens of tangents, almost all of them promising, but we needed to focus on a relatively narrow track in order to succeed. Around midnight, I summarized our action plan as best I could, everyone volunteered for a workstream, and we headed out. I didn’t fall asleep until after 2am, my mind was racing.

Saturday

Saturday morning, I was anxious to stop talking and start building and doing customer development. Having completed Lean Startup Machine over the summer, I knew how easy it would be for us to talk ourselves in circles while the hours ticked by.

I felt impatient, but the morning was productive. We mapped out a clear teacher workflow and determined what our developers would need to build in order to demo the tool. We prioritized the tasks that we thought would pack the biggest punch, we knew that we could mock up the rest. We also agreed on a simple, linear infographic format appropriate for displaying a student’s level of mastery (e.g., racecars approaching a finish line, climbers approaching a mountain peak, princesses on their way to a ball). I felt we were generally on the same page about the product.

Choosing a name was more challenging. I considered this a placeholder, I wasn’t interested in finding the perfect solution, especially given our time constraints. We spent an hour going back and forth before coalescing around 4eyeson.me, an allusion to the idea of both teacher and parent having ownership of a student’s performance. No one was in love with the name, but we tabled the discussion and moved on.

That afternoon we started to build the platform’s essential functionality and design our example infographic. I had also hoped to begin customer development: sending out a teacher survey in order to validate our assumption that communicating student data to parents is a major pain point, and putting very rough wireframes in front of teachers in order to better understand their needs and preferences.

The full team reconvened mid-afternoon, I realized that I had been speaking a different language than the teachers on my team, who were unfamiliar with lean methodologies. Rather than draft a survey and cobble together sketched wireframes, they had spent the time writing a mission statement and working on related, more “academic” deliverables. It was a tense moment. They didn’t feel comfortable reaching out to the teachers in their network until we had a more polished MVP; I tried to explain the importance of doing customer development long before a polished product exists. In the end they agreed to do the survey with the time remaining before dinner.

At the same time, our business model was completely up in the air, as mentor after mentor made clear. We talked about a freemium model with either:

  1. A cap on the number of infographics a teacher could generate for free, or
  2. A limited variety of infographic templates available for free.

But we didn’t like the idea of charging teachers, and given that we could imagine developing custom versions of the platform for specific school / district data systems, it seemed problematic to structure our revenue model around individual teachers.

We turned to other options, wondering if we could append advertisements for educational products or other items of interest to families. For low-income families in particular, we liked the idea of making it easier to follow through on an action step recommended by a teacher, “buy more books to read with your child,” for example. Mentors cautioned us to avoid advertising content or formats that would be viewed as inappropriate in a school context, but were supportive of the team’s move in the sponsorship direction.

The hours flew by. The team members who worked on development and design stayed past midnight as we worked to ensure our demo would impress the judges.

Sunday

Sunday was a blur. We had until 3 P.M. to finish the last of the product development, give our infographic a professional sheen and “wow” factor, gather teacher feedback on the MVP, analyze our survey results, put some back-of-the-envelope numbers against our business model, create our presentation, and pull all the pieces together. My heart was beating fast, fueled by sugar and caffeine. We barely had time for one run-through as a team.

I started to relax as the pitches kicked off. After a weekend of working with our heads down, focused on our own chosen problem, it was inspiring to see what the other teams had accomplished. When I took the microphone, I felt ready and excited to share 4eyeson.me.

I had presented for my team at Lean Startup Machine, but the idea for that weekend hadn’t been my own. I had simply had the most presentation experience. It felt so different, and so satisfying, to present a solution to a problem that I feel incredibly passionate about.

For the judges, that passion shone through: We were named one of four finalists! (You can check it out for yourself — we’re around 1:10.)

All in all, Startup Weekend was an amazing and exhausting experience from start to finish. I’m so grateful for my kick-ass teammates and I can’t believe how far we came in just one weekend. This idea would still be a draft blog post in the back of my mind if it weren’t for their contributions and the contributions of our mentors.

We’re planning to keep 4eyeson.me alive and would love to hear from anyone interested in helping get it off the ground. Hope to have more good news to report here soon.

 








Sell Stuff Locally (and Painlessly) with Rumgr

 

Rumgr: Sell Stuff Locally is a Startup Weekend Las Vegas company that helps people sell stuff in a snap using their smart phone.  We sat down with the Rumgr Team, Dylan Bathurst and Ray Morgan to ask them a few questions about starting up and having fun.

 

Startup Weekend:  Who came up with the idea for Rumgr?  Was it an idea (or pain point) that the you’d been toying with for a while or did inspiration strike while you were in the line waiting to pitch?

Dylan Bathurst: I thought of the idea when I was moving out my friends spare bedroom into my own place. I’d been living there for a while and had a lot of my extra stuff piled up in his garage. When I was packing things up to move I realized I had a lot of stuff I didn’t want anymore. Mostly because I didn’t want to pack it up and move it.

So I whipped out my iPhone and started taking pictures and posting them to twitter. I wasn’t looking to get top dollar for my stuff, but it was at least worth something. Being a software developer, I thought, “This process should be formalized”. I looked at some of the other options out there, Craigslist, E-Bay, etc. and realized that selling stuff online (especially through your phone), is painful. I didn’t want to have to fill out long descriptions, tag items, and think about a reasonable price for my stuff. I just wanted to get rid of it!

I worked at Zappos.com at that time (Ray and I recently resigned to work full time on Rumgr), so in my off-time I started tinkering with the idea and the code. Coincidentally, Startup Weekend Las Vegas was right around the corner, and after chatting with a friend at VegasJelly (a local tech enthusiast meet up) I decided to pitch the idea there. Amazingly enough, people really liked the Idea!

So I got a team together and we planned it and coded it out over the weekend. Since it was so well received at Startup Weekend, we decided to go for it and keep up the momentum. For the next two months we stayed up until the early morning hours finishing the app, and also developing the business.

 

Startup Weekend:  As a small team, every person’s perspective/skill set/input is invaluable.  How did you go about building a well-rounded team and what do you do to ensure that you evolve the company/concept while staying a well-oiled machine?

Dylan Bathurst: Coming from Zappos Ray, Alex, and I have seen the importance of a good company culture and culture fit for new employees. It was probably just luck, but it seems perfect that we’ve covered a lot of bases with our cofounding team. Ray is a rockstar when it comes to iOS development, Alex is amazing with our UX/design, and my skills with js/html/css have helped out as well.

Ray Morgan: On top of keeping a friendly work environment, which has been pretty easy as Dylan mentioned coming from Zappos, we also take the time to listen to each other’s ideas. While sometimes these ideas can make for a heated discussion when it come to the impacts it will have to the product, we always listen to each other and are willing to explore ideas. At the end of the day, we know that we are all on the same team with the same bigger goals in mind.

 

Startup Weekend: Being an entrepreneur can be pretty intense.  What do you guys do to make sure that you’re having fun and maintain a friendly work environment?

Dylan Bathurst: Being Zappos employees for so long, we’re definitely used to fun work environments. We’ve never really struggled to keep the office ours interesting. All the trips to In-n-out and the countless PBRs we’ve drank in the office probably helped out too.








Hey SW Teams, Let CloudMine Be Your Virtual Mobile App Developer!

Startup Weekend company CloudMine is on a roll, and are offering services that help other Startup Weekend teams.  We had the chance to ask the CloudMine team a few questions about the magic of good team chemistry and how they’ve dealt with the inevitable twists and turns in the road to entrepreneurship.

Startup Weekend: Did you know either of your co-founders before Startup Weekend?  If so, what led you to attend Startup Weekend?  If not, what was it about the trio that worked well together and allowed you to trust each other.

Brendan, Marc, and Ilya (team CloudMine):  Nope!  I met Marc at the first Startup weekend in Philadelphia.  I pitched the original idea for CloudMine (which we no longer are doing, see below) which was selected as a team, but there were not many mobile developers there, so I joined another team.  Marc had already committed to another team, but really liked the idea and so we agreed to talk after the weekend was over.  The original CloudMine idea resonated with something that Marc was working on on the side, so he was interested in talking more.  We spoke about the idea and him coming on board sporadically over the next couple of months. I met Ilya at a Philly Startup Leaders networking event with similar results: the original CloudMine idea resonated with something that he had been thinking of working on, so he joined the conversation. Marc and Ilya got along very well very quickly.  I think for all parties involved, it was clear how sharp the other parties were, how passionate they were about the space, and how well we interacted with each other.  All of us could easily imagine working with one another.

SW:  What was the biggest pivot CloudMine has seen?  Was this an expected change or were you resistant to it/did it catch you off guard?  How did you execute the pivot?

CloudMine:  When CloudMine started we were essentially working on what is now iCloud, but for non-Apple platforms.  We believe that there was no reason for Apple devices to be the only ones with elegant syncing and data curation options. At the time, even Apple did not have wireless syncing, which seemed like a no-brainer with the current state of technology.  As we began to develop our solution to this problem we would occasionally run into mobile developers in the tech community in Philadelphia and they would get REALLY excited about using our platform to store stuff for their mobile apps.  This happened 10-12 times before we realized that those were the ONLY people who had gotten that excited about our idea, so we pushed the pause button on development and took two weeks to stalk every mobile developer we could find, especially ones not already connected to our network. We talked to 45 mobile developers over those two weeks.   Every single one of them was excited about the possibility of a platform that would replace the need to write web services and build infrastructure for their apps.   The market had spoken.  We scrapped the B2C layer we were working on and begin preparing the new version of our platform: we had become a B2D company (D = developer).

SW: We constantly hear about how hard entrepreneurship is–and it certainly is!–but what have you most enjoyed about your journey together and with CloudMine?  When have you had the most fun?

CloudMine:  None of us would argue against your point that entrepreneurship is hard.  The fun part for us is working on a project we are passionate about.   We work crazy hours and tackle hard problems but none of it FEELS hard or long when we are working on it.  We say things like “where have the last six weeks gone?,” but never are bothered by 12+ hour days. Time flies when you are having fun, as they say! We are really passionate about building a tool for other developers.  Mobile back-end infrastructure and web services are typically written in a very similar way every time, take time, and cost money. There are also people who don’t know Ruby, Python, or PHP who can’t deploy an app by themselves.   We enable knowledgeable developers to release apps faster and cheaper and newbie developers potentially the chance to deploy apps AT ALL.   This is pretty cool.   Some of our most fun has come from helping developers with their apps and see the cool things that people build on us at hackathons and startup weekends.

 

About CloudMine

Stop writing backends for your mobile apps. CloudMine is a platform that eliminates the need for mobile app developers to build custom backend solutions for their mobile apps. Development of server-side components is expensive, repetitive, and distracts from perfecting your app. Let us handle it so you can focus on making your app awesome.

 








Young Entrepreneur Council Presents An Interactive Live Q&A with Alexis Ohanian, Co-Founder of Reddit

Join the Young Entrepreneur Council on Thursday, November 17, along with their partners from YEC Global for a 90-minute, live Q&A with Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of Reddit and one of the most passionate, audacious young entrepreneurs in the tech space.

Click here to register now >>

During this free, interactive event Alexis will appear live on video answering all of your questions in real time. From his newest business ventures to previous successes, this is a golden opportunity to get inside his head for an intimate mentoring experience.

Claim your ticket now through the event registration page and YEC Global will send you a reminder email 24 hours and 2 hours prior to the November 17th event with more information.

Event requirements…

  • Flash-enabled laptop or computer (download here)
  • Reliable internet connections that supports live streaming video
  • Come prepared with lots of great questions!
Have any questions? Contact our events staff via email: live@theyec.org.
What is YEC Global?
YEC Global is the official international mentorship program of the Young Entrepreneur Council, an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. Our goal is to promote and support young entrepreneurs around the world, as well as foster the thriving global entrepreneurial eco‐system.
Who is Alexis Ohanian?
Alexis Ohanian is consider to be one of the most passionate, audacious young entrepreneurs in the tech scene. After graduating from UVA in 2005 he co-founded reddit.com which sold to Condé Nast in 2006. Following three more years with Reddit, Alexis retired for a Kiva Fellowship in Armenia. Following his fellowship he founded Breadpig, Inc., an uncorporation that’s responsible for bringing geeky things into the world like LOLmagnetz and xkcd: volume 0 — and donating all the profits. He’s also currently Principal, Marketing at Hipmunk.







Startup Weekend Becomes an Affiliate of the Kauffman Foundation

Kauffman partnership will enable Startup Weekend to scale and expand initiatives that empower entrepreneurs

The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation today announced that Startup Weekend, a global series of events for entrepreneurs, aspiring founders and startup supporters, is now an affiliate of the Foundation. While Startup Weekend will continue to operate autonomously, becoming a Kauffman affiliate will allow the organization to increase its geographical reach, conduct more frequent events, and build long-term sustainability. Startup Weekend events bring entrepreneurs and supporters together and teaches them how to share ideas, form teams, build products and launch companies, all during a 54-hour crash-course weekend.

“Startup Weekend has had phenomenal growth and impact, but as a Kauffman affiliate, we will now be able to scale that progress and expand our capabilities,” said Marc Nager, CEO of Startup Weekend.

Startup Weekend provides experiential entrepreneurial education and helps build communities, both of which are aligned with the Foundation’s mission to advance entrepreneurship. Startup Weekend also complements the array of programs that Kauffman is associated with in the entrepreneur ecosystem – from inspiration and startup through growth and scale.

“We are pleased to bring Startup Weekend even closer inside the Kauffman Foundation family,” said Nick Seguin, Kauffman’s manager of entrepreneurship. “The support and services we are able to provide through this relationship will serve to strengthen the operational base of one of the most effective grassroots entrepreneurship initiatives in the world.”

In September of this year Startup Weekend named its board of directors consisting of these entrepreneurship leaders: Carl Schramm, president and CEO of the Kauffman Foundation; Steve Blank, serial entrepreneur, author and entrepreneurship lecturer at U.C. Berkeley and Stanford University; Eric Koester, chief operating officer of Zaarly; Greg Gottesman, managing director at Madrona Venture Group; Brad Feld, co-founder of Techstars and managing director of the Foundry Group; Laura McKnight, president and CEO of the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation; and Nick Seguin, manager of entrepreneurship at the Kauffman Foundation.

For more information about Startup Weekend, to get involved or to contribute to ongoing initiatives, visit www.startupweekend.org.

About Startup Weekend

Startup Weekend supports the development and expansion of entrepreneurship through events worldwide that educate aspiring entrepreneurs by immersing them in the process of moving an idea to market. Startup Weekend has built a network of more than 25,000 alumni, 150 volunteer organizers and 60 trained facilitators spread across more than 175 cities in 100 countries. Startup Weekend: How to Take a Company from Concept to Creation in 54 Hours, a new book by Startup Weekend’s Marc Nager, Clint Nelsen and Franck Nouyrigat, will be published by Wiley and available at all retailers in November 2011. For more information, visit www.startupweekend.org. @StartupWeekend

About the Kauffman Foundation
The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation is a private, nonpartisan foundation that works with partners to advance entrepreneurship in America and improve the education of children and youth. Founded by late entrepreneur and philanthropist Ewing Marion Kauffman, the Foundation is based in Kansas City, Mo. For more information, visit www.kauffman.org, and follow the Foundation on www.twitter.com/kauffmanfdn and www.facebook.com/kauffmanfdn.

 









It's Monday Morning, Now What? Startup Weekend Launches "SW Next"

This article was originally published by John Cook on GeekWire on November 1, 2011.

Startup Weekend has already given thousands of developers, geeks and other tech professionals a taste of what it’s like to start a company.

But, sometimes, you just can’t cram everything into a 54-hour coding marathon.

In order to address those needs, the Kauffman Foundation-backed non-profit is experimenting with a new program in Seattle called SW Next.

Designed for past Startup Weekend attendees, the program provides budding entrepreneurs with additional training and insights into how to turn ideas into reality.

“Consider it like a pre-accelerator, really,” explains Startup Weekend’s Marc Nager.

Unlike Techstars or Y Combinator, however, SW Next will not take an equity stake in the companies that emerge from the program.

“The goal is to create more capable teams by expanding our experiential approach into a longer, more formal program,” Nager tells GeekWire. “People always ask: ‘what’s next?’ We finally have a good answer.”

SW Next will start in Seattle as a pilot program later this month, with plans to go global if it proves successful. It’s designed for those who are thinking about taking the full entrepreneurial leap after Startup Weekend.

Spread over two weekends and three weekday evenings, the program is being touted as an “action based MBA.”  Cost is $289, with applications due by November 11th.

Startup Weekend is limiting the first class to 20 entrepreneurs, said Jennifer Cabala, who is organizing the event.

Other programs like The Founder Institute and Techstars also offer this type of startup bootcamp, but they tend to be longer time frames. At SW Next, attendees will learn the ins and outs of startup legal issues, company formation, team management and other critical elements necessary for building startups.








Startup Weekend Organizers: Things You Should Know Before Planning an Event

This article was written by Startup Weekend Seattle EDU organizer Joey Aquino on his blog.

Well, it has finally been a week after the Startup Weekend SEA EDU that I organized and I believe I am almost fully recovered (written after taking a 2.5 hr nap in the middle of the day). There were many things I took away from the weekend and one thing I wanted to write about were things I think every new Startup Weekend organizer should know before they plan their event. I have broken this down into 3 sections (before, during and after event).

Participate in a Startup Weekend before you plan one
The reason I say this is so you can really envision how every element of your event will be done. The Startup Weekend team is amazing, but note that they are also helping people with their events all around the world. I had the luxury of being able to walk over to their office and to set up coffee meetings with Startup Weekend team members so I could really get an idea of how things are done. I had not participated in one and it added a lot of additional stress on my shoulders because I couldn’t truly envision how things were going to work out. Now that I have fully been through one, I could have spent far less time trying to learn about what Startup Weekend actually was, and more on organizing an amazing event.

Realistically figure out how much time you can dedicate towards creating this event.
Planning Startup Weekend EDU almost turned into my full time job (on top of my actual full time job at TeachStreet). To make this event successful, it takes many more hours and resources than you expect. Figure out ahead of time if dedicating a solid 3 months time is in your/your companies best benefit.

Get a team (at least more than 3)
We planned this event with 3 people from TeachStreetDaveJoseph and I pulled it off but it’s definitely not ideal. There are so many elements to making your event successful (from managing budget, to marketing, to managing volunteers/mentors/speakers, etc.), and being able to delegate will definitely leave you to be sane after your event.

Planning

1. The Master Planning Guide and Wiki Startup Weekend provides is fairly detailed and can give you a good starting point.
– note some of the templates are out of date (i.e. budget template includes expenses like supplies which now Amazon actually provides for every Startup Weekend [markers, big note pads, sticky notes, etc.])

2. Securing a venue/date quickly crucial.

Things to ask venue:
– Do they have catering contracts?
Some venues have specific catering contracts where if any event is held in their space they have binding contracts that they have to use specific caterers. Make sure you are not locked into a venues caterer who may be far too expensive for your budget if this is the case.

– What is the parking situation for expected number of guests?

– What are the open hours? Is there extended hours?
We ran into a situation where the University of Washington’s Paccar Hall locked their doors to the public after 6pm and if their doors were open for longer than 60sec after 6pm the security alarm would go off. Find out if any weird things like this go on with your venue.

– If you do plan to serve alcohol, check to see if you need a banquet permit to serve alcohol in your venue. We had to apply through our venue (University of Washington) and purchase the permit at a liquor store for $10.

3. Out of all events, why will people come to mine?
The way TeachStreet approached this was a top down approach. First we wanted to lock in big name keynote speakers (Mitch Kapor, Vinod Khosla and Michael Arrington). From this we were able to pitch to mentors that we have these big names locked in and it would be great to add you to this amazing event (note that mentors are constantly asked to help out with events like this, being able to say a big name will be there is a lure to get them involved). From there once you have pooled big name keynotes and mentors, potential attendees will see the “Who’s-Who” and get excited want to be a part of it. At the same time, press and sponsors will jump on board very quickly to be apart of such a big event. This was just how we approached this question, but make sure you develop a strategic plan for maximizing attendance at your event.

*NOTE: We had 25 mentors which is a TON. If you want a big number of mentors to come out, make sure you have a good system to facilitate their involvement at the event. Teams do need a good amount of time to actually build and constantly being interrupted by mentors, though insightful, is very counterproductive. What we did was create a sign-in chart for when mentors would be arriving and have teams sign up for hour slots with mentors. Each mentor can then work with 3-4 teams, not necessarily all of them.(Note on the sign-up chart, do it on a computer. It’s surprising how bad people can write.) Also, have a back up plan in case mentors do not show up.

About the Startup Weekend Team

1. Startup Weekend doesn’t manage you, it’s fully driven by yourself
I thought Startup Weekend would have had more of a hand in actually prepping, planning and executing our event. The truth is, once they find an organizer it’s solely up to you. Startup Weekend provides a “Master Planning doc” that gives you templates for project management and a wiki to help give some guidance, but other than that, thats about it. I was in Hawaii the week of the Startup Weekend HNL event and the lead organizer had similar concerns about the lack of involvement Startup Weekend had in their event. She was looking for more ideas that would help make her event successful (i.e. successful promotional ideas done in the past, ways to bring more excitement during the weekend, etc.) and was unsure what the role of the “facilitator” was. Which leads to my next point…

 2. Startup Weekend Facilitators role is mostly limited to just the weekend (I was very fortunate ;) )
Going into the weekend I wasn’t quite clear what the “Facilitators” role was suppose to be for my event. Finally when I met with Adam (our rockstar facilitator and COO of Startup Weekend), he helped me realize that the facilitators role is exactly what it’s title is, just to “facilitate” the event, but usually nothing more. The facilitator will be the main point of reference and explain how the event will be run (between breaking down what the weekend entails to managing the pitching process). Limit your expectations of the “Facilitators” role to just speaking points Friday and Sunday evening, nothing more. You and your team run the show and call the shots.

Also, most facilitators are actually previous Startup Weekend organizers flown in from around the country. Once you organize an event, you are eligible to become a facilitator for other Startup Weekend events around the world. So note that facilitators are not necessary people who work for Startup Weekend full time.

3. Startup Weekend manages all your finances
This may be a little inconvenient at times if you are not wanting to front all costs for your event. You can work with Startup Weekend to have them cut checks to you but if this is the case you NEED to plan in advance. Ashley (financial manager at Startup Weekend) is an ABSOLUTE ROCKSTAR but take into consideration if you need checks cut to you by a specific time, you need to give her a quality amount of time in advance to be able to get the money to you, especially if you are out of the country. My advice, find people to front costs and have Startup Weekend reimburse you. Otherwise, work with your sponsors to see if they are willing to work directly with vendors for things like meal sponsorships,etc.

4. Startup Weekend worked a deal with AppSumo in the past and gave out a discount code to them that was given out to more people than expected. Because of this, you may see “complimentary” attendees register for your event. (This was something we didn’t know ahead of time)

5. Also, make sure to coordinate with the Startup Weekend team to see if they will be inviting guests to attend the event.
 There were a couple people they invited for free (besides the AppSumo guys) that we weren’t given a heads up on.

Marketing Ideas

1. UserVoice
Part of the success of your event is driven off the quality of ideas that come out of it. One way we started to cultivate ideas was to create aUserVoice discussion board where the community could post their ideas/problems they saw in the education space and the community could write comments and upvote ideas they liked the most. This was a great way to engage the community and to start seeing what type of ideas could be built over the weekend.
From our UserVoice discussion board we had:
– 35 problems submitted
– 257 votes
– 50 comments

2. Pre-event parties
We hosted an event the Thursday night before the weekend to get the party started a little earlier. Attendees and mentors got together atHops N Chops (local Seattle startup event) to start discussions, team formation, idea validation and just have fun (especially because we provided free drinks).

 3. Promotional ideas 
– “Twitter/Facebook share promo”: Like us on Facebook, follow us on twitter and tweet this bitly link (we used “I’m ready to dedicate a weekend to change the world @SWSEAEDU Come with me: 9/30-10/2 http://tch.st/rfw9ZF @Maveron @TeachStreet #edchat”). First 10 people to do so get’s $25 off.

– “Lead sponsor scholarship”:  We decided we would create a sponsorship where 10 lucky people were given a free entrance provided by our lead sponsor if they participated in our viral contest (Check it out here). Create your own scholarship contest and your lead sponsor will love it because it’s an additional way to get their name out to the community in a positive way.

4. Blog at least a few times a week to engage with your community. Just from our blog posts we got over 400 tweets about our event (tweets driven solely from our blog). Check out all of our blog posts here: http://blog.teachstreet.com/swseaedu/
Ideas:
– Pictures of the venue
– Mentors attending
– Speakers attending
– Promotions
– Interviews with attendees on why they plan on coming to this event
– Interviews with other Startup Weekend organizers
– Word from sponsors
– API lists

5. Create a sense of urgency to attend the event
People will always wait until the last minute to purchase tickets to your event so if you can build in senses of urgency for people to purchase tickets as soon as possible, do it.

Things we did:
– Did promotions where ONLY the first 10 people who participated received free entrance to the event
– Showed/announced the limited seating available

During the Event

If you’re an organizer, don’t plan to participate in the event.
I made the mistake of really wanting to participate in the event and organizing it at the same time. It’s time consuming enough just participating in the event, but there are too many tasks that need to be addressed and taken care of if you are the organizer. Luckily our facilitators Adam and Khalid were more than helpful in taking on more than the normal facilitator roles and letting me participate in the event. Don’t plan on that. If you are an organizer, your main responsibility is to attend to your duties and make sure the event goes through smoothly. I can’t thank Adam and Khalid for stepping up and helping!

If your event is in a public place, people will always try to crash the party.
The reason I have this as a concern is because you should be giving the value to paying attendees. It wouldn’t be fair for people to pay $99 to get into this event when someone can just crash last minute and receive all the same benefits (food, mentors, speakers,etc.). Create ways to visually see who’s an attendee and who isn’t. (We actually sectioned off our area and created name badges for all attendees and guests)

Volunteers are awesome!
There are many little things that make an event run smoothly and additional hands are always beneficial (taking out trash, checking teams in, coordinating mentors, food running, status reports on teams, clean up, etc.).The more the merrier, just make sure you are organized and have delegated tasks for each of them ahead of time.

Music helps hype up your event

Alcohol helps break the ice (…if it’s allowed. Kegs aren’t too fond in a university building)

Make sure to have photographers there for you

Cross your t’s and dot your i’s w/ all tech needs

1. Projector set up(if you need adaptors, etc.)

2. Microphones

3. PA systems

4. Live Stream (if you are doing it)

5. Make sure to bring power strips & extension cords

6. *VERY IMPORTANT*: Check to make sure your venue can handle quality wifi internet access with mass amounts of people using the bandwidth at one time. Also check for ethernet capabilities and wifi login’s for all attendees.

After Event

Blog about everything that happened
1. How the event went
2. Results of the weekend

Thank every person involved (from Volunteers to sponsors to people you coordinated with on your venue). 

Get reimbursed for all expenses

Do a follow up a month out to see the progress of teams
Above all, I think the most important thing that comes out of Startup Weekends is the feeling of camaraderie and brotherhood within the community. It’s weird when you spend almost the entire weekend with a group of people who all have the passion to achieve this crazy goal of launching a startup in 54 hours. You get to share this experience and develop a bond with them. Fostering that feeling in your community is probably the most beneficial thing you can do as an organizer. Plan a follow up event a month out and invite all attendees and mentors to get status updates on if teams have moved forward with their projects and keep that bond strong.

This post is solely from my experience as a Startup Weekend organizer and would love to continue to update this more and more to make a great resource for all new organizers. If you have any other things you think all new Startup Weekend organizers should know before planning their event, please comment and share your experiences.

 








SW Alum LaunchValet helps startups find and connect with beta users

LaunchValet.com – The One Stop Shop for Startups

Startup companies waste a lot of time and money on things other than their product, such as launch
pages, finding and connecting with their beta users, and getting feedback from their beta users.
LaunchValet’s focus is to quickly give startups everything they need, except their actual product.

Launch Valet is a group of Startup Weekend Chandler AZ Alumni that met while working on different
projects (Ben Hall – Developer, Craig Lewis & Mark Hobson Jr. – Marketing & Business) Craig & Mark
had an “AHA” moment when trying to create a beta invite page for their product Eintro (one of the
advancing concepts at SW Chandler) to capture user interaction and contact information. They then
reach out to Ben to see if he’d be interested in helping companies like Eintro that had the ideas but
couldn’t really do the simple stuff like set up a launch page or virally invite testers and users. Ben
immediately gravitated to the concept. LaunchValet was born!

LaunchValet is a lean startup that we built and launched in 2 weeks. The LV team was excited and
raring to go, so they decided to attend two Startup Weekends in the same weekend, San Francisco and
Chicago, and started spreading the word about LaunchValet! We will be at SW Baton Rouge as well.

LaunchValet has just achieved “Beta” status and we are making it available to Startup Weekend
attendees for free to use, abuse and give us feedback.

There is a lot of work left to be done, and as Startup Weekend Alums we can appreciate all the hard
work every attendee is putting into their projects – and we’re no exception! We are passionate about
the participation and success of Startup Weekend and all the attendees. Our goal is to save the
attendees time, don’t worry about the Launch page, its easy to set up with LV, quickly invite testers
and users from anywhere with a custom invite page, and get immediate feedback and general market
research on your idea with our easy to use Survey template

Focus on your projects and let LaunchValet handle the invite & launch page for free. Be a part of the
startup up and launch community, sign up with Launch Valet today to win a chance to tell your startup/
launch story! www.LaunchValet.com

 

Cheers,

Ben, Craig & Mark
LaunchValet

 








10 Lessons Learned at Startup Weekend Taipei

This article was originally published by Adarsh Menon on WinningStackBlog.

In August, I attended Startup Weekend Taipei.  If you’re not familiar with what a Startup Weekend is, it is a weekend event that attracts developers, designers, marketers and anyone with an idea.  They get together to form a team, develop an idea over two days, then pitch it in front of judges for a prize on the final evening.

Friday:  

The event was sold out and had attracted around 120 attendees.  Each attendee wore a name tag with a dot to identify their skill set.  Mine was red, signifying “Business / Marketing”.  The joke going around was that these were the people with no specific skills.

I had come in with several ideas of my own, and was toying with which one was the best for this event.  To date, all my projects have been developed on my own, through outsourcing.  This was the first time that I would be able to form my own team and manage everyone from the same room.  I was looking forward to the process, experience, and the contacts I hoped to make along the way.  For most people, the networking is their biggest gain from this event, and I too expected to gain from that.

The pitch I ended up doing was an app (web and mobile) to help users search for food items they were craving, and find restaurants nearby that served them.  There was a long line-up of about 30 people waiting to present, and I was in the middle of the pack.  I didn’t want my pitch to get lost in the shuffle, and wanted a way to stand out so people would remember it.

I noticed that most pitches were done in Chinese, since the event was held in Taiwan.  I thought about doing my pitch in Chinese as well, but then decided to do it in English.  I figured that I wanted the members of my team to be able to speak English, so doing the pitch in English would eliminate non English speakers from joining.  It would also make my pitch stand out among English only speakers.

Lesson 1: You don’t always need to target the biggest market.  It can sometimes be better to be a big fish in a small pond, than a small fish in a big pond.

Rather than just describing the problem that I hoped to solve with my product, I told a story of how my pregnant wife always had cravings for particular foods (true story!).  For example, she might suddenly want a Kung Pao chicken (宮保雞丁) and would send me out on my scooter to find this food.  I talked about how frustrating it was to not know which restaurants served those particular foods, without being able to see their menu first.

After the pitches were completed, attendees got to vote on which ideas they wanted to see continue.  The top 15 ideas were then selected.  Many people came up to me and recognized my pitch among the rest.  “You’re the one with the pregnant wife”.

Lesson 2: Use stories where possible.  People remember stories.

As our team was forming, I realized that we needed the right match of skills.  We had three coders, a mobile and a marketing person.  I was informed that we needed a designer.  I sent one of the members out to recruit a designer.  He did well, and returned with one shortly.  Our team was complete.

Lesson 3: Form a team with skills that complement each other well.  Your idea is only as good as the team that surrounds it.

Our mission that evening was to come up with a team name.  This was tough for us, because our target market was local Taiwanese, so traditional English names wouldn’t necessarily work with them.  We ran through several combinations.

Foodjing Logo

We found some that we really liked, that were promptly rejected by the local Taiwanese members of our team as not being “local friendly”.  Eventually we settled on Food Jing, a play on the word 附近 in Chinese which means “nearby”.

Lesson 4: Choose a name that resonates with the market being served.

Saturday:

The coding team, led by Dobes and Greg spent all day developing the front and back-end of the product, working in tandem with our talented designer,Quaint.  Will worked on the mobile aspect.  In the mean time, Hao who had previously claimed to have “no relevant experience” was one of the hardest workers on the team – developing a comprehensive customer survey, and then interviewing a lot of people to get feedback on the problem we were trying to solve.  Later, he would visit twenty restaurants (the Taipei rains didn’t help his cause) to get feedback from owners there as well.

Lesson 5: There are no small roles.  Every member of your team can contribute somehow.

During the day, several mentors who had been assigned to assist teams, came to visit us to monitor progress.  They asked questions about our business model and there were several that I couldn’t answer.  After each visit, I found myself redoing parts of the plan to address the raised issue.  It seemed that just when we thought we had thought of everything, someone new would point out something we had overlooked.

Lesson 6: You can’t see the forest for the trees. When you are truly invested in a project, it is easy to get too focused on the details.  Outside opinions can be extremely valuable at these times.  If they don’t get it, there’s probably a problem to be fixed.

By the end of the day, we had made good progress, but there was still something missing.  Our Facebook fan page hadn’t gotten the traction we had hoped it would get. (We would later find out that we had accidentally restricted it to fans in Taiwan only, which blocked a lot of fans from getting through – oops!).   So we needed something to get us back some momentum.

As part of the marketing team, I noticed that the word foodjing could be used in many creative ways.  So I found a freelancer online to create a parody video of “Killing Me Softly” by the Fugees.  We would later release it as being by the Food Jies.  Fans loved it, and it helped market our brand as being a little zany and over the top.

Lesson 7: Problems and challenges will arise in any venture.  It’s how you overcome and rise from them that determines your future success.

Sunday:

The final day was spent completing the demo and working on our presentation.  I decided to build on the momentum we had from the previous day, by ordering tshirts with our logo, for our team to wear on stage.  This proved extremely difficult to get done in a single day (on a Sunday no less).  Once again, Hao came to the rescue, running across town from vendor to vendor until he found one who could print just one for us.  We took it!

During the practice presentations, I had worked to overcome all the questions that the mentors had given me the previous day.  I invited more to grill me further.  Mark Koester recalled a stunt that hisstartup team performed during their final presentation.  They had ordered a hot dog during the demo, that was later delivered on stage.  We decided to do the same thing in ours by ordering a taco during our demo.

Lesson 8: Find ways to make your presentations different from the rest of the pack, so it will be noticed by the judges and audience.

One of the visitors who gave us advice, would later turn out to be one of our judges.  He asked me about where our revenue would come from.  I told him that while Taiwan had a lot of smaller, mom and pop restaurants, we planned to focus on the larger restaurants that could afford to use our services.  He frowned and commented that if it was him, he would be focusing on those smaller restaurants, rather than the bigger ones, since that’s where the real opportunity was.

I thought about his comment a lot and realized it made sense.  I refocused our presentation to emhasize the smaller restaurants and the long tail of food.  This also further differentiated our product from competing ones on the market.

Lesson 9: The mentors are provided for a reason.  Listen to their advice and follow it!

It was presentation time.  Pandey started us off with massive enthusiasm.  During the demo, he showed how a taco could be ordered.  During my half of the presentation, the taco was delivered on stage to a thunderous ovation.  I wore our branded tshirt underneath, and revealed it during the presentation, which also drew applause.  Finally it was down to the judge’s questions.  Practice makes perfect.  No surprise questions there, so no problem with the answers.  The crowd seemed to like the extra touches we had prepared.

Lesson 10: Have fun with it.  People like to deal with happy people.

FoodJing Team

Judging from the responses, I suspected we had a chance at a top three finish.

As the second and third place winners were first revealed, I wondered if coming in first place was possible.  Out of the corner of my eye, I thought I noticed Sascha Pallenberg aim his camera phone at me, as if expecting to see us win.  Sure enough, we were announced as the winners and pandemonium ensued on our team.  All the work we had put in had paid off, and we had come away as winners!

Later, I had a chance to mingle with the judges to ask what specifically they had liked about our team.  The feedback given included having a clear message of the product we were trying to sell, as well as execution of this idea.  Business cards were exchanged.  New relationships were formed.