Now that you’re interested, you may not be completely sure how you got here or what on earth Startup Weekend really is. First things first:
a) You got to reading here so that means you have an inquisitive mind which makes you perfect for Startup Weekend (…”Yes…Yes I know that but i still don’t know what the hell Startup Weekend is!”)
b) Once you find out there’s no turning back so don’t say we didn’t warn you!
So here is the deal. On this planet with millions of bright people with brilliant minds, great ideas often don’t get heard and remain what they are—figments of the mind. Young inspiring entrepreneurs constantly plan this and that but never seem to actually get anything done. Why? Because they don’t realize that deadlines, at least in the world of entrepreneurship, are our friends. Setting deadlines is the shove that many entrepreneurs need to get things done. And (cue the music) that is where Startup Weekend enters (stage right). Startup Weekend is as real and in your face as it gets; you say you have an awesome idea? You think you can change the face of the world? Great you now have 54 hours to get it done…and the clock is ticking!
See Startup Weekend has produced more than a few of these little get-togethers (over 115 actually) and every time we are blown away with how much teams can actually get it done.
Oh, did someone say teams? Yeah, I might have skipped over that part too. Besides setting deadlines Startup Weekend helps you do something else – form a team. The vibe and energy around Startup Weekend inspires all kinds of creative and dynamic people to come out for a whole lot of reasons and before you know it, you suddenly have access to the most diverse and dynamic amalgamation of people you may ever hope to meet. And all that under the roof of LUMS with (wait for it) free food! Yes we appreciate your coming here to brainstorm with us that much!
So what do you think? Are you ready to dust off that idea and see where it might take you?
Silicon Valley, the “mecca” of technology, is known for producing young technology entrepreneurs who have great risk-taking ability and drive to succeed. Given the right amount of resources and guidance, any one can come up with an entrepreneurial idea, pitch it to the investors, obtain seed funding and get the business going. One such successful group of people headed by Ali Rehan launched a mobile-imaging app called “Groopic” that allows people to stitch together the photographs that they take so that the photographer is never left out of the shot. The blog team of Start-up Weekend sat down with Ali Rehan, who initially pitched his idea of Groopic at a former Start-Up Weekend, and talked to him about his app and other fascinating things that he is presently doing.
Faraz Ahmed (FA): So, how did you come up with this idea of Groopic?
Ali Rehan (AR): We, the team of 5 people, were sitting in the Vision Lab one day. Basically, all of us have a penchant to talk about the “cool” and innovative things that can be done in the field of technology so we often talked about vision apps with augmented-reality dimension to them. By augmented-reality, I mean to refer to apps that use mobile interface to copy a real-world environment (that includes objects, information etc.). We would see people in the IT industry in Pakistan making all sorts of apps but augmented-reality apps, so keeping this in mind, I think we were not too far in creating a product like Groopic.
FA: Great. I am familiar with some of the Android-based apps that let you take photos using its dual-shot features through the front-camera. How is Groopic different from them?
AR: Dual-shot was introduced in S4 by Samsung last year. That feature, trust me, is a goofy way of including the photographer in the picture. The app, in most aspects, functions differently than Groopic.
FA: You used to charge for the usage of your product. Now that you have made Groopic free to use, has your customer base widened?
AR: Yes, it’s “freemium” now. The number of customers downloading and using our product has certainly increased. Since the day we made it free, we have observed about 50,000 downloads per day in contrast to a much less number of downloads when it was sold in the App and Android Stores for $1.99 a while back.
Given the statistics, we have also observed that the biggest market for Groopic is China and the USA. We are elated, yet surprised!
FA: That’s impressive! I know Groopic was also selected for a two-week Google Entrepreneurs-backed Sillicon Valley immersion program called BlackBox Connect Summer 2013. What did you make of the program and the experience?
AR: The experience was really amazing. For me, it was game-changing. Basically, you have a different mind-set when you work in Pakistan. You generally don’t tend to think “BIG” or take risks, given the environment in which you live. But coming back to Pakistan after taking part in this program, I was able to look at things and my work in a different perspective.
In Silicon Valley, we were living in a small house with 8 other teams from around the world who were selected for the same program. We got a chance to meet with and learn from some of the most successful and renowned entrepreneurs such as Chade Hurley and Steve Chen (founders of YouTube), Jack Dorsey (founder, Square) etc. It was an experience of a life-time!
FA: I am fascinated! So, you guys started your own venture Eyedeus Labs after launching Groopic. Could you tell me what are some of the current and upcoming projects you have been working on?
AR: We have launched a car-racing game that allows users to move the cars by tilting their heads. This game uses kinetic technology. We are also working on another product. It has to do with videos. We love it, and I hope, once it’s released, you guys will like it too!
FA: Thank you for your time, Ali. Last question: What do you think is the main challenged faced by young tech entrepreneurs who want to start up their own businesses today?
AR: Fortunately, things in the field of IT are becoming better. The interesting thing is that people are “talking” about these things and doing experiments to come up with new products and gadgets. However, I still feel to a great extent that we lack in the ability to take risks. Many start-ups fail initially, and if young entrepreneurs of this country cannot handle that fact, then they would not try to experiment.
More importantly, I also feel that students need to orient more towards arts, literature and culture these days. Students at LUMS should take advantage of courses in humanities as they allow you to think critically and argue effectively. My experience in humanities courses during my time at LUMS helped me immensely in building my analytical skills. Such skills are crucial in and favored by every field in Pakistan, be it Information Technology, Science, Business or Government. So, go beyond your comfort zones, take risks, innovate and help the people around you!
FA: Thanks for your time, Ali!
So Startup Weekend Lahore is just around the corner and if you aren’t excited yet this post will definitely get you all revved up and ready to make it big this weekend.
Getting Ready for Startup Weekend
Step One: Refine your Pitch – You may have had a certain idea in your mind for weeks or even years but you need to know that everybody present at Startup Weekend will be hearing it for the first time so make sure it is clear, direct, precise and specific. Don’t be afraid to practice pitching your idea.
Step Two: Get Competitive – At the end of the day Startup Weekend is a competition. The judges will be presented with numerous ideas out of which they’ll choose a winner on Sunday. So no matter how great your idea is make sure you tweak and streamline it in order to fit a business model. You need to clearly identify your customers, figure out the technical execution of your idea and design it in a way that would help it emerge as a winner.
Step Three: Be Prepared – Startup Weekend is a marathon. Make sure your body is prepared for the hours of non-stop work, thinking, learning and brainstorming. You will be working for long hours with a lack of sleep.
Well that’s the whole point! Startup Weekend aims to encourage you to embrace uncertainty. You may have a big idea for a startup but you may not be sure how to get it there. The thing with ideas is that there isn’t usually a well defined path leading to success. This is where Startup Weekend comes in. It accelerates the entire idea formulation and idea testing process to give you concrete and dependable results over the course of a weekend. Startup Weekend aims towards validating your vague brainchild into something that is actionable, real and attainable.
6 Startup Quotes to Start You Up:
Startup Weekend: What can you do in 54 hours?
What is it about?
Coming up with your own startup business over a weekend
Where did it all start?
The first startup weekend took place in Boulder, Colorado in 2007. The primary aim of the event was to brainstorm and create a single business idea and drive it to possible fruition, all over the course of a weekend. By 2009, the Startup Weekend had organized various events in USA and Canada. After receiving a grant from the Kauffman Foundation, the largest organization for entrepreneurship in the world, it expanded globally. Startup weekend was listed in Forbes Magazine as a “Name You Need to Know In 2011”.
Why attend Startup Weekend?
- Not just learn from others but build your own business idea and test it as you go
- Actually launch the business idea you come up with. According to startup.org, over 36% of Startup Weekend startups are still going strong after 3 months. Roughly 80% of participants plan on continuing working with their team or startup after the weekend.
- Co-founder dating: Find that perfect match who you could actually start a business with
- Network with thought leaders: Various notable people participate in Startup Weekend as coaches and mentors. Use this opportunity to build lasting relationships and gain valuable firsthand knowledge from these individuals.
- Step out of your comfort zone and achieve the extraordinary in such a small time frame.
- Become a part of a global phenomenon and join hands with thousands on a mission to change the world in a weekend.
So, what can you really do in 54 hours?
Well that’s for you to decide. What we propose is: “no talk, all action”. And for a little inspiration, let us tell you about the Group Photo App, Groopic that was one of the winners of SW 2012. The idea then grabbed attention of a local government incubator and later got prominent coverage on international media including CNN and TechCrunch.
There’s only three days to go until Start Up Weekend begins and we’re sure that you’re all making the most of these last few days by making you’re completely prepared and getting excited for the big event. However, as the 27th March comes closer and closer the thought of having to come up with and present a completely new and innovative idea may seem more scary and daunting than fun.
Well I’m here to tell you that it’s okay! It’s perfectly normal to feel worried about whether your idea is good enough or standing in front of your competitors and judges to present your ideas. This is not something you do every day and so the new experience will cause your palms to sweat and your knees to buckle with all the overthinking and nervousness. But that’s what it is- an experience. One of the greatest things you will learn during Start Up Weekend is the ability to feel confident about yourself and all that you can offer. Here are some tips on how to feel more confident during the event;
- Think Positively.
If you’re constantly stuck in the rut of thinking that you won’t win or how your idea isn’t good enough, you’ll end up not being as confident as you could be if you’re more optimistic instead. It will also definitely show when you’re up on stage sharing your ideas with everyone else. To truly believe that you have what it takes you need to start the habit of seeing everything you do in a more positive light. This will increase your self-esteem and will have an effect on your confidence as a result.
2. Be Organized
Although you have time before the event to think and plan and prepare for the idea you want to pitch during Start Up, you will only have 54 hours to really get in the nitty gritty details of what you want to bring as an individual or team and finalize your idea for the event. For this, it is very important to know what work needs to be done when, what you will need to achieve the goals you have set yourself and so forth, and so to be organized is very important. The more organized you are, the more confident you will be about getting your work done on time and performing well during Start Up.
The scariest thing about Start Up for most is having to pitch your/your team’s idea to the rest of the audience and judges at the end of the event. Yes it will be terrifying for many, but it’s not as bad as it may initially seem. One thing to boost your confidence, which many underestimate, is practice. Write a speech and practice it in front of your friends or team, speak in front of the mirror, picture yourself on stage in your mind; continue to practice how you will be pitching your idea in whatever way you find fit. As ridiculous as you may feel at the time, it will greatly benefit you in the end.
Regardless of how scared, shy or anxious you may feel, don’t forget to smile. Smiling and laughing releases endorphins called serotonin in your body, causing you to feel happier. Not only will this make you feel more relaxed and at ease, but you’ll stand out among the crowd because you’ll look more confident on the outside as well as inside. After all, Start Up Weekend is an event to enjoy, so have fun!
Ever wondered what will distinguish the companies this weekend? Jason Cohen, founder of WP Engine & Smart Bear Software, gives you a few pointers to get you started and thinking!
Number 1. Sharpen your pitch – achieving such clarity and brevity that any potential customer immediately understands that you’re relevant to their pain and your product could very well solve it, and so that it’s equally apparent to other intelligent people — like the judges or future investors. Your verbal pitch should be under 60 seconds; your home page should entice in three words and explain in under fifty. This is harder than it sounds because it forces you to make strong choices about what you’re building and why and who cares and what they’ll pay for it. It is these choices that are valuable; creating a brief pitch merely forces the issue.
Number 2. If you can, get 5 strangers to give you feedback, if not on a prototype then just an interview. Validate the pain, what’s minimally needed to address the pain, and what they’d pay for it. Even if they don’t agree, even if you change your story each time, you’ll learn what’s critical and what you still need to resolve. A concept validated by five people is far more valuable than a working application that no one has critiqued.
Number 3. Construct a plausible business model. Not a business plan, but rather a simple spreadsheet with pricing model, how money flows in and out during normal operation, customer acquisition cost, and therefore how many customers you’ll need to break even on operating costs, and how many more to break even including human costs. It’s surprisingly difficult to build a company where revenues outweigh costs of marketing, salaries, and operations, even at scale. If you prove yours can work, you’re already ahead of the group.
And lastly, number 4. Produce evidence of potential customers already looking for a solution to this problem (e.g. complaining on Twitter, asking on forums, musing on blogs, paying too much money for crappy alternatives). Too many companies build cool tools which no one particular wants. Evidence of searching and asking demonstrates not only need but suggests a way to reach those people.
If I were to categorize a certain individual as having entrepreneurial potential, he would have one of the following ambitions: to introduce life-changing products to the world, to bring international markets closer through the success of his ideas, to inspire change through his discoveries and lastly but most commonly, to gain massive shares of market revenue along with achieving gargantuan fame!
Yes indeed, the ambitions of an entrepreneur are the amalgamation of both selfish and zealous facets! Are they commonly found? Yes. Then why do some individuals undertake the path of the tycoon while others do not? The reason is simple and is rooted in individual pride and personal selfishness; those who are more confident in their abilities, are willing to accept their desire for achievement and their drive for success, are the differentiated ones. This thin line between entrepreneurs and non-entrepreneurs is drawn on the simple basis of RESILIENCE: resilience in determination, initiative and deed. This characteristic although ordinarily is very common to be found, is found in amounts too small for quantum. This is the ‘X-factor’ which determines who the true entrepreneurs are, for those who dare to dream need to push forward in their resolve in order to achieve. This is beautifully expressed in the proceeding words of sage advice, provided by Sarah Ban Breathnach:
“The world needs dreamers and the world needs doers.
But above all, the world needs dreamers who do. “
And the aforementioned are basically what entrepreneurs are; individuals who acknowledge their thirst-filled desires and channel them to produce economic and social benefit, for one (himself) and also for all (the entire world)-they are dreamers who do.
What then succeeds this foundational factor? Creativity translating into VISION is what does. As rare as one believes this characteristic to be, it is realistically not. All humans use a 100% part of their brain (contrary to popular belief, this is a scientifically proven fact), and hence each one possess the potential to innovate. The only obstacle that stands in his way is of faith in his own person, confidence in his beliefs and surety of his success. Once one overcomes this fear of faith, can one truly become a successful entrepreneur!
Once again, to reiterate the nature of an entrepreneur: he is one who is willing to stand out, one who accepts his personal strengths and one who wishes the world to know of them. Because I am aware that these qualities are present in most, it would be an act of honor for me to encourage these potential ‘dreamers’ of embarking upon this fruitful journey! Like a warrior on the battlefield, an actor in a theatre and a lion in a jungle, is an entrepreneur in the business realm.