← Techstars Blog

In every Startup Weekend, design and build demos are key to show the execution skill of the teams. As facilitator, I always recommend participants to use paper sketching before coding or creating fancy mock-ups. It is simple and can be changed easily with every pivot on your MVP during the validation process. However, the only drawback of this technique is that you need to create manually every element an app requires, such as buttons, screens or frames.

To accelerate this process, we proposed the participants to use the AppMaker during the Startup Weekend Lyon (IoT Makers) in France. AppMaker is a tool developed by nod-A (partner of the event) to design an app following a set of instructions inspired from the lean startup approach. Thus, it is possible to create awesome physical mock-ups with magnets.


How does it work?

AppMaker is focused on the end-user experience through UX design. To do so, you will have to think about the user’s journey through the app (La Conception). Then, you will be able to build a mock-up with a sequence of physical screens and magnets.


During the first step “La Conception”, you will need to define the app specifications, such as the value proposition, the functionalities, the data to exploit, the user context and segmentation. Then, you will need to define the “user persona” (i.e. personal/professional Background and environment) and the scenario of this person using your app. Thus, you will be able to define the tree structure of your app and select the main features for your first MVP. Finally, you will be able to build your mock-up with your team using all the available elements, such as screens, menus, pop-ups, icons, buttons, content or draw the missing elements:


Hands-on the AppMaker

Let’s imagine that you want to build an app to increase the interactions between participants and coaches during the Startup Weekend. To do so, we will use the Swapcard framework (partner of the event). In this app, only the participants of the Startup Weekend have access to the attendees list, the program of the event, the coaches list, the startups of the event and other social elements, such as the f6s link to register or our facebook page.

When attendees access to the app, they can complete their profile with their skills, bio and network. Then, the attendees list will be updated with all the information and with the filters we can find the participants according to their sector, profile or network. This feature can be used for different reasons during the weekend:

    • Find specific profiles (design, dev or biz dev) to complete their team
    • Have knowledge of other participants’ network. Thus, they can contact them quickly to ask an introduction with a lead customer for their project and do the validation.
    • Schedule a time slot with the coaches
    • Contact organizers

When attendees want to connect with coaches, they have to go to the list of coaches and then, use the filters according to what they need: lean startup, pitch, finances, … Then, once they found a coach of interest, they can see his profile and ask to connect with his available slots.

You keep doing the same process for all the features until you have a mock-up for the main functionalities of your app. Thus, it will be faster and easier to develop the final app with the UI you prefer and the jury will be happy to see a real demo:

At the end, the mock-up took me around 1h and the final app took me less than 2h (using an existing platform), which is a pretty good timing for a Startup Weekend 😉

You can see the final demo of Swapcard here:

About [nod-A] Makestorming

Makestorming tools are based on a gaming approach that gives your team a new and more fun way to work. They have designed a complete step-by-step workflow with proven success that fits in a box, helping you organize collaborative working sessions to unleash winning ideas in record time—without the help of a professional trainer. It is possible to use the tools as many times as you want on multiple projects to generate ideas, prototype them and take them a step further.



Arturo Guizar Arturo Guizar
(@ArturoMJGuizar) PhD in Telecommunications, I am passionate about entrepreneurship, science and innovation with technologies associated with IoT and AI.