Startup Weekend Stories: Jesse, hacking for good

Startup Weekend Stories: Memories, reflections and lessons learned from Startup Weekend events in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, Iowa. 

Today we meet Jesse Lane, a corporate employee who started showing up at events like open coffee longing for a side hustle. Two Startup Weekends later, he’s participated in multiple initiatives that mix social good with technology, and found the perfect project in Agropolis, an indoor farming service. He writes: “I hoped that I’d come out of the other side with a decent idea to keep working on and maybe a few people to work on it with me.” Members of the team are still working on the idea.

The Agropolis team at Startup Weekend Iowa City 2014. Team lead Jesse Lane is holidng the plant.
The Agropolis team at Startup Weekend Iowa City 2014. Team lead Jesse Lane is holidng the plant.

What was your involvement (if any) with the local startup community before the weekend?

Before my first one (Cedar Rapids last March), I had been attending the Open Coffee meetups for a few months trying to figure out how to introduce myself since I didn’t have anything in particular I was working on. By my second (Iowa City last October) I was much more involved in the community with 1MC, lunches, etc.

I wasn’t at all sure what to expect the first time so I didn’t have any hopes or goals. For my second weekend I hoped that I’d come out of the other side with a decent idea to keep working on and maybe a few people to work on it with me.

The idea:

My first weekend the idea that was pitched was some app/community/process to address the numerous “zombie” homes around Cedar Rapids left by the flood. By Sunday night we pitched an app we had built that would allow a user to report a home and have it logged to a database. That project kept going for a couple months and then petered out after talks with the city fizzled and the team dispersed.

The second weekend I pitched a vague idea to hack a business model for vertical farming (large-scale indoor farming in skyscrapers). Sunday we pitched a small hydroponic tomato operation to provide year-round tomatoes to local restaurants. Today the idea has morphed into an, as yet undetermined, product to help indoor farmers optimize their operations. We’re called Agropolis and we’re currently going through Venture School to crystallize our idea.

What was the most challenging part of the weekend? What was the most exciting? Were there any unexpected moments?

The most challenging part of the weekend for me is always team dynamics. Both times I worked with large teams which take a while to settle on an idea and then take a bit more management to make it through. I feel that both experiences helped me be a better listener and collaborator.

How has the experience impacted you after the weekend?

I’d say it’s upended my life at the moment! I work a full-time job and have 3 kids and now I’ve thrown Venture School on top of that. If it weren’t for my wonderful fiance there is no way I could manage it all. She’s also recently started her own venture, New Leaf Redevelopment.

Thanks also to:

Dave Tominsky for drawing me into this community through the open coffees, his enthusiasm for entrepreneurship in the Corridor, and cajoling me into applying to Venture School.

You, Sarah, and We Create Here for keeping me up-to-date about my community and organizing community building events.

Finally, all of the friends I’ve made in the entrepreneurial community in the past year or so.

Advice I would give to someone considering attending startup weekend:

Go and pitch! The first time I didn’t pitch an idea (fear of public speaking) and I regretted it. The second time around I practiced and just went for it and it paid off.

Find the next Startup Weekend in Iowa at swia.co!








Consider Startup Weekend an investment in yourself

Startup Weekends are some of my favorite events for entrepreneurial communities. I have been to several throughout Iowa – sometimes in my day job as a journalist, some as a community volunteer, and one (so far!) as a participant. Every time, the energy is amazing.

Pitching at Startup Weekend Cedar Rapids 2014.
Pitching at Startup Weekend Cedar Rapids 2014.

I frequently recommend the experience to others, so I know there can be an element of hesitation. You get 52 precious weekends in a year – why would you want to spend a whole 54 hours with strangers, working hard on a totally unpredictable project?

It’s true that attending Startup Weekend is an investment – to some extent, with money, but to a greater extent, with your time.

But, at the end of the day, it’s an investment you’re making in yourself. It’s a decision to spend time on learning and growing.

It’s a chance to make new friends and expand your network. It’s a chance to stretch yourself professionally or be introduced to a new skill. It’s a chance to introduce that idea that’s been living in the corners of your mind to the rest of the world. It’s a chance to break out of your normal routine and refresh your thinking.

What do you want out of it?

With the mindset that Startup Weekend is an investment in yourself – I’d recommend taking a few moments to think about your hopes and goals for the weekend before attending. You’re putting in the time, what do you hope to get in return?

I went into my weekend as a participant hoping to meet new people, learn something new and be part of a team that built something functional and useful. I was overwhelmed with how great I felt about all of these things by Sunday night.

There are always a few people who don’t come back after Friday night. From what I’ve seen, these tend to be people who only want to work on their idea, so if it doesn’t get picked they have no interest in joining another team. (Personally, I wouldn’t recommend this option.)

Other people might come to Startup Weekend determined to be on the winning team. Or to really start a business (if you can do that with people you just met – more power to you).

Some people just want to build something awesome before returning to their day job on Monday.

All of these goals are perfectly legitimate. They could all also drastically change how a participant feels and acts. Keep your expectations in mind throughout the weekend to shape the experience you want to have.

Read more via We Create Here: Reflections on Startup Weekend Cedar Rapids

Find the next Startup Weekend in Iowa at swia.co!








Test, dream and practice at Startup Weekend

This article was contributed by John Schnipkoweit, CEO and Co-Founder at NextStep.io. His company’s genesis began at a Startup Weekend in Iowa City years ago, before leading to an accelerator backed by Techstars and Nike and then back home to build in Iowa’s Creative Corridor.

John Schnipkoweit of NextStep.io (Photo via 1 Million Cups IC/CR on Facebook)
John Schnipkoweit of NextStep.io (Photo via 1 Million Cups IC/CR on Facebook)

I attended the first startup weekend in Iowa City, only the second in Iowa. Now several happen throughout Iowa each year. I don’t believe that Startup Weekends create more companies – a common misconception, however they do let people experiment – a key part of what you do everyday in a startup. Its important for everyone to practice the process you go through in a Startup Weekend, but only the brave ones actually commit to attending. So my challenge to everyone, is what are you waiting for? Think a Startup Weekend is just for tech geeks? Entrepreneurs? Think again – everyone has a skill that will not only be useful at a Startup Weekend, but will actually be improved as a result of the weekend.

Not convinced yet? Consider these few examples:

Testing tiny

We’ve read and heard about various industries adopting lean methods – and there is a reason for that. It’s that we don’t know, what we don’t know. I bet we all do repetitive tasks everyday that fall into the “its the way its always been done” category. Just think about the impact you could have by taking a step back and testing tiny steps to make that task better? If you change something massive, you may not even come close to success – how do you know what to change/add/build differently, if you don’t test tiny?

Dream Big to be Great

Dream isn’t the right word – but its the closest feeling to what I want people to picture. If you don’t dream and have a goal set that is big, how do you know where you are going? Chances are, you’ll end up exactly where each of your daily tasks takes you – which is generally in a circle. Are you letting good, get in the way of great? I recently learned about Google’s OKR system (Objectives and Key Results), which requires an organization to set big goals. So big, that only 60-70% of them are actually achieved. If you hit all of your goals, that means you didn’t set them high enough, and you never failed. And failure is data, good data.

Practicing How to Make a Difference

We all want to make a difference – but how can one person change the world? I’m sure you’ve heard plenty of “everyone can make a difference” anecdotes before, but when it comes to successful startups, there are always a couple consistent themes – a key one, being with the founders. First, someone has to have the courage to leap and say, “let’s do this.” Second, someone has to be passionate enough to follow that first person. Third, the entire founding “team” must believe. When I say “team” – I mean founders, first employees, significant others, investors, customers and a community. And its not that they believe in the first MVP product, its that they believe in the team to build/test/deploy enough times to find the magic recipe.

Don’t Just Think About It, Do It

Think about these, and how experimenting completely out of context from your daily grind (home, job, family, etc) could benefit you? If its your first Startup Weekend, don’t default to what you are used to doing – can you be the leader? Can you be the passionate worker that inspires a movement? A Startup Weekend is your chance to find out. Everyone learns something different, but I’ll guarantee that you will start to see ways to do things differently and probably end up with some new friends as well.

 

Find the next Startup Weekend in Iowa at swia.co!








Startup Weekend Stories: Lauren, finding community

Startup Weekend Stories: Memories, reflections and lessons learned from Startup Weekend events in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, Iowa. 

Today we meet Lauren Aguilar, a student at the University of Iowa who has been involved with multiple local projects along with her brother, Nico. Sometimes college towns struggle with a disconnect between students and residents, but Startup Weekend helped Lauren cross the divide – she found the community support to keep going. She writes: “We never stopped working on the idea! I’m actually graduating in May and I will be working on SPEEKO full time!”

Startup Weekend Iowa City 2014
Startup Weekend Iowa City 2014

The idea – pitch, please:

Friday night we pitched an “um” counting app. Saturday we added helping people get over the fear of public speaking to our value proposition. Sunday night SPEEKO was pitched and it is an app that records your presentation or speech meanwhile tracking volume, pace, and filler words to give you valuable insights into how you speak in order to make effective improvements.

My brother, Nico Aguilar, and the SPEEKO team went through the summer accelerator of Venture School (a six week program developed at the University of Iowa) and we are still working on this project.

What were your hopes and goals going into the weekend?

I had no idea what I was getting into! I just wanted to meet new people, see what all the hype was really about, and try to learn something out of it.

What was your involvement  with the local startup community before the weekend?

As a finance student at the University of Iowa, I really wasn’t involved in the startup community at all! I got involved with the student incubator through JPEC during my third year, but I had no idea that there was so much more. I remember people talking about events that were going on in the community (like 1 Million Cups and TechBrew) but I never went to them. That’s why I’m so glad I eventually did because the community I’ve discovered has been incredible. 

What was the most challenging part of the weekend? 

The most challenging part of the weekend was just focusing on one idea and sticking to it. When you get a group of creative people together ideas just never stop! It was really exciting to see the evolution of ideas from the Friday night to Sunday night pitches.

Find the next Startup Weekend in Iowa at swia.co!








What if life and business were always this way?

After being part of the winning team at Startup Weekend Cedar Rapids 2014, Josh McNary reflected on the experience on his blog. Now as a Startup Weekend organizer and volunteer in Iowa’s Creative Corridor, Josh shares some of what makes the weekends special. Find the full post on mcnary.me.

Startup Weekend Cedar Rapids 2014.
Startup Weekend Cedar Rapids 2014.

Expectations & Surprises

  • I knew I would be surrounded by amazing people, some of which I knew and others which I wanted to get to know.
  • I expected I would learn from and help others via building a business in 54 hours. No matter the outcome, it was going to be a lot of hard work and fun.
  • I knew we would have a lot of coffee and eat really well.

Superb People

The weekend identified and highlighted great people wanting to further themselves, great ideas, our community, and serve others via their vocations.

New Ideas

Some ideas were better than others, but all of them were new ideas in the eyes of the beholder and forced those attending to think about possibilities.

Endless Energy

Early or late each day, teams were working away, making things happen via coding, calls, and business planning. No matter where you turned something awesome was getting accomplished.

Startup Weekend Cedar Rapids 2014.
Startup Weekend Cedar Rapids 2014.

Closing Momentum

By the time the weekend was wrapping up, the attendees were beginning to get tired and stressed for pitching their ideas, but the momentum for the community was hitting a feverish level.

Help the Region

If the community, entrepreneurs, and business can find ways to replicate the trust, drive, and passion of that experimental weekend – there is no reason this area cannot thrive. All you, I, and we have to do is do it.

Why would you not want to be part of an event offering such amazing opportunities and features? Even if it is only for a short weekend? Find the next Startup Weekend in Iowa at swia.co!








Startup Weekend Stories: Levi, from student to tech founder

Startup Weekend Stories: Memories, reflections and lessons learned from Startup Weekend events in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, Iowa. 

Today we meet Levi Bostiana software engineer interested in Linux and open source. After graduating from the University of Northern Iowa in December, Levi has taken the plunge to work on his Startup Weekend Iowa City project, Me2, full-time. “So really,” he writes, “Startup Weekend changed my life.” Read more on his blog – ‘Startup Weekend Iowa City 2014 – the greatest weekend of 2014.’

Pitching at Startup Weekend Iowa City 2014.
Pitching at Startup Weekend Iowa City 2014.

 

What were your hopes and goals going into the weekend?

At first, I found it as a great excuse to program all weekend on a cool project. I wanted to have a lot of fun building a business idea with a group of people who love entrepreneurship like I did and that is exactly what I did.

What was the most challenging part of the experience?

I was the only developer on my team and I was just starting Android development at that time, so completing a prototype of an app in a weekend by myself was pretty challenging for me. I did not concentrate too much on the business/marketing side of the business that weekend, I worked with our designer, Brian Rupert, closely the whole weekend trying to get a prototype done we could show the judges Sunday. It was so exciting when I got the speech to text part done on the app. I was pretty proud Sunday having a prototype completed.

How has the experience impacted you after the weekend?

I changed my work habits after the weekend. I had no idea you could get so much done in a weekend like I did at startup weekend so I changed up my workflow a bit to be more productive. I also fell in love with the community in the Cedar Rapids/Iowa City area and attended events in the Cedar Rapids/Iowa City area whenever I could to see the community again.

Advice I would give to someone considering attending startup weekend:

It is the funnest weekend you will have all year. When startup weekend comes to town, it is time to drop all your plans and go. Catch up with some old friends and make new. On Friday, you have no idea what you are going to be doing all weekend but on Sunday, you and your team are really close and so proud of what you get done. So rewarding!

Find the next Startup Weekend in Iowa at swia.co!








Startup Weekend Stories: Brian, web designer and developer

Startup Weekend Stories: Memories, reflections and lessons learned from Startup Weekend events in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, Iowa. 

BrianToday we meet Brian Rupert, a designer, front-end developer and game creator based in North Liberty, Iowa. Before attending Startup Weekend Cedar Rapids in 2014, he wasn’t plugged in to the local startup community at all (“I didn’t even know what that meant,” he writes). Today he works with several of the region’s most prominent startups and is a regular at community events.

 

Startup Weekend Iowa City 2014.
Startup Weekend Iowa City 2014.

What were your hopes and goals going into the weekend?

I didn’t really know what happened at a Startup Weekend, but my goals were to build something, meet people, and possibly find some people to work with/for.

The idea: On Friday, it was an app to suggest recipes based only on the food you actually had in your pantry.Sunday night it was pretty much the same thing, but suggested “best matches” of recipes with your stock of food.

What were the most memorable parts of the weekend?

The most challenging part was getting comfortable tearing the idea apart since it wasn’t mine. I also had no idea what a BMC (Business Model Canvas) was or really what was going on as far as validating the idea. I should have been more involved with that instead of designing/building the product. Actually building something (although useless) in the weekend was pretty exciting. Pitching was fun as it was something I hadn’t really done since college (14 years ago). Not having our idea validated and much of the presentation ready about an hour before pitch time was pretty unexpected since I wasn’t involved in that. Now I have learned.

Special shoutout: Organizer David Tominsky:

At Startup Weekend I was pretty heads-down working on our project and really squandered a lot of the networking/socialization aspect but I didn’t get a T-Shirt Friday night because they ran out. David told me to message him and he would get it. I did, and he was RIDICULOUSLY cool about it. He probably has no idea because he was just doing what he said he would. He made me way more comfortable with and feel welcomed to the community. Without him I would probably still be unhappy sitting in my home office working on unfulfilling projects.

How has the experience impacted you after the weekend?

In the best ways possible. I am working for a few startups in the area. I have learned SO much. I started working on my own app and pitched it at 1 Million Cups. I am coworking regularly. I did another Startup Weekend and am taking the idea through Venture School (A six week program developed at the University of Iowa). I like to think I have made some friends out of the deal, which is awesome.

Advice I would give to someone considering attending Startup Weekend:

You HAVE to do it. There is no downside. You have 51 other weekends this year to do all the other shit you think is important. Come to SW with an open-mind, willing to cooperate, excited to learn, and it can change your life.

Find the next Startup Weekend in Iowa at swia.co!








Startup Weekend Cedar Rapids Sponsorship Levels

SU_CR_LIONStartup Weekend Cedar Rapids is a 54-hour event that brings together designers, developers, entrepreneurs, and experts from all domains to bring ideas to reality. This event focuses on generating and sharing ideas, creating viable businesses from those ideas, and presenting solutions to these real world issues.

Whether you are an individual looking to experience the energy of an environment that fosters entrepreneurship or a company looking to find new ways to innovate inside your existing business, Startup Weekend is an ideal event for you.

This is a video produced from last year’s event.  https://vimeo.com/91356475

This is a feature in We Create Here that does a great job of covering the event from 2014: http://www.wecreatehere.net/2014/03/03/reflections-startup-weekend-cedar-rapids/

On Friday, March 6th through Sunday, March 8th, Startup Weekend Cedar Rapids will bring together over 100 people that want to test drive startup life and experience the rapid development that comes from being surrounded by some of the most innovative minds in the Creative Corridor.

Startup Weekend Cedar Rapids is actively looking for sponsors.  Your involvement will help insure that this is the most successful Startup Weekend ever seen in the Midwest.

This year’s event will happen inside the Geonetric building in New Bohemia that houses Vault Coworking and the Iowa Startup Accelerator.

Contact David Tominsky at 319-431-4740 or david.tominsky@gmail.com.  Sponsors committed before February 13th are guaranteed all commitments listed below.

SPONSORSHIP LEVELS

Premiere Sponsor ($5000) (2 AVAILABLE)

  • Invitation to address attendees for 3 minutes.
  • Invited to set up a booth for your product/service during Startup Weekend Cedar Rapids event
  • All benefits of the Gold Sponsorship
  • Up to twenty tickets to the event

Platinum Level Sponsor ($2,500) (4 AVAILABLE)

  • Invitation for a guest blog post on Startup Weekend Cedar Rapids Website website
  • Offer a prize to a team or individual via raffle/vote. (eg. iPhone, netbook, software)
  • All benefits of the Gold Sponsorship
  • Ten tickets to the event

Gold Level Sponsor ($1000) (10 AVAILABLE)

  • Identified in media materials for Startup Weekend Cedar Rapids
  • Company name/logo listed on Startup Weekend Cedar Rapids website
  • Thank you & recognition during Startup Weekend Cedar Rapids event
  • Opportunity to hang banners at the event
  • Hand out materials, swag, other relevant materials
  • Five tickets to the event

Silver Level Sponsor ($500) 

  • Company name/logo listed on Startup Weekend Cedar Rapids website
  • Thank you & recognition during the meal you sponsor
  • Opportunity to display a sign or banner on the food table
  • Hand out materials, swag, other relevant materials
  • Two tickets to the event

Sponsor An Entrepreneur ($100)

  • Open registration for one entrepreneur of your choice or we will select.
  • We will ensure that one lucky entrepreneur will get fed, meet new people, learn a ton, and hopefully create a successful startup!
  • Recognition on the Startup Weekend Cedar Rapids website
  • Recognition at the Opening Event on Friday and Closing Event on Sunday

Contributing Level Sponsor (Price Varies)

  • Help Support Startup Weekend with Press Coverage, Marketing, Swag, Venues, Food, Beer, Software, Discounts….. Anything that the community will benefit from!

Ready to become a Sponsor?

For more Information contact David Tominsky at 319-431-4740 or david.tominsky@gmail.com. Thanks!








Early Bird Registration Available Until 2/1/15!

We at Startup Weekend Cedar Rapids 2015 are pleased to announce our ticketing is now open with the Early Bird rate of $79.00 available until 2/1/15! This is the way to go — attend Startup Weekend Cedar Rapids 2015 for the entire glorious 54-hour event at the lowest general attendee rate we’ll extend.

Sign up today to be an “early adopter” and lock in your spot for Startup Weekend Cedar Rapids 2015!

Early Bird Registration 








10 reasons to check out Startup Weekend Cedar Rapids

Get tickets for Startup Weekend Cedar Rapids 2015 here! http://bit.ly/1zvgONm

  1. Education: Startup Weekends are all about learning by doing, whether you’re learning a new skill or a new way of thinking. Don’t just listen to theory, build your own strategy and test it as you go.
  2. Co-Founder Dating: The people who come to Startup Weekend are serious about learning how to build and launch startups. Create relationships that last long past the weekend.
  3. Have fun: During the weekend working alongside awesome people who share your ideas. Startup Weekend is meant to be fun and entertaining so enjoy it.
  4. Solve local problems with your ideas. Do you think that one of your ideas can change our community or have a positive impact on people around the world? Bring your crazy idea notebook with you.
  5. Build Your Network: Startup Weekend works hard to recruit high quality, driven entrepreneurs–like you!
  6. Startup Weekend Cedar Rapids 2014
    Startup Weekend Cedar Rapids 2014

    Learn New Skills: With a whole weekend dedicated to letting your creative juices flow, Startup Weekends are perfect opportunities to work on a new platform, learn a new programming language, or give marketing a try. With nothing to lose there’s no reason not to step outside your comfort zone.

  7. Learn How to Launch a Business (and Actually Do It!): Startup Weekend is the epitome of Lean Startup Methodology.
  8. Mentorship: Local tech and startup leaders participate in Startup Weekends and give feedback to participants. Interact with the movers and shakers in your community.
  9. Get Access to Valuable Startup Resources: By participating in Startup Weekend you are given instant access to great products and tools. No one leaves Startup Weekend empty handed! Click here to learn more about some of the offers our Global Sponsors provide during the event.
  10. Save Money: Startup Weekends are affordable (typically $99, only $50 for students). Your ticket includes seven meals, snacks, and all the coffee you can drink.