Startup Weekend Day by Day Breakdown: Friday

swpgh-day-3-40So its Friday evening, the ideas have been pitched and voted on. What happens now?

Forming teams

Forming teams is an organic process. You can join any team that you want to join. If you like someone’s idea, talk to them and see how you can help the team.

Some ideas will attract more people to it. So the way you pitch your idea is important ( Some ideas will find it harder to build teams. You may have to go out and talk to people individually to get them to join your team. You have to sell people on your idea and tell them why they should be helping you with your idea. This part of the evening is most chaotic and it is designed to be this way. Its going to be a tough process to recruit people to join your team. So push on through and build your team.

We found a correlation between successful pitches and team building: the better the pitch, the easier to build the team.

All teams must have a minimum of 2 people and at most 8 people.

What if I am unable to build a team or my idea wasn’t picked. 

This is a natural occurrence. Some ideas will not be able to put together a team before the night is over. It happens. The WORST thing to do is to just leave and not return on Saturday. Please dont do that. You came all the way to Startup Weekend to learn about building startups and to challenge yourself. If you leave now, you will miss out on the learning you can do over the weekend. And worst of all, you will miss out on building new friendships with all the people around you.

So if your idea wasn’t wasn’t picked or you are unable to to build a team, find a team/idea that you like and join it. You will learn so much that weekend so you can apply it to your own idea after the weekend is over.

Cool, I got a team! Now what? 

The clock is ticking away! Get to work! Get to know your team. Exchange contact information with each other. Start to discuss your various backgrounds and expertise. Asses what each other can do and get yourself ready to hit the ground running on Saturday morning.

-Andrew Young
Startup Weekend NYC

Pitching your idea at Startup Weekend!

full_1381354002photo22Are you going to be pitching an idea at Startup Weekend?

Each person will get 60 seconds to pitch their idea to the audience. Only 10-15 ideas will be selected to move into the weekend. Pitching an idea is not an easy task. It takes practice to sell your idea & vision in 60 seconds.

As a reminder, you can’t pitch your existing business/app. Startup Weekend is designed to be the most effective platform for growing new businesses from the ground up over the course of a weekend. A key facet of the weekend and a central value for participants is the spirit of complete collaboration, buy-in and ownership. We’ve found that having existing businesses in the mix undermines this spirit, in addition to creating an imbalance between those ideas that are truly ground-level.

If you have an idea and you have been doing some customer research, researching on the internet, designed some wireframes, talked to businesses to see if there is any demand, then great! Thats fine. We expect you folks to do your own due diligence before hand. As long as you havent launched, have customers or an MVP of the app.

In 60 seconds you need to:

5-10s Who are you?

10-20s What’s the problem? Use this time to set up the story. How did you discover this problem? How can we (the audience) relate to it? How many people are affected by this problem? Build that connection to the audience to capture their attention.

10-20s What’s your solution? Mobile? Web? Something physical?

5-10s Who do you need? Developers? Designers? Product folks?

Take the time and practice your pitch. Practice in front of your friends and see if you can convince them to vote for you.


What You NEED to Know about Social Impact

(This blog post was co-written by Ingrid Spielman, a Startup Weekend NYC volunteer.)

This weekend, New York City hosted its first Startup Weekend Social Impact Edition. The event started with a bang as Andrew Young, a Startup Weekend facilitator, explained the rules of the 54-hour challenge. The competition criteria included not only the traditional judging categories (i.e. business model, customer validation, design, and execution), but also a fifth category that weighs how much an idea will make a positive impact on society.

While only one team will walk away from the event as the overall winner, the hope is that everyone leaves with a better understanding of what it takes to launch sustainable companies in the unique space known as “Social Impact.”

The audience on Friday night at Startup Weekend NYC Social Impact (Photo credit: Ingrid Spielman)

Three speakers from local, social impact companies kicked things off to inspire attendees, demonstrate the market opportunity, and provide actionable advice for entrepreneurs who are new to the social good space. Joy Hung, from charity: water, introduced “Pipeline” as an example of how technology is improving an existing social sector. Andy DiSimone, of Startup Health, highlighted the enormous market opportunity that exists for healthcare and wellness companies. Lastly, Jessica Feingold, from Kiva Zip, provided practical examples on how microfinancing can jumpstart an idea.

The takeaway from the speakers was clear: there is ample opportunity for disruption and it is easier than ever to start a business and gain access to capital. On Friday night, the attendees, however, seemed to lack a clear consensus on how similar or dissimilar social entrepreneurship is compared to launching any other type of startup idea.

Some attendees viewed social impact as a clearly differentiated business category. Hope Hou described a social enterprise as one that seeks not only to maximize profit but also to create a large outreach effect. Jed, team leader of Financial Fun Factor, said that it is about lasting presence: someone who does the job for profit versus someone who seeks to leave something behind. Eric, an attendee who pitched an idea called Voluntinder, said that “social impact is more about picking a social problem and solving it. It is not necessarily about making money. It’s about figuring a way to do things better for everyone.”

For others, starting a social impact company is similar to launching any other type of business. Tamara from team Voice Whisperer explained: “People have a grand idea of what a social impact company needs to be and it scares them away. It’s about helping the people around you. It doesn’t need to be a far and distant problem, you could be helping someone living next door or working in the next block. ” Paul, who pitched Foodie Scanner (later changed to Check my Label), described social impact as “Having some positive benefit to whomever it is you are targeting,” and explained how many for-profit forms have social impact as well (e.g. AirBnB).

By Sunday night, the event culminated in 14 final team pitches that included ideas on connecting people (e.g. Tech Boomerang, Project without Borders, Sideskillz, Care Go Go), educating people (e.g. Spare Change, Foodie Scanner, Questionator), and empowering people (e.g. CityHero, Voice Whisperer, Pocket Activist, Fitness on Demand, Fair Agent).

The judging panel featured Daniel Gulati from Comcast Ventures, Robert Lee from charity: water, Natalia Oberti Noguera from Pipeline Fellowship, Jesse Levin from Brooklyn Boulders, and Carolina Huaranca from Girls Who Code.

Each team may have pitched a different way to make a difference in the world but the judges’ feedback was consistent: social entrepreneurship is a sustainable and desirable investment opportunity. Levin said that Artcycle Labs is an “amazing arbitrage opportunity. I can think of a million revenue models.” Huaranca lended her own experience to give helpful feedback on finding available financing options. Her advice to Voice Whisperer? “Go straight to district sales. The majority of funding is in special education and professional development for teachers.”

At the end of the night, the winning team was Voice Whisperer, a startup focused on creating a personalized audio book experience for autistic kids. Second place went to Artcycle Labs, a co-working concept that repurposes raw materials. Questionator, a Quora-like forum for kids, came in third. Additionally, TechBoomerang was given honorable mention for the team’s idea on teaching new technologies to the aging demographic. The winners received bright pink gifts from Lyft, Agua Enervia drinks, and valuable prizes from PurposeFuel, one of the event sponsors.

What did the winning teams all have in common? The team members brought their firsthand experiences to help validate and identify the problem they were trying to solve. Oberti Noguera said, “I love first-user founders because they are actually the ones experiencing the pain in the market. They are coming at it with the true sense of what the issues are.”

There is much to learn about the Social Impact space. However, the amount of passion shown by all of the speakers, attendees, volunteers, mentors, and judges who dedicated their time and expertise to deepen the conversation about social entrepreneurship is proof that there is no better time to launch ideas that will make the world a better place in an economically sustainable, and even profitable, way. In closing, Oberti Noguera shared a quote by Vanessa Hurst, CEO and founder of Codemontage, that was the perfect ending to weekend: “Shouldn’t doing good be the only way to make a profit?”

The winning teams from Startup Weekend NYC Social Impact. (Photo credit: Kenny Peng)

*Appendix: List of Sunday night team pitches at Startup Weekend NYC Social Impact (July 27)

  1. Spare Change: Telling the stories of the homeless

  2. Fair Agent: Simplify the process of apartment seekers who are working with brokers

  3. Voice Whisperer: Personalized audiobooks for autistic kids.

  4. Fitness on Demand: Access to fitness trainers and routines

  5. Projects Without Borders: Matching mentors and mentees based upon specific projects and goals

  6. Pocket Activist: Enabling online news consumers to become informed activists

  7. Questionator: Curated content for kids by kids

  8. ArtCycle Labs: Co-working space that repurposes raw and creative materials

  9. Check My Label: Food scanning so that people know exactly what is in the food that you’re buying (ex: gluten, sugar, and cholesterol)

  10. Sideskillz: Connecting college students to businesses for professional projects

  11. Happy Heart Kid: A curated, Sesame Street meets Montessori Education activity kit

  12. Care Go-Go: Sympathy gifting service and resource hub

  13. CityHero: A gamified way to report problems to your local government

  14. Tech boomerang: Helping baby boomers learn how to use technology

Social Impact Panel – Four Roads to Success

(this blog post was authored by Ingrid Spielman, a Startup Weekend NYC volunteer)

New York City will host its first Social Impact Edition on July 25-27. In anticipation for this event, a Startup Weekend NYC Social Impact Panel was held on June 26 at Google’s Chelsea Market location. The panel was moderated by Cyndi Knapic from the Startup Weekend NYC organizing team and featured four speakers including Vincent Polidoro from PublicStuff , Divya Kapasi from GoodList, Ryan Gist from BioLite, and Emma Schain from

During the panel, Cyndi and the audience asked some great questions. The discussion boiled down to three main topics: monetization, the social impact mission, and building a startup.

SWNYC Social Impact panel June 27 2014
SWNYC Social Impact panel @ Google Chelsea Market on June 27 2014. (Photo credit: Ingrid Spielman)

Here is a summary of some take home messages from the panel:

Making money

Money is always a big question for startups, especially those with the mission of social good – whether it is a question of obtaining funding, designating the company as a for-profit or non-profit, or deciding whether the final product should be distributed for free.

1.     Making money validates your startup. Vincent Polidoro, CTO at PublicStuff – a company that helps citizens bring immediate awareness to local government of problems in their community, said that charging money for their app helped to get local governments in over 100 cities to put in the effort to learn to use the product.

2.     Divya Kapasi from GoodList added that raising money is helpful for product traction. GoodList is a database of socially responsible companies, curated and maintained by Divya.

3.     Making money allows for company growth, which in turn helps companies to address larger and substantial world problems. Ryan Gist from BioLite, a company that brings controlled cooking flames to places off the grid or with intermittent electricity, shared that the revenue that comes from selling their camping products helps fund and subsidize distribution of their products to emerging regions. As such, for-profit model can be viewed as a healthy, sustainable option that allows for scalability, growth, and continuous social impact.

4.     Emma Schlain from DonorsChoose, a non-profit that connects public school teachers to donors interested in funding school supplies or projects, said that the company is is self-sustaining (through 15% overhead charges) and are able to fulfill 74% of the requests teachers make to fund projects and supplies. DonorsChoose attracts employees who are willing to work for a cause rather than the bells and whistles that often come with for-profit companies.

The Social Impact Mission

The classic chicken or the egg – which comes first, innovation or identifying the problem? Does a company start with their social impact idea or do they develop a product and later realize that it has the potential to do social good?

1.     In the case of BioLite, the problem started out as a “first world problem”. The founders tried solving their own camping problems and in doing so, simultaneously developed a tool that with the right kind of follow-up and distribution system, will help meet the energy needs of people across the globe. (Biolite builds self-sustaining wood burning stoves).

2.     In order to not distort the company mission, it is important to remain selective about resources and carefully choose board members with values and ideals that align with the company mission so that it does not become diluted.

3.     It is often difficult to find people with the same vision to build up a company. While there is no substitute to building solid relationships with other entrepreneurs in order to find the right people to build a startup that solves real world problems, networking with like-minded people is a great place to start looking for your next team member.

Building a Startup (Prototypes, Customer Validation, and Pitching)

1. Two things: start early, iterate quickly.

2. Don’t be afraid to put something together that isn’t perfect. Divya started her Goodlist site using Squarespace. PublicStuff started out using screenshots of maps and only later (after many requests) developed a mobile app for their company.

3. Customer validation is key! Learn from colleagues, competitors, and your consumer. Tools and services built by startups need to fit into your consumers’ lives. Biolite aimed to create a product that families in developing countries would find easy to use and similar in concept to the cooking tools that were already familiar to them.

4. Networking and timing! First-to-market doesn’t guarantee success. Successful startups require the correct environment, support, and network. Finding evangelists who really “get it” or early adaptors willing to try out the product isn’t easy. Finding people to work on a high impact project is also difficult. However, one strategy is to pitch hard to graduating students and ask them to give up a few months before they start corporate positions to help bring a startup to life. This is especially helpful for startups with lean budgets and a compelling social cause.

5. Don’t reinvent the wheel and partner with companies that are already successful. DonorsChoose has collaborated with larger companies like Starbucks to reach out to teachers. Biolite uses distribution networks that are already built-in and sales models that have already been validated in order to bring their product to third world locations.

6. Pitch compelling arguments. Vincent frames PublicStuff as crowd sourcing data collection. “The easier it is to find potholes, the easier it is to allocate resources.” Emma says that for teachers, word of mouth is really powerful. It is really old fashioned but it can be the best way to let teachers know about DonorsChoose.

In closing, Cyndi asked, “What are some examples of your favorite social impact companies that you would encourage people in the audience to take a look at?”

The discussion panel was a great success and a great way to network. Hope to see you at the Startup Weekend NYC Social Impact Edition.

Ingrid Spielman is a biophysics microbiologist at Brooklyn college who studies how bacteria move. In her spare time she is learning how to code and is training for an Ironman next year.