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The following is a guest post by James Kruml, Co Founder and Director of Marketing for RoboToaster, a local Startup Weekend sponsor — who created the below video covering the April Startup Weekend Chicago for free. 

As the weekend of April 19th approached so did Startup Weekend Chicago.  A three-day brain crush fest, which would, bring some of the worlds most forward thinking and entrepreneurial-minded people into the same place.  Flights arrived at Chicago O’Hare and Midway airports from Boston, California and even as for as Toronto and Europe. This would be the 8th installment of Startup Weekend Chicago and it took place in a Chicago staple of creativity, 1871.

Doors opened promptly at 6:00pm on Friday, for registration and in poured designers, developers, business developers and marketers. They were all looking for the chance to build something great in 54 hours as well as create some amazing memories and develop friendships, which would last a lifetime.  A little after some food and networking, Jimmy Odom the founder of Chicago based We Deliver and the last Startup Weekend Chicago winner took the stage to spread his words of wisdom.  “Keep things simple and realistic, don’t forget to have fun” he stressed to the crowd. “You really only have Saturday and half of Sunday so don’t aim to large scale but understand what can be done in the time frame.”

As the pitches began, people already being to pick and choose which team they are thinking they want to be apart of. Some built teams of up to ten people, while others took on the weekend with only two. A few business developers were forced to a banded ship as they found themselves standing alone and no one wanting to part take in their idea. Others were flooded with developers and marketers eager to develop business models, wireframes and functional applications.

Onto day two. After a long first night and red bull and coffee was  flowing like the Chicago river. Respected industry experts flocked 1871 looking to lend any sort of help to the teams in need. Lines of code were being pushed out and email lists were being generated. Teams hit the Chicago streets looking for real time feedback and customer testimonials. Company ideas from apps which make you happy, to rap battle apps to dis your friends, ran rapid through the 50,000 square foot space. Concepts and businesses were literally, designed, coded, built and implemented over night. Marketers and business developers reviewed and analyzed the details of their respective business models and prepared the speakers for presentation day.

Now it was crunch time! Only a few hours remained till final pitches. At this point the pressure and time constraints start to take toll. 1871 was filled with worried faces and stressed out participants. The judges arrive, 4 Simon Cowells ready to pick apart and find holes in everything you worked so hard for over the past few days.

-Troy Henikoff: Cereal Entrepreneur and Managing Director of Tech Stars Chicago

-Mig Reyes: Design at 37 Signals

-Jill Salzman: Founder at The Founding Moms

-Neal Sales-Griffin: CEO at The Starter League

As the presentations began so did the questions from the judges. Five minute presentations seemed like hours to some as the spotlights and packed crowd stared directly at stage. With over fifteen companies in the competition only three would get recognition by the end of the night. The pitches were now over, as the judges deliberated over the company concepts, marketing plans and ability to grow in the market. Startup Weekend attendees awaited patiently just a few rooms away for the judges decision.

It was finally time to announce the winners, as the judges took the stage, a swift breeze of anxiety took the room by storm. Teams clutched hands in hopes of taking home 1st place. The moment everyone has been waiting for was finally here. “Diabetes Winner” a gamified mobile app, which main objective is to help parents monitor their children’s insulin intake while keeping it fun and rewarding for the child came out on top! Rush Hour, a mobile travel guide for leaving and getting to your destination on time took 2nd and Ruly Mob and crowd generated discount service to get your services on the cheap took 3rd. Joy and excitement filled the faces of the winning teams as congratulations from the other competitors came in abundance.

In conclusion, what an amazing weekend it turned out to be, we met some fantastic people and took pleasure in creating this video! See you at the next Startup Weekend, although next time we may have to be in the competition!

Startup Weekend Chicago: April 2013 from RoboToaster on Vimeo.


Claire Topalian Claire Topalian
(@clairetopalian) Blog, Professional Writing, Communications and PR Specialist. I craft compelling, mission-driven content for companies and individuals that amplifies brand awareness, fosters community, and drives engagement. My experience includes work with tech startups, major corporations, and international non-profits. @clairetopalian