The following is a guest post by Melanie J. Quall, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On February 24, more than 200 members of Colombia’s tech community and international visitors gathered to kick off Colombia’s third Startup Weekend. Twelve teams, selected by the event’s participants, worked tirelessly to develop prototypes and business strategies for startups addressing market failures and business opportunities in the entertainment, transportation, and food industries, among others. The event was hosted and organized by HubBOG, Colombia’s first ITC co-working space. Alex Torrenegra, a Colombian entrepreneur based in New York who has founded companies such as Booking Markets (@BookingMarkets) and VoiceBunny (@VoiceBunny), remarked that having participated in a number of Startup Weekends in the US, he was extremely impressed with the Colombian entrepreneurs he came to know through the event.
I recently caught up with participants to learn how they their projects had developed in the months that followed Bogotá Startup Weekend. Although the prizes and other benefits of winning the contest are helpful, I found that they have not been decisive in whether teams have maintained momentum and moved forward with developing their product and executing their business strategy. All of the teams that have continued to work since the event have changed in some way and are still working on refining their product before launching a Beta version and/or seeking investment. The winning teams have begun to use the memberships to the HubBOG and legal consulting that were included in the awards, but are waiting until their product is more developed before using some of the other prizes, which include marketing services from Intent Agency (IntentAgencyCo) and mentoring hours with tech business leaders in Colombia and abroad.
Here is a general update of 5 teams that have continued to work since on their projects from the 3rd Bogotá Startup Weekend:
- Social DJ (@socialdjco), the first place winner of Bogotá Startup Weekend, is a mobile application that serves as a digital jukebox at bars and clubs, allowing you to request and vote for the songs you want to hear from your phone. Four members of the original team have been working to develop a fully functional product and testing it at parties and local rock bars in the city’s Usaquén and Parque 93 neighborhoods, before bringing Social DJ to other locales in the city and around the globe. Team Leader Ricardo Campos says that the real triumph for the first place team was “realizing how much we have learned about business models and startups while working at HubBOG and being a part of the local IT community.” Campos and his teammates brought Ingenial Media to HubBOG a year ago.
- Teach4Stay (@Teach4Stay), second place winner, is a platform through which travelers can find lodging in exchange for their skills or knowledge. Team Leader Santiago Jaramillo explains that the startup has been on hold due to the team’s prior commitments, but that Teach4Stay has identified a leader in Colombia’s hospitality exchange community to assume the CEO role, and is planning an intensive 4-day “Startup Weekend of its own” to bring the MVP to a fully functional level. Jaramillo is a Co Founder of Talent Surfers, a startup incubated at HubBOG and recently selected for WAYRA, Telefonica’s acceleration program for internet and ITC startups.
- Vecindad.Co (@vecindadco), awarded third place, is a platform for the administration of condominiums. The team is working to vamp up the Vecindad (Spanish for “neighborhood”) MVP before pursuing investment. The new MVP will be ready in approximately three months, says Team Leader Angel Rendón, given prior commitments of the team members, all of whom work in Torrenegra Labs companies. Rendón is a Ninja Developer at Voice123.
- Hublegal (@hublegal) is a legal advisory platform for Latin American startups. According to Team Leader Santiago León, Hublegal has already given preliminary legal advisory to two Startup Weekend teams, has managed brand registrations in Mexico, Peru, Chile and Brazil, and the patent registration (pending) of a Colombian startup. Hublegal has prepared legal contracts adapted to Colombian legislation to stimulate angel investment in Colombian startups, which León is revising with investors and other stakeholders.
- The team behind Dame un Aventón (@dameunaventon, “Give me a Ride”), a web and mobile carpooling platform, is working on developing a Beta version. Four of the original seven members have stayed on board, which team leader David Camargo Durán attributes in part to the fact that they knew each other before hand.
Participants from previous versions commented that the organization of the event has improved a lot. An achievement of Bogotá Startup Weekend 2012 is that this time around, the whole event was “a product of entrepreneurship […] everything “from the web site to the meals was contributed by entrepreneurs who believe in the [potential of the] internet,” explains Luis Betancourt, founding CEO of Localo (@localo) and leading member of the organizing team who participated on the Teach4Stay team.
Betancourt notes that there are some areas to improve upon for future Bogotá Startup Weekends. For example, few teams succeeded in developing functional prototypes over the weekend that could demonstrate the potential of their ideas, “This has a direct impact on the continuity of the projects, so in future versions it will be important to focus on developing functional prototypes that the market can validate immediately.” He also mentions that the mainstream media in Colombia can contribute a lot to the event and to the country’s tech entrepreneurship ecosystem by covering future events and initiatives such as SW.
Event observers and organizers also commented on the need to increase female participation in future Startup Weekends— of the 69 participants, 3 were women— less than 1%. Globally, women make up almost 16% (15.9%) of Startup Weekend attendees, and the organization is piloting a women-focused Startup Weekend in Seattle this July to increase their participation. Maris McEdward, Vice President of Marketing at Startup Weekend and lead organizer of the initiative, explains, “Women are 50% of the population. They are contributing, they are making decisions, and they are consuming. […] The contributions and brainpower of both sexes are vital if we are going to come up with sustainable and innovative solutions to the problems that we face.” Depending on the success of the Seattle event, Startup Weekend may roll out the women-focused initiative in more US cities and select Startup Weekend communities abroad. Along the same lines, HubBOG is planning to host an event featuring women business leaders this year as a first initiative to encourage female entrepreneurship in the Colombian tech space.
The next Startup Weekend in Colombia will take place in Medellín June 8, 9, 10. More info at http://medellin.