Final Presentations Aren’t Just About the Backend
Last April, my company Be Scrappy pitched at Startup Weekend San Jose. Be Scrappy is a tool rental marketplace – we connect people who need tools for home improvement and do-it-yourself projects with lenders that have them.
I’d like to start out by telling you three things:
1) We were the only team without any working product that presented to the judges.
2) We won first place.
3) Six months after the pitch, our service launched at one of most well known retail hardware store chains in San Francisco and is now used for 100% of their rentals.
Pitch with Passion
I arrived at Startup Weekend with the idea for Be Scrappy already in place. You see, I had just started working on this idea as part of an accelerator program called Founder Institute and thought I’d put it out there and see how things went. One of my friends in the program had told me about the event just a few days before – so my participation was a last minute decision. Needless to say, I’m glad I attended!
Over 50 people went up to the microphone and pitched their company the first evening. As everyone voted for their favorite pitches…I was thrilled to see that Be Scrappy had bubbled its way to the top!
At this point, the process of forming teams and deciding on ideas for the weekend began. Everyone was walking around evaluating who they wanted to work with and what they wanted to spend the next 48 hours doing. Other people tried convincing me to join their teams and ideas but I also had a few people come up to me to work on mine. Something told me to stick to my guns and run with this… so I did.
By the end, four others had joined my team – Gilbert, Lawrence, Raghav, and Subraya. We started working on our strategy and going over what I had in place so far. I showed them a few mockups and we decided to reconvene the next morning.
Divide and Conquer….but be Ready to Reconvene
The next day was spent hard at work. While Lawrence was starting to code up the site, the rest of us were working on messaging and bringing the idea full circle. I started coding up the front end so that it could be plugged into what Lawrence was doing on the back end. We also started putting together our pitch deck and focusing the product’s vision.
It’s weird, but so much of it is a blur now. We had a quick deadline and we wanted to just do our best. Towards the end of the day we had part of the product built but still a few things left to go.
The plan was that Lawrence was going to finish up the site that night and we would get back together in the morning for final touches.
But of course, there was the unexpected wrench thrown into the mix. After Lawrence went home, he came down with a terrible fever and was unable to finish up the site. The next morning we all reconvened with this news and were down to three total – myself, Gilbert and Raghav – it was crunch time. We only had a handful of hours until our pitch and even thought about throwing in the towel since we wouldn’t have a product to demo (it was still in too many pieces…)
But we decided to go with what we had – I mean we had spent all weekend here and we might as well pitch and show what we had put together. At least we’ll get some feedback on the idea.
So we decided to go with the only option we had left – tell a great story with screenshots! Gilbert, Raghav and I put together the pitch deck and practiced several times before going in front of the judges. I would walk through the user flow and Gilbert and Raghav would act out how the service would work. We made giant signs that said “Have Tools” and “Need Tools” to show the two sides of our marketplace. We even drew a drill on another piece of paper to show the tool exchange and how that would look online and offline. As I talked through how the website worked via screenshots, Gilbert would take the paper drill and hand it over to Raghav who wanted to rent the tool.
Do the Absolute Best You Can with What You Have
While things started off a bit rocky between me being nervous and technical issues with the slide presentation, as we talked through the idea, the audience seemed to really like what we had. We did our best and answered all the judge’s questions — the response was really positive. I think the most important part was that we were up there having fun and making the best of what we had.
Walking away, there was no intention of winning. I mean, we had no working product to show. So you can imagine my surprise when the judges called us up for first place! It was seriously one of the best feelings ever…winning is awesome. And we were all smiles!
You see, this win meant a lot for me. It wasn’t just about winning Startup Weekend…it was validation of the decision I had made to pursue entrepreneurship. I was really new to the startup scene – less than a year prior to Startup Weekend I had switched careers from aerospace engineering to interaction design and moved up to San Francisco. I had been introduced to the startup space through Founder Labs (a 5 week incubator program) in July of 2010 and was hooked to startups ever since.
Coming to startup weekend, having people want to work on my idea, and then winning the event increased my confidence immensely in being an entrepreneur and pursuing this route.
Whatever the Outcome, Hit the Ground Running!
After Startup Weekend, Be Scrappy did get built. Steve and Ilya joined on as my developers and the product is now used by Cole Hardware’s four locations in San Francisco. Of course we are still early in the process – there is much validation, learning and scaling to be done as well as building out the rest of our team. But the fact that customers are using our product to reserve tools, rent them online, and really liking the service is fantastic. There is currently no easy way to rent tools online and we want to disrupt that space – allowing anyone to have access to any tool they need for a project through our website.
Startup Weekend was great for Be Scrappy because it created an engaging environment to validate an idea and make progress on it quickly. I met great people and one of the judges has also joined as one of our advisors.
I’m so happy that I signed up for Startup Weekend. It’s a fantastic community and venue for being creative, trusting your intuition and trying something out. And if you continue to carry it through – some number of weekends into the future you’ll find yourself with a working product and customers using it. Cheers!
Priya Sheth is the Founder of Be Scrappy, an online marketplace that connects people who need tools for home improvement and building projects with lenders that have them. Priya is an aerospace engineer turned interaction designer and loves the process of infusing a creative vision with users to create well-designed products. Priya works and lives in San Francisco, CA. She has a sock puppet named Graham. Follow her on Twitter at @priyasheth and her startup at @bescrappy.