What does the #swBoulder hashtag stand for you may ask. sw stands for Startup Weekend the one I attended last weekend was held in Boulder they are held all over the country and in other countries well. Andrew Hyde is the founder of Startup Weekend and so much more, check him out.
Let me give you first a little bit of information what it is all about. Simply work in startup mode for a weekend on a project of your choice and see what you can produce with your team. It’s a event geared towards technology / software, however you don’t have to be developer. Most of the teams are made up of people with different backgrounds marketing, sales, business, developers and other skills as well. Everybody brings something to the table, it doesn’t matter what it is. If you like to contribute to a project in a startup settings this event is for you. Don’t worry about what you can do or what you can not do, there is room for everybody and everybody contributes. Some of the people working on the project do not have time to stay for the whole weekend that is fine as well, you contribute what you can. Of course it’s best to give the lead that information up front in order for the lead to know how you can be used as a resource over the course of the weekend.
And here is how it went down for me. The event was held at CU Leeds School of Business, people started gathering in around 17:00 on Friday. There was pizza and beer, the usual menu that most people can deal with. To kick it off Cameron Burgess and then Rich Grote ( SnapImpact ) had entertaining and informative talks to set the tone for the event.
Next up those who had an idea that they wanted to pitch got the stage for 5 minutes each. I did have an idea of my own but decided not to push it as the crowd of 40-50 people ended up with 13 ideas presented, there was plenty to choose from. Next the crowd voted on the ideas, which ones were to be worked on over the weekend, 8 of those were chosen. At this point you had to choose which idea you wanted to work on. There were two ideas I liked and I talked to both presenters then chose lloyddobllers idea from there. As the groups start to form the people in the group start figuring out plan of attack and take ownership of different aspects of what needs to be done. This is your opportunity to work on something that you feel is exciting or new. At this point our group broke up and we started poking at what needed to be done each in our own corners, I had an Avalanche game to watch and did not get much done rest of the night. We figured we would show up around 9 on Saturday morning.
Saturday morning we showed up early ready to work going as fast as we could. As in a normal startup, time is of essence and things move quickly, just keep going. For lunch Ayush Agarwal came by and had a talk about Startup Weekend and gave some tips about what the judges are looking for which benefited us greatly and then took questions. Then back to work, before you know it it’s getting close to midnight. We actually made the mistake of forgetting to have dinner and were running pretty low when we headed home for the night. Home to get some food and recharge the batteries.
Sunday morning after some hours of sleep we showed up again ready to rock it for the rest of the day. We really wanted to ship a product before the end of the day. It was recommended to us to ship on Saturday night, but how could we, we had plenty of hours to work in more features on Sunday. Along with a prototype of the application we put together a business plan and a slide presentation. Even a promotional video was made along the way. As expected it came down to the wire on the development side, we wanted certain features and finished up with 20 minutes to spare. we demoed the website live on our own domain during our presentation, no crashes…
During the presentations, the judges got busy both with questions and forming their opinions of the projects. 6 out of 8 projects made it to the finish line, props goes to one of the teams which lost all but two of their people through the course of the weekend but still presented a viable idea, way to stick with it. Apparently our project kicked ass and was chosen the best one by the judges. That was the icing on the cake for our hard work through the weekend, but regardless I think we would have been very proud of what produced regardless of what place we ended up at. Not only was the idea business viable but we managed to ship, have a good business plan, presentation, live demo of the product and exit strategy we even signed up couple of partners along the way.
In my case I had never done Twitter OAuth authentication and offered to work on that, now I know how that works. As we decided to use .net to code, I found code to reuse from .Net solution by Shannon Whitley thanks.
This was my first Startup Weekend and I didn’t really know what to expect, sometimes as with this event I did little research by choice as I wanted to see how I would react to it myself. For me it was a breath of fresh air. Working hard for a weekend and to see the result at the end of it was a blast. Then coming back to work on Monday feeling energized ! It brought back some good memories from startups I had in the past. It is really a startup mode for a weekend very much like in the real world just more compact.