Startup Weekend DC (SWDC) was held this past weekend at 1776 and I volunteered to help out with the event. It was an awesome experience, and here’s a quick recap.
Startup Weekend events bring together entrepreneurs who launch startups in 54 hours. Non-technical people, designers, and developers pitch ideas, form teams, build products, create a pitch deck, and present their work to a panel of esteemed judges at the end of the weekend. Many teams continue to work on their ideas after the weekend is over, and businesses are launched as a result. It’s a long, intense weekend but invigorating and motivating for everyone involved.
The event started on Friday evening with some introductions to the weekend’s format and an exercise that simulated what would happen over the next couple of days. Basically, impromptu teams were formed and were provided with two random words with which they had to create a logo and business concept and pitch it to the crowd. The teams came up with really creative ideas, and that set the tone for the weekend.
Attendees then pitched their own ideas for products that they wanted to build and recruited others to help them do so. There were about 35 ideas pitched, ranging from a website for mock interviews to a karaoke app, and the total was whittled down to 16 that were actually pursued. Teams were formed and they started working until 1AM.
The work continued Saturday morning at 9AM. Throughout the day, teams were brainstorming ideas, validating their concepts, creating mockups, coding, designing, and developing business models. Mentors were helping the teams refine their work. And we were there to support the attendees with advice, food, and lots of caffeine.
On Sunday, there was a palpable tension in the air, as teams had to present their pitches at 5PM. The participants were scrambling to finish their prototypes and put together their pitch decks. Some teams were confident while others were sweating, but everyone was cranking. It was intense!
The pitches were great (you can view them here) and the amount of work these teams did in such a short amount of time was amazing. The best pitches clearly communicated the value proposition of the idea, had a simple prototype that showed how the product would work, and addressed the business potential of the concept. The prize winners were as follows:
- First Place – HelpCloud, a customer service application for Google Glass
- Second Place – Traject, an analytics platform for non-profits
- Third Place – Blossom, software that analyzes your text messages
- Honorable Mention – Soundcheck.io, a video platform that helps you discover bands playing in your area
But all sixteen teams did an awesome job!
I have a deep connection with Startup Weekend. I attended SWDC in November 2011 as a participant, and it really confirmed my desire to be an entrepreneur. At that event I pitched Dokkit, my smart calendar idea. Though I didn’t get to work on Dokkit over that weekend, I gained so much knowledge about how entrepreneurship worked. I learned how to do an elevator pitch, worked with developers to create a product, put together a pitch deck, and met a bunch of really smart and motivated people with whom I stay in close contact with today. The event solidified my desire for entrepreneurship so much that I quit my job seven months later to pursue my startup! SWDC had such a positive impact on my life and it was awesome to give back by volunteering.
Props to SWDC co-organizers Mack Kolarich, Denis Baranov, and Barbara Lee, 1776, and all of the mentors, judges, volunteers, and participants who contributed to this great event. DC’s startup community is certainly alive and kicking, and I’m looking forward to helping out at future Startup Weekends!