So this weekend I took part in an event I signed up for some time ago: Startup Weekend, Perth. Startup Weekend is an event where teams all over the world come together to build a startup over the course of a weekend.
Being very interested in startups as I am and having enjoyed GovHack earlier this year I thought it would be a perfect event for me.
It started on Friday after work. We piled into the startup-hub Spacecubed on St Georges Terrace. After a few looseners and semi-nervous chitchat we were soon taking our seats for the introduction presentation by the excellent Marcus Holmes.
After the short talk split into informal groups to play "Startups against humanity" (I think). Each group was given a "Problem" and a number of "Solution" cards. In typical Cards Against Humanity style, the problems and solutions were suitably 'humerous' in nature.
As I understood it, the purpose of this game was to get the creative juices flowing. For me tho it just seemed to devolve into a shouting competition with the loudest people making the decisions. Being small and on the outside of our group I couldn't really see what was going on or contribute. Instead I just decided to take a bathroom break and wait for it to finish.
Thankfully the game was only played for a brief time before the real action started, pitching time. The pitches were held in the same fashion as Govhack. Pitchers would line up and take turn for one minute each to pitch their idea to the group.
This whole process went rather smoothly, all credit to Marcus and his team there for keeping the pitches moving rapidly. Infact the entire event was run very well, it felt much better organised than Govhack, but then again it was the 7th time it had been run.
After presenting their concept the pitchers knocked together quick posters and affixed them to the walls. We, the non-pitchers then went around the various posters and deliberated over which one we wanted to join.
At Govhack we were given little stickers to stick on each poster to show our interest. I didn't see the point in that at Govhack so thankfully that process wasn't followed through at Startup Weekend.
The mistake I made at Govhack was to deliberate for too long. I couldn't make my mind up at that event and very quickly the teams had formed and I was left at the end wondering around like a lost lamb wondering where to go.
I was determined not to make that mistake again so after one quick lap of the available options I decided upon Mary's "Stop the hangry". I chose it because the idea was simple: "Develop an app that maps food trucks in Perth".
The idea resonated with me as I could quite easily see a situation: it's late, you want to eat, all the good restaurants are booked and you don't want take away or Maccas yet again, what you really crave is some wood-smoked-ribs or perhaps spicy mexican tacos but you have no clue where that food-truck you saw that one time would be.
When Mary pitched the idea I was stood at the back of the room and noticed quite a few people nodding their heads around the room. For me this was also a good sign that the idea was good, it was an instant crowd validation.
So I signed up to "Stop the hangry" which eventually turned into "Tuckr". The irony is that Mary already knew of me via my blog post of Govhack, she had even downloaded Mr Nibbles for her children to play, we were going to get on just fine :)
Surprisingly (to me at least) we struggled at first to get the required 5 team members. I thought the idea was solid but it seemed like others weren't so sure. It also looked like I needn't have rushed into my team choice as the group forming stage took much longer than the Govhack event.
I had quite a few offers by other teams to join them. It seemed like developers were very much in demand at the event and hot property. I was sold on the food truck idea however and instead tried to convince them to join us instead.
Just as the situation was starting to look dire, Mary and I we finally secured our third Member Adam then soon after Trent, Daniel and finally the golden catch, Sydel the designer, an even rarer breed than developers at Startup Weekend.
So we had 6, two developers, one designer and 3 non-tecchies, an ideal composition, things were looking good so we set to work.
It had been heavily suggested to us, then over the course of the weekend hammered into us, that if you wanted to win it wasn't about building the thing, it was about validating that people wanted your thing.
Now this is the critical rub for the entire event for me. The more and more I go to events like this and other startup related meetups I find out about the type of person I am and what drives me. I am discovering that I driven by the technology of the product rather than the process of business creation itself. I love to make the thing not necessarily make the business that makes the thing.
I totally understand that the business is completely necessary. You must have a vehicle to drive your product and more importantly you need to make sure you are creating the correct product in the first place. This process is what Startup Weekend is all about and unfortunately for me, not about actually creating the thing.
In hindsight this is kind of obvious, the event is called Startup Weekend, its about building a startup in a weekend. It's not a hackathon like Govhack which is all about hacking together various technologies to solve a well defined existing problem.
So although I really wanted to make the actual app, we decided it would have been better if we just concentrated on making a landing page and designing how the app would look and function. These things are what the judges are actually looking for, not an actual working product.
So until 8pm on Friday, 10pm on Saturday and 4pm on Sunday I hacked together a landing page: https://tuckr.co with Adam whilst Sydel produced some awesome mockups for the app. Daniel, Mary and Trent spent the time trying to validate the idea and develop the business model.
During the entire weekend we had regular "check-ins" where all the teams would come together in the main Spacecubed area and let others know what they had been working on and what difficulties there were having. It quickly became obvious that many of the teams were far ahead of the curve. By Saturday morning some of them already had a landing page or product and some had even already generated revenue.
I found check-ins both inspiring and depressing. The were inspiring because could see that other groups were suffering some of the same problems to you but it was also sometimes disheartening to hear how far ahead some of the teams were.
Soon enough Sunday afternoon rolled around and it was time to present our startup to the the rest of the teams and hopefully win over the four judges.
The presentation process was much better organised than Govhack. Instead of each team going up and individually connecting and disconnecting their laptop from the projector (which took ages and untold number of problems) every team was required to submit their slides 1 hour before we were due to present. That way a single laptop was used to run the slides. It also meant that there was no way you could have demoed a product even if you wanted to.
Our presentation went well, Mary did a great job of presenting our business concept to the room while I cowered backstage clicking next on the slides.
Sadly tho we didnt win this year, there was some truly excellent competition in the form of Veri Vote, Codename Canary and YoPro. Hats off to those guys, they did an excellent job and Veri Vote and Canary had especially great solutions.
Special mention should go to Mulch Club too who were a twice disqualified team (no fault of their own) who managed to generate close to $1000 over the course of the weeknd which is just phenominal.
So after the awards ceremony the event was wrapped up at 8pm. I enjoyed my Startup Weekend, I learnt a whole bunch about business and startup creation and about myself. Would I do it again? Im not sure, I learnt a lot but I think I had more fun at Govhack where we hacking tech together to solve existing problems.
Massive thanks to my awesome team, you guys did a great job and I hope we can stay in touch and perhaps team up again next time!