Last weekend, I participated in Twin Cities Startup Weekend and wanted to capture a few thoughts about the process. I went with Trent and we offered up our services as developers. For those unfamiliar, the process basically goes like this:
- People pitch ideas for startup companies. These can be all over the board, from ideas that people have been kicking around forever to spur of the moment.
- The ideas are voted on to pick the best by popular opinion (and coercion and cronyism in some cases).
- Teams form organically around skillsets and interest.
- Work like mad for 30+ hours getting an initial product going.
- Demo the product to a panel of judges and maybe win a nominal prize.
We picked a startup idea based around aggregating clearance items from local retailers so that people can bargain hunt. It sounded fun, unique and well suited to our abilities. I'm really happy with our choice and proud of what we are able to accomplish in such a short amount of time. The site ended up being called Froogify but we took it back to stealth mode after the demo. You can sign up to find out about it at www.froogify.com
Some thoughts about the weekend:
Startup pitch versus product - The tone of the event was different than I had imagined it would be. I came prepared to make something that could be used, but most of the focus seemed to be on making something that could be pitched to VCs. It didn't matter if it worked or how deep the feature set worked. In short, it was not a maker's event which I should really not have expected it to be, but it did get me wondering if there was a venue for something more about building and less about selling. Would anyone else be interested in more of a code jam type of event? Keep an eye out for more from me on this topic in the future.
I need to pitch something - I've been kicking around a lot of ideas for a long time. It would really be fun to see one of them come to fruition through this event. If you want to pitch something at one of these, let me know and I'd be happy to talk about it and give some strategy in advance.
With drive accomplishment explodes - Our team was energized and enthusiastic and we accomplished more in 36 hours of development and business work than some businesses do in a month. Sure, we cut a lot of corners and really focused on a minimally viable product, but still it was crazy fun to be a part of. Clearly working that amount of time in 2 days is not a sustainable rate, but if you could keep a team really jazzed about what they were doing you could harness some of that magic. Figuring out how to motivate people to that level of intensity is a real trick though.
This is a different skillset
- Most of my programming in the last 15 years has been in environments that valued correctness and stability over speed. I don't have enough tools in my toolbox for these types of situations. It was humbling to work with the amazing Eric Brandes
who kept pulling quick tools out of his bag of tricks. I really need to expand my repertoire and pull in more of these quick tools that make building things fast a lot easier.
Prebuild - There was some talk that the eventual winner of the competition had built most of his software beforehand. At first, I found that a bit offensive, but then I accepted the nature of the event and the fact that creating a working product wasn't exactly the focus. The take away is that I will come into the next event with more prework done. I don't know what I will be building, but having a database, source control and maybe a few project templates set up beforehand wouldn't be too hard and would have saved an hour or two.
Overall - This was an exhausting, all consuming weekend that was an absolute blast. I'm super excited that our business owners for the startup seem interested in carrying it forward and making it a real product. We didn't win the competition, but these guys seem to have the drive to succeed that could make this thing work. That would make me immensely satisfied. Regardless though, I will be back next year to see if I can help launch someone else's dream (or maybe my own).