Startup weekend DC
Last weekend was the official kickoff of the Global Entrepreneurship Week, and this weekend was not going to be like any other weekend. All over the world hundreds of soon-to-be entrepreneurs worked their asses of to launch a startup in just 54 hours.
On Friday night the DC Startup Weekend kicked off with a pizza fest. As the participants enter the room, the huge pile of pizza quickly diminished. In every corner of the building, people introduced themselves. A quick round trough the room showed that most participants were looking forward to pitching their business idea later that evening, meeting new people and winning the competition.
Mack Kolarich (organizer of Startup Weekend DC) started the evening with a short introduction, but soon after that it is time to prove that a room with over 90 wannabe entrepreneurs actually have what it takes to be an entrepreneur. Creativity spurred as everyone was asked to form teams and prepare a pitch for a business idea. However, the idea is given by two random words. Teams were stuck with 'giraffe + soap', 'serendipity + diarrhea' and 'batman + accelerator' for example. That is no problem for the DC entrepreneurs: after 20 minutes every team presented their business idea, a logo, a slogan and how to make money out of it. And honestly, the serendipitous diarrhea project seemed like a viable business idea by then.
After that, it is time for serious business: everyone who wanted to can now pitch their ideas. Each team had one minute to convince everyone that the idea could be a startup by the end of the weekend, and to convince the best people to join your team. After 58 pitches, everyone got to vote for their favorites using sticky notes (which are probably the most used items this weekend seeing the huge piles of sticky notes everywhere). Eventually 23 ideas were selected and the inventors got a chance to explain who they needed in their team. Chaos broke loose as everyone now had to find a team and the “founders” had to select their teammates. By the end of the evening everyone had found a team and the real work starts. Most teams didn’t get much sleep this weekend anyway and decided to make use of the night to work on their projects. There is much to be done and only 54 left hours to do it.
With the help of the coaches and all volunteers, 18 groups pitched their business idea to the judges on Sunday evening. It was good to see the rough ideas that were pitched two days ago evolve into viable business opportunities. Teams only have 4 minutes to present and then 3 minutes for questions from the judges: for most teams it was a race against the clock to explain everything within the time limit. Explaining the idea clearly turned out to be very difficult when one of the judges asked a team to explain it again, but now “the way you would explain it to your mother”. The team was quick to respond and stated that one of their mothers was actually present.
Some of the ideas were very high tech and the judges wondered if they are fit to judge the idea, or were they maybe too old for it? The judges asked tough, but fair questions and teams did not get away easily with market research that showed that 100% of people we asked, would buy this product (surprisingly, at lot of teams came up with research results like this).
The official part of the evening ended with the results. Three teams received an honorable mention, for example because judges could see that it had the potential to revolutionize the world or because it was very appealing. The winning team is Responder; a system to help voluntary emergency response services. It was praised for the social relevance and the judges stated “you guys better build this asap”.
The weekend is now over, but that doesn't mean that the work is done. The top 2 winning teams had 24 hours to complete their 60 second video pitch for the global startup battle's champion circle. There they competed against the other top 2 teams from startup weekends all over the world for amazing prizes that will help launch their businesses. The startup weekend DC began by asking everyone “who was ready to quit their job on Monday?” We will see which teams can keep their enthusiasm for their project alive, who will continue with it and who “just” had an awesome weekend and made new friends for life?
If you are interested in joining a startup weekend yourself, please visit http://startupweekend.org/