Startup Weekend Success!

Pepper Curry, the Community Assistant from BizDojo Wellington, was one of the competitors in the Startup Weekend Wellington event that took place last week. She had some great luck with her team, taking second place in the competition, as well as acquiring some interest in the continuation of their concept idea. Here, she catches us up on the action:

Whew, what a weekend! After the earthquake last Friday, 150 people were packed into the BizDojo Wellington for the opening festivities of this season’s Startup Weekend (Social Enterprise edition). Massey University would host us for the rest of the weekend, but due to the closures on Friday, we all got cozy in the Dojo for opening pitches.

About 40 of the participants lined up along the aisle to pitch their ideas to the masses, who may or may not have been listening as they munched their burgers, chatted about their ideas, and started figuring out which concepts they’d like to support. I sat fiddling with my name tag, feeling a bit guilty about not having an idea to pitch. It was, after all, Social Enterprise weekend; a topic near and dear to my heart. If I don’t have an idea to save the world in a sustainable fashion, then I’m a bit of a failure as a greenie, aren’t I?

But then it struck me! An idea! No time to suss it out, I ran straight into line and delivered my pitch before I could stop myself. Everyone who pitches then has to go and draw up a poster of what their idea is, and all participants walk around with 5 stickers to post on their favourite ideas. The top 10-20 posters with the most votes get to stick around, and then it’s a mad dash for all to join a team.

I was surprised to see that someone else, Miles, had a really similar idea to my own, and we ended up merging together and earning a great number of votes. Soon, people started approaching us looking for work. We ended up pulling in a great UX designer, Dana, that I knew from before, and also the effervescent Aimee Whitcroft, who brought some great business and logic acumen that helped us along our way. We decided to stop at four, and we sat down and got to work.

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Photo credit: Mark Tantrum

From then on, we were a team, rocking through the Social Enterprise Edition Lean Canvas in a single night. At 1 AM, we called it quits and went home, only to wake up the next day to conduct market validation for our plan. Eschewing the advice of the mentors to go out on the street and talk to strangers, we instead turned to more specific resources, people who worked in industries that we believed could be market targets for our product. We were tired, cranky, and got a bit bitchy with each other, but we toughed it out. Throughout the second day, we had to pitch several times to get our skills sharpened, and by the end, Aimee was a wheelin’ dealin’ pitching machine. Saturday was a 16-hour day, and we were all babbling idiots by the time we dragged ourselves into bed at the end of the night.

With advice from the mentors, a good push from the event crew, and the surprising tenacity and motivation of our team, we built a UX, a basic front-end system, marketing materials, a logo, and a killer presentation, all for showcasing at our final pitch to the VIP guests, judges, and other teams. The final day was really tough, as we knew we were on a short deadline, and we had to crank out a lot of material. We had already had enough tension back and forth, and at this point, we had settled into a smooth groove of just working through each issue as quickly as possible and getting back to work. I literally finished our presentation at the last second, slamming my laptop shut and lugging it down to the presentation room just before they kicked everyone out.

We were the final pitch, and I was amazed at how great everyone’s ideas were! We watched 11 other pitches that night, and I can honestly say that most of them were completely original, amazingly designed, and seemed like things that should definitely exist in the world. There were apps, concrete product development, reinventions of old technologies, and propositions for improving lives. It was fantastic.

Although our idea was unconventional and utilised a rather arcane business model, we ended up winning second place in the competition! The judges appreciated our originality, and also our attitude, which was basically to ignore advice that didn’t work for us and keep true to our core beliefs. This enabled us to build something unique, and also well designed.

After receiving such great validation from the Startup Weekend crew, our peers, and our market research, we are confident that our idea is a solid one, and while I can’t discuss the finer details of it publicly  we’re in talks to refine it and get it to a point where we feel good about releasing it into the wider world, either as a general use system or specifically tailored to developers and designers. I had no idea that I would end up with a great social enterprise idea that could potentially “change the world” as they say…and Startup Weekend is specifically geared for just that, inspiring people to sit down with each other and build something better than any of them ever could have done alone, all in one 54-hour period. Wild, right?