Part One: Confessions of a Startup Weekend Participant
Since 2011, Chapman University has been part of an amazing international project called Startup Weekend (SWOC). All around the world, groups of creative people get together with various ideas, from serious to silly to see if they can bring those ideas alive. By the end of the weekend the participants try to bring ideas to the point of an MVP, or minimal viable product, do basic market validation on the idea, and then pitch it in front of a panel of Angels, Venture Capital groups, and Accelerators. It is 56 hours of craziness, commaraderie, learning, and excitement; not to mention an absolute blast… and you never know what will come out of it. This is Startup Weekend!
I heard about Startup Weekend a bit on the late side in 2011. Luckily for me at the time, many participants tend to be a bit on the procrastination side of signing up, and I was able to secure a place in the session. My reasons for going to the Startup Weekend OC were: a desire to learn how the Angel and VC world functioned today, a desire to shake things up a bit in my professional life, a desire to explore a project that I had in mind, and just plain curiosity. It turned out to be a pivotal decision for me.
Arriving on Friday afternoon at Chapman University, I found a room full of excited individuals. That first S.W.O.C. was comprised of almost all men. There were a few women in the mix, including an incredibly talented programmer named Kate Yoak, and a S.W.O.C. volunteer, Nicole, who did an amazing job organizing things and making everyone feel welcome. There were three categories of participants: Business development, Developer (programmers), and Designers. I had signed on as a designer (one of my degrees is in Graphic Design). They try to sign up a balanced amount of each category, although they frankly could use more programmers. Most projects are internet or mobile based projects, although there’s nothing preventing you from trying a product based model.
Friday evening was spent doing the initial one minute pitches of whatever idea you have, if you have one. Forming teams around your idea, if you can, or joining someone elses team, if you can’t, and after all this chaos, the real fun begins: assigning roles, creating branding, setting up marketing teams, and moving the project forward as quick as possible. We had an 11PM curfew at Chapman University, so many teams just moved to another location. Fifty Six hours is not much time, so many teams forfeit sleep to gain any advantage they can.
A participant named Travis Schmidt had an interesting project and was actively recruiting quite a team. He talked me onto what eventually became the AppointMap team, which had 14 participants (You can see the team on Appointmap, our startup weekend website). Travis was amazing with beginning team dynamics! Our team had three of the small cadre of intrepid women on it, one in each category, and eleven wonderfully talented men. At the end of S.W.O.C. we were frantically putting the finishing touches on an actual M.V.P. complete with branding, a demo video of both a web and mobile version, and a website on the project. Amazing! The team of 14 complete strangers worked together without any conflicts through 56 exciting and exhausting hours of the crazy business sprint that makes up the weekend.
Travis’ team presented in front of the panel of judges, and although we didn’t “win the weekend,” the Appointmap team was invited to present to the K5 Launch accelerator to vie for a place in their first “class.” Over the next three months, Travis narrowed the team down to three people, a requisite for application to most accelerator programs, and we continued to work like crazy on the project. Appointmap did presentations to three accelerator groups (it turned out Travis was a LinkedIn ninja..lol), and was being considered by Amplify.LA, when K5 Launch trumped them and offered Appointmap a place in their accelerator. A weekend adventure now had turned into more than three crazy months, and we were entering an elite program for startup companies run by Amir Banifatemi and Ray Chan.
Although the AppointMap project didn’t get off the ground, Startup Weekend OC and the following adventure was an amazing experience that opened up more doors than I could have imagined, and I am enormously grateful for everything that has come out of that first S.W.O.C. I highly recommend anyone who is curious, has an interest in business, design, or technology to give it a try and attend the upcoming S.W.O.C. this month. To attend the event, sign up at StartupWeekend.org
To learn more:
about the Startup Weekend organization
About Startup Weekend Orange County (AKA S.W.O.C.)
about Chapman University Leatherby Center for Entrepreneurship
PART ONE OF THIS ARTICLE: Amazing Things Happen at Chapman University’s Startup Weekend OC- Part 2