Sunday, January 15, 2012

Startup Weekend: Day 2

Day 2 of Startup Weekend kicked off at 9:30 am and about half the team was at The Hub when I got there. We started going over the idea again to figure out the types of technologies the dev team would need to set up (e.g. do we need a payment system? a database? etc.), but there was some thrashing since each person had a slightly different vision of the product. And of course, the large size of our team didn't help the situation. Fortunately, there were some things that overlapped regardless of the vision, so the dev team wasn't blocked. As a group, we agreed that an iPhone app would probably be the best way to present the experience we wanted to capture and we had a dev with iPhone experience, so he started setting up the basics. Another dev and myself started putting together a database and a RESTful service in front of it. The last dev really wanted to work on HTML5 and though the value of that work wasn't clear for the purposes of the event, at the time we had less work than could keep us all occupied, so he started working on that.

By 11:30 am, the biz team hadn't yet hit the streets to validate the idea with customers. The problem was primarily around figuring out how to monetize the product. To help resolve the deadlock, we regrouped to determine what assumptions we were going to start out with. We listed a number of key questions on a whiteboard such as "do our customers have smart phones?" and spent 30 seconds voting on the initial assumption for each one. Several questions were unnecessary to answer at the time including several that required other questions to be answered first. After doing this, we had our initial set of assumptions and could continue making progress. Some time shortly after that, the business team set out to talk to coffee shop owners and the dev team continued chugging away. In truth, identifying the right questions and the initial assumptions is not an easy task, or at least not when it's one's first time doing it.

The business team hard at work (left) and our assumption board (right).

Although there were challenges, something we did that was really important was to trust one another to deliver on their tasks. As the dev team, we trusted that the business team would deliver us a business model to implement, while they trusted us to deliver a prototype in time for the demo. The design team created an experience and trusted us to bring it out in the product. Likewise, the business team trusted the design team to bring the experience expressed in the vision to life. While we often worked together, giving feedback across teams and aligning ourselves, there was significant trust involved, which ties back to the importance of individual picking the right team and the team picking the right members.

Unfortunately, we had some additional attrition on the business side of the team by the afternoon. Two folks departed, leaving us with 10 people. At that point, we had 3 business people, 2 designers, 4 devs, and the team leader, who worked on both the business and the design (he's a designer by trade). Again, it was sad to see the departure, but probably better for everyone's overall experience.

As the day progressed, we ran into an issue on the dev team. Since only one team member had a Mac, we quickly got bottle-necked on iPhone development. We were able to whip out the backend fairly quickly thanks to its simplicity and the awesomeness of phpfog. When that happened, those of us who did not have implementation tasks made sure the backend was well-documented and ready for integration and researched services we might want to rely on such as various payment systems.

Unfortunately, I had to head out early around 5:30 pm due to a family emergency. Two other devs decided to take off at the same time as it had started snowing and they didn't want to get caught unable to reach home. I was able to come online later in the evening and found that the business team had sent out a survey using SurveyMonkey. I filled out the survey and forwarded it on to a select set of friends who I thought would be interested in responding (thanks to all who filled out the survey!).

Snowing in Seattle during Startup Weekend.

As I was reviewing the day and emails that were sent this evening, something disastrous dawned on me. There's no way we'll have the prototype for tomorrow. With only one iPhone developer, we're out of luck going down that path. I refuse to give up though. We will have a prototype to present, even if it's a big ball of tape and glue. The HTML5 code was never checked in, but it might be what we need to pull things back together. Since I don't know what the status of that code is, I started putting some pieces together myself to make sure we'll have a foundation to work from tomorrow when we'll need to seriously crank things out.

Follow my Startup Weekend Seattle experience through the following progression of posts:
  1. Initial thoughts
  2. Pre-Startup Weekend bootcamp (Jan. 12, 2012)
  3. My pitch idea
  4. Day 1 of Startup Weekend Seattle (Jan. 13, 2012)
  5. Day 2 of Startup Weekend Seattle (Jan. 14, 2012)
  6. Day 3 of Startup Weekend Seattle (Jan. 15, 2012)
  7. Post-Startup Weekend lesson summary