Sunday, May 20, 2012

Startup Weekend Seattle Day 3

Today was the final day of Startup Weekend and we dove right in, furiously researching our competition and doing market sizing analysis. The site was coming together very nicely and much of the day was spent working out bugs. Because the site was so far along, we had time to get some feedback from a designer on another team, which helped improve the look.

Since we had to prepare for pitches we ended up spending a lot of time putting the pitch deck together. This was a major challenge. Everyone had a different idea of what it should look like and the truth was that there were too many cooks in the kitchen. As the deck went back and forth and became more and more discontinuous, I became more and more frustrated with the direction things were going. Finally, I took a step back and said just one of us needs to own the deck and the others should be constrained to only giving feedback. The owner would be in charge of deciding whether and how to integrate feedback and would have the option of leaving it out. I didn't care whether this person would be me or someone else. I just wanted us to have the right information and to present a consistent story that flowed well. Cy took the lead on this and the rest of us continued working on gathering supporting data to include as well as giving feedback as the various slides came together.

I had a pleasant surprise about halfway through the day when I was talking with someone from another team. The team had started out building "a network for the 1%" and had pivoted into the exact idea I had pitched on the first night. I was glad to see someone working on this problem.

As pitches and judging kicked off, things got started with a great pitch from a 6-year-old for washable stickers. It's amazing how confident he was. When I was that age, I was incredibly shy. I still am, to be honest, but have gradually developed my confidence over time. I was super impressed and excited to see this future superstar entrepreneur.

Our pitch went great. The anti-climatic conclusion is that we didn't place in the top three. However, we did get great feedback from the judges afterwards. They liked the idea, but felt that there were technical challenges that were critical to the success of the business that we didn't solve. They admitted that it probably wouldn't have been possible to have solved them in the course of a weekend, but that's just how judging these kinds of things goes. Something else they felt came up short was that others had attempted to do what we were doing in the past and had failed. They felt we hadn't made a big enough leap to have a shot at escaping the same fate.

All in all, another great weekend of learning! While I'm sure I'll attend more Startup Weekends in the future, I'm really itching to do something over a longer duration where I can get more depth of experience and see the project through to growth or termination.