Category Archives: Startup Weekend

Startup Weekend 2016

   Friday-NightTucked away in a building next to the library on Cal Poly’s campus, 107 brilliant minds came together to pitch ideas, build teams, and launch ideas to change the world. This is the essence of a startup weekend and it is an experience that I recommend you put on your bucket list.

Keynote-Speaker

To kick off the evening was a local success story of a business that formed out of Cal Poly by Jesse Dundon, the CEO of Hathway .  He told his story of transformation that began with carpet cleaning and evolved into a local 50+ person mobile web design firm.  One point that he made is that the pivot greatly improved his dating outlook as girls thought web development was cooler than rug cleaner 😉 It was a great talk and really helped set the stage for the transformations that most teams would go through over the weekend. Granted, nobody pivoted their concept this far over the weekend, but to be fair Jesse had a few years to do that pivot.  What was clear from the story is that not everything happens in a clean and orderly fashion. The story was great and the presentation was excellent.

Chaos to Calm

The Startup Weekend process is a cycle from chaos to calm. The chaos begins within the first hour thanks to a crowd mixer game of Rock, Paper, Scissors (but with a twist); Every time a person wins they accumulate their losing competitor and also whatever followers they had accumulated. In the end we are left with two competitors and their cheer team of accumulated followers. In other words, the room is divided into two teams rooting for their victor! This gets not only the energy up but also the volume.

pitches

Within 20 minutes the noise level is down as one speaker at a time gives a 60 second pitch on the product or application they want to launch this weekend. Of course, some people are more animated than others but somehow calmness takes over the room. This does not last long as it results in about 60 ideas up on the walls for the chaos of the vote. Chaos is actually too mild of a term for what happens next as people are pulled between voting for different ideas or representing their own.

The crowd swirls and flows through the room as vote stickers are placed on pitch idea posters and people ask qualifying questions of the pitch presenters. Once the voting is closed, calmness returns and everybody sits in anxious silence as the event leaders take all the idea posters and count the votes. When done, the top 12 ideas get an additional 30 seconds before the pure chaos of team formation begin.

Team Formation

In the business world team formations for startups take years to evolve yet so do businesses. In this event businesses are created over a weekend and 107 people divide into 12 business teams in only 10 MINUTES!

When the event leadership asked if anyone was without a team after the formation process, only one person was left. Once this individual stated that they were a developer a bidding war erupted in the room as groups warmly invited the orphan to their team. Afterwards, each team went out into the wilderness to stake their claim in one of the two buildings designated for this event. Our team picked a spot on the second floor of the Bonderson Engineering Projects Laboratory while others remained in the Advanced Technologies Laboratory. Now things started to happen as computing devices of every form emerged from backpacks and power cords reached out to walls full of plugs.

Team Evolution  

teams

Our team quickly evolved as did the two other groups in our area as the challenges were discussed and people were assigned to take on each of these tasks. Leadership evolved in our group based on the role of each person. Milad, a 3rd year finance major, became the business lead in partnership with Charles Hu. Grant Terris and Kevin Vincent were the technical horsepower. Grant took the backend work with the server side development and the portal and Kevin did the iOS app development. With specs still in flux they started putting the framework together so that the rest of the team would have things to react to.

Pivot & Repeat

Startup weekends are nothing if not flexible and fluid and this time was no different than the prior five teams I have been on. As people talked and ideas changed the concept evolved over most of Saturday. Our team went through three major pivots as the idea evolved and unlike in a business world where every change is debated on its merits this team just took the changes in stride and kept moving forward. After all you only have 54 hours so there is no time for people to become vested in the idea so the pros and cons are less personal. Other teams went through the same process in different ways but every idea evolved radically over the weekend. Names were changed, missions evolved, concepts crashed, and the process went on.

Fueling Innovation

TeaThroughout the event  meals are provided and if you look at the $50 event cost and the meals provided it is the best deal in town. While the meals were varied and great quality the one vendor that really deserves a huge shout out is Guayaki. Jose from Guayaki was at the event providing Yerba Mate for all three days. I had the opportunity to talk to him and was surprised to learn that a local company from a Cal Poly senior project in the local business community for 20 years is not an authorized vendor on campus. Even more surprising was to discover this is at least partially because of a vendor contract restriction from Coke . I think we can all agree that Coke, with $10 billion in sales, does not need contract protection from Guayaki in SLO. It is also distressing that a contract is stopping Cal Poly from doing business with a local business. So much for the fair shake for the little guy.  
yerbamate-teayerbamate-tea

Read More about this

http://mustangnews.net/guayaki-yerba-mate-returning-to-cal-poly/

https://youtu.be/zwUy9TVA1pQ?rel=0

Other local firms that provided food to the event include:

A Day of Focus

While Saturday was a day of pivots and debate Sunday is about focus. There is nothing like staring down at a deadline to make a team focus on the delivery. On Sunday, we started in the  morning at the Library across street discussing the big idea that we had settled on and the business model that would get our team to the innovation finish line. As you walk around the event you can feel the change in the force (think Star Wars) as groups move closer to the immovable presentation at 5pm. The afternoon is refining and practicing the pitch and getting the technical types to shift from creating to fixing so the presentation works. Our team was pretty good about this with software changes down to just fixes by about 2pm. That is followed by a tech check, a deep breath and the final presentation.

Reflecting on the results

On our team (CheckMate) we got the mobile app working for iOS and the backend partner portal running. As a full disclosure not everything was perfect but it worked. I think the technical team can be rightfully proud of the result because in a normal business setting this would have taken several weeks to get done. The prototype demo went without any problems other than the projector in the room that jammed up several teams.

As I watched the other teams I was impressed by all of them. They had gone from a wild concept on Friday night to a presentation in just 54 hours. There were some stumbles but not a single on-stage failure – I have to wonder what the odds of that are! One thing I will probably never forget is Katie White on the Lettuce Team who lost her voice during the event. During the Q&A Katie wanted to answer the question so badly that she ran up up to the judges and whispered the answer and everyone listened. It was an amazing example of turning a liability into an asset. It demonstrates just how dedicated to these teams are and that it is not how loud you talk but what you have to say.   

Team Summary – In presentation order

  1. Unlimited – Financial Training for Kids
  2. Extra Lettuce – Saving app for students – saving plan with auto deduction
  3. Project Take out – Home chefs to home delivery app
  4. Hitch – Long Distance Ride Sharing
  5. Spottr – Fitness Matching App
  6. Moola – Employee Recruiting Expense reimbursement and finance
  7. Head Count – School Field Trip Management
  8. Quinch – Smart Water Bottle
  9. PC Kit – Build your PC for Gamers – specs based on Game & Performance
  10. The APIARY – Bee Hive Monitor
  11. Virtual Realty – 3D Real Estate Marketing
  12. CheckMate – Consumer Driven Coupon Delivery App

Team Photos for those that provided them to me – as the ace reporter on the scene I should have gotten photos from all 12 teams but in the end these are all the photos that I could get my paws on.

HeadCount-TeamTeam: Head Count

From left to right: Kevin Mckinnis, Rebecca Krieger, Kaitlyn Henry, Kristen Henry, Mike Hurdelbrink, and Daniel Williams.

HeadCount is a mobile application that simplifies field trips for teachers, chaperones, and students. It empowers field trip leaders to work collaboratively and stay organized, so they can focus more on learning and less on the little things.

Spottr-TeamTeam: Spottr

Front Row left to right: Michael Hbib, Danica Liang,  Emily Cai, Nikki Duffy, Tiffany Lam

Back Row left to right: Neda Sales, Matthew Eng, Shain Lafazan, Anthony Fontes, Tyler Chen

The Tinder for Fitness buddies! Swipe right if you find a buddy that matches your fitness interests, level, and availability.

CheckMate-TeamTeam: CheckMate

Left to right: Charles Hu, Kevin Vincent, Milad Hassibi, Bob Dumouchel, Grant Terris

CheckMate is a mobile app that delivers coupons to consumers based on their preferences rather than the advertisers distribution plan. System pulls from available coupon inventory based on personal settings rather than having them pushed by the advertisers.

Team:MoolaTeam: Moola

Employee Recruiting Expense reimbursement and finance

We apologize, we were unable to get the team member names!

If you are one of the other 8 teams and would like to be included, just send to bob@smsrd.com a photo, your team members names and a description of your app and we will be sure to add it to the article!

Judging

The judging panel included:  

Aaron Steed, CEO and founder of Meathead Movers. https://www.linkedin.com/in/aaronsteed

Charmaine Ann Farber, who worked as a ux/ui designer, illustrator, graphic designer, animator and educator, both nationally and internationally, for CIVCO International, MacArthur Foundation, Congressman Loebsack of Iowa, Stamats, Lipman Hearne, SMC Marketing Hong Kong, and Benson & Hepkar Design Group, and have spoke at events everywhere from Yale University to Chiba, Japan of Directors of AIGA and also served on the Pittsburgh board of Directors of AIGA.
https://www.linkedin.com/in/charmaine-farber-8181b723

Greg Gibson, Entrepreneur in Residence at CIE. Entrepreneur and senior executive with experience on the founding teams of companies in consumer internet, SMB ecommerce, online advertising, and social media spaces. https://www.linkedin.com/in/ggibson

Judging

Each group got 5 minutes to present and 3 minutes for QA from the judges. Because presentations are so unpredictable and nerve wrecking It truly is amazing that all 12 groups did so well. 

Presentations
And the WINNERS are:  

  1. Project Takeout
  2. The Apiary
  3. Virtual Reality

Honorable Mention from the Judges:

  • Quinch
  • PC Kit
  • Moola

Judging something like this is difficult and as I watched I ranked each of the groups on how they did on the presentation and the questions and answers. I came up with some of the same names but my top list was very different from the judges with Project Takeout being the only common name. This is not to take anything away from anyone but it does show that reasonable people can disagree, especially when you have so many really great teams. What is amazing is that all the teams could be a viable business if they can keep the team alive. I would bet that locally we will soundly beat the 12% continues after the event average of the Startup Weekend Program.  

A true story from the Event

From Nick Sinai Event Coordinator:

I was sitting with Joe from virtual realty when he sees someone walk by with his wife and kids and tells me, hey that’s Tim Cook! So of course I’m surprised and like no way, “Joe you wanna go talk to him??” And he says no because he’s already met him and I’m like well I haven’t! So I grab Tim Elkana the main organizer and tell him “Dude! Joe says Tim Cook just walked by!” So Tim is freaking out and like “Heck yeah I want to go talk to him! Let me grab my camera!” So we run down the campus to where Tim Cook is walking with his wife and kids, and as we get closer we say ” Hey! Are you Tim Cook?” This man laughs and say “Nope!” And walks off. Tim and I walk back disappointed to find Joe laughing hysterically and then we realize Tim Cook would never be walking around Cal Poly with his wife and kids because Tim Cook is gay.

Shout out to the Event Leaders

Startup Weekends cannot happen without the inspiration and perspiration of the event leaders and the team this year did a great job. Here is the team that made the magic possible:

  • Tim Elkana
  • Luke Bayard
  • Jim  
  • Nicholas Sinai
  • Katie White

Startup Weekend at New Tech High

NTH Startup Weekend 2015

This last weekend New Tech High in Nipomo held its first Startup Weekend. We have had plenty of these but wait for it because there is a twist. This event was targeted at the high school level and I had the honor of touring the event on Saturday. Each team briefed me on the idea  they were working on and the challenges they were trying to overcome.  I can tell you that the participants were young but they were taking on and thinking about big problems.

While the groups were high school students the ideas were not kid stuff. All Startup Weekends have some degree of fun and silliness to them but these groups were really on their game. The ideas were on par with the other Startup Weekends and I would not be amazed to see a real business out of this event.  This was one of those situations where you get to see the future and I can tell you the future is bright and so are these young men and women.

More Pictures

As I visited the groups one thing that really struck me was percentage of women in the groups. This event drew 52 participants and I was told that 40% were women. I am a math geek so I can tell you that this data is wrong but the truth is there were lots of women on the teams and many in the leadership roles. This is in stark contrast to prior Startup Weekends and I must tell you it was great to see. Recently Softec has been talking about the problem of attracting women to our industry and it appears that New Tech High might have a secret the rest of us should come to understand.  Whatever they are doing in this program they may be laying the foundation to cure one of our industry’s greatest problem.

The other item that I have to mention is the teacher involvement. This event had support from a team of teachers not just one solo voice.  New Tech High appears to be a different type of school at its foundation and we need to support these types of experiments in our local schools. We recently saw many of these teachers at our dinner on Women in Technology and if this event is an example of their work we better listen real careful to this group of educators.

Having been to a participant at seven prior Startup Weekends I can tell you that this was a very well run event. I was told by one of the event leaders that an overwhelming and consistent comment from the kids this weekend was:

“This is what school should be like”

 

Softec and our friends stepped up and supported this event because like all Startup Weekends it is perfectly inline with our mission. I need to give shout outs to the Softec members that joined with Softec for the donation to the event.

Thanks for the Support!!!

Startup Weekend goes to High School

New Tech HighThe culture of Startup Weekend continues to develop in our community and here is the first event moving into the our high schools!!!

If you have kids in the High School and Middle School levels please encourage them to get involved and change the world. This event is hosted by Central Coast New Tech High but is open to all high school and middle school students.

Startup Weekend Youth Nipomo

Register Here!

More Program Details

Startup Weekend – Cal Poly 2015

SW logoIf you have never been to a Startup Weekend I recommend you add it to your bucket list. It’s a 54 hour event held over a weekend with the purpose of pitching an idea, building a team, and prototyping a business before 5pm on Sunday. To say it is intense is a bit of an understatement. Cal Poly hosted the event this weekend and it started with about 120 really smart people pitching ideas.

Event MeetingThe first phase are the pitches and we probably had about 35 that emerged from the crowd. Each person had an opportunity to do a 60 second pitch to the group. The ideas were wide ranging, some were thought out and others just burst into the room.

I pitched an idea for business intelligence but it got crushed by the other ideas in the room. To put this in perspective I had six votes, three of which were mine, and the top ideas had votes in the 20+ range. Since it looked like I did not have enough to create my own team I joined one that would later be named “Clock’d.” The process on the floor is interesting because the teams form based on people’s interest in the idea and belief in what the team is setting out to do.

This is followed by an election process to select the top ideas, which is an exercise in crowd planning. Each person gets three post-it notes that serve as votes and people wander around to vote on the ideas they liked best. Somehow out of this emerged 13 ideas that served as the base of group formation. After that, people attach themselves to the top ideas they like resulting in groups of five to 15. The net result was 13 groups and all the members wanted to work on that idea.

The groups went off and found space to talk and get to know each other. The goal was to get team buy-in before shutting down around midnight. Our group met in the library and talked about our strengths and weaknesses, which would prove to be extremely valuable over the weekend.

During that first evening the team went around the table introducing themselves and it turned out to be a very balanced team. We had four business people, three developers, one designer, and one TOG (Token Old Guy – that’s me). If I had carefully planned and interviewed people I do not think I could have selected a better team. I am always amazed how such good teams emerge from what appears to be total chaos. As the event evolved over the weekend another developer joined our team because he was a friend of the designer. Over the course of the evening the team divided itself into development and business and agreed to the idea details.

Team - PresentationsThe idea was a time clock based on mobile technology that solves many of the problems with time and attendance recordkeeping. I have been involved with software development for over 35 years and it amazes me how these teams can agree on specs and be writing code within a few hours. In the business world, developing the specs before coding starts would be months, yet these teams do it in hours. As the code emerges there is this rapid iteration of the specs and code that happens in a continual improvement loop that would impress any project manager. With no leader, no written specs, and violating every best practice on the planet, this team had a working prototype that they ran live on stage Sunday night and it came off flawlessly. It takes real guts to go live on-stage with no safety net but they did it.

Saturday morning the event opened back up at about 8am but in reality it was about 9am before the team had enough coffee in them to get the creative minds moving again. By midday on Saturday the tech teams were focused on the product prototype and the business teams were out talking to potential customers. In our team, the product is the next generation of clocking in/out. The team had people out validating the viability of the idea while the techs were coding the prototype. By 11am the tech team had gotten an iPhone working as the location host to talk with and trigger the arrival event within about a 100 foot range of the base.

It was lunch on Saturday and the tech/design team had a basic prototype up and running. Then as the market research team returned there was discussion of a huge pivot and a reset of the goals. Needless to say, this caused some conversation within the tech team. Ultimately they decided to stay the course and keep the basic concept but they adjusted the target market. As the development went on during the day I started writing down the words emerging from the tech team. These were just tidbits of the conversation:

…it almost worked

…it half worked

…it 80% worked

…that should never happen

…how can the error always be on line 15?

…we are 95% done (unfortunately the last 5% takes 19 times longer to finish than the first 95%)

in a circleThe startup evaluation includes market validation and they encourage the teams to get out and talk to people about their idea. Our business team (Nick, Katie, Eli, and Austin) talked to a wide range of businesses in downtown SLO. After the first cycle of validating their idea they returned rather down because they got some negative input. They eventually figured out that not all products fit for all businesses and that people saying ‘no’ is not necessarily a bad thing. This caused them to start talking about pivoting on the idea but the reality is they simply talked to the wrong people. They went back out two more times after taking input and adjusting their research. After that we wrote an email to the local CEO Roundtable group and got input from five local CEO’s that were much better matches for their idea.  The problem they discovered is that their idea needs a certain amount of employees to create leverage and value. The CEO Roundtable group input really helped them refocus and understand that you have to pitch your idea to the right people and not everyone is the right one. I would like to thank Ty Safreno, Brent Kostiw, Sandy Lubin, Marci Imes, and Dave Cox from the CEO Roundtables for their input.

After lots of work by the team, at noon on Sunday the prep for the presentation was in full swing. This process is one that the team really did a great job on but the first time through was way past ugly. It was great to watch them evolve the presentation and work out each of the hiccups in the conversational flow. What would emerge after a few hours was a strong presentation that the entire team supported. This process continued up to the last second and the team energy just got higher and higher as time closed in on them. This team really went for the hoop doing a live presentation of the software and to my amazement it all worked.

I was very proud of the work that the team did and I did very little. I did not write code, validate the market, or create the presentation, but I did watch as they did all the heavy lifting. Clearly what finally made it to the stage was the work of the others in the group. I thought they were the overall winners but the judges disagreed and they placed second. The competition was fierce and there was not one single weak group there – truly an environment where only the strong survive.

One funny thing happened on Sunday night when the groups presented. My idea, which got crushed in the election process, was picked up by a group of engineers. They created what I think might be the best commercial value of the night. It was a technology to monitor video feeds to extract crowd movement data for traffic or marketing study. Not at all what I had in mind when I pitched the idea but it was brilliant and I was really glad they shared the connection to my pitch. They took it in a direction that I never thought of and I would like to thank Daren Davoux and his team for picking up the idea and developing it.

This was my sixth Startup Weekend and each one has had its own personality which I am sure is based on the work done by the organizers. The events have not been better or worse but they are certainly different and I have enjoyed all the ones I have been involved with. I cannot write about an event like this without giving these thought leaders a huge shout out. So to Luke, Allyson, Cam, and Jared here is a big SHOUT out for doing a great job! All I can say is “Simply Amazing”.

Organizers

This event was well organized and had fewer overall group meetings than most. There were also fewer mentors and I am not sure if that was good or bad. On the good side it gave the teams more time to work and few distractions. On the other hand they got less input than other events. Again this is different, not good or bad.

In closing it was a great event with lots of energy, ideas, and fun. I hope to see some of these ideas as businesses in our community in the near future. I know the Clock’d group is talking about continuing the idea as are many of the others. This is the beginning of the startup ecosystem in SLO and Softec hopes to see more of these at the Tech Pitch in October.

Bob - Cropped

Bob Dumouchel – Softec Past President

CEO Systems & Marketing Solutions Inc.

Here is the team I worked with over the weekend.

Clockd team

Bob, Katie, Rishab, Cameron, Colton, Tyler, Austin, Eli, Nick

I am not completely sure but I think the group had the oldest (Me) and the youngest (Austin – High School Student) of any of the groups. As the old one I can tell you that the future is very bright with these talented  people entering the Tech Industry.  Follow this group and I bet you see huge success in their future. Next steps for this group will be the hatchery, Hot House, and Tech Pitch in October.

Here is another group thinking through their idea…Trust me I was not in this group 😉

Thinking-through-the-problem

They are doing push ups not hand stands.

Startup Weekend – January 16-18 – Cal Poly

If you have never been involved with a startup weekend it is an experience that I highly recommend. A Startup weekend is a 54 hour event where creative people come together to pitch ideas and create Startups. This will be my sixth Startup Weekend and I can assure you that it is both exhilarating and exhausting. It is amazing to watch ideas gather teams than then morph into Startups that launch in our community. I know of at least a dozen businesses that have roots in prior Startup Weekends.

Finding this event can get a little tricky but here is a quick link for more information:

http://www.up.co/communities/usa/slo/startup-weekend/5156

And a video about the program:

http://vimeo.com/28872840