Tag Archives: Startup Weekend

Exhilarated Energized & Exhausted

The closing moments of a Startup Weekend are truly all of these things. This weekend I spend 3 very long days at the Startup Weekend at Cal Poly. At the end I was truly Exhilarated by working with smart and dedicated people, Energized by what they can bring to our community and the world, and Exhausted from lack of sleep. For those not aware of the Startup Weekend Movement it is a global program that provides a forum for those that want to explore entrepreneurial ideas with like minded individuals. While the event is held at Cal Poly and the majority of the participants are students the event is open to the public. If you have never experienced one of these I highly recommend them as a bucket list idea.

Keynote

This year started on Friday evening with a keynote from Kyle Wiens CEO of IFixIt. Kyle is always interesting to listen to because he has great storytelling ability and an interesting business. He is a Cal Poly grad and a long time sponsor of the Startup Weekend. Kyle did not fail to deliver energy and inspiration to the event. It was also great to see a local tech company engaged. If the Startup Weekend creates one more Kyle in our community that will a major homerun.  

After the keynote they play a game of rock, paper, scissors. With the groups joining each other until there are only two groups left. This serves the purpose of mixing the groups up and it does a good job of this. It gets people out of their seats and interacting with each other. Since the group is very techy my only hope is that in the future they consider upgrading the game to the newest version. Here is my upgrade recommendation. Pitches

Next in the process are the pitches where each person with an idea gets up and does a 60 second pitch that is summarized and posted on the wall. With about 100 people in the event we ended up with about 50 concepts. This is followed by the chaos of voting and it is truly an inspiration for the State of Florida. Each person has three dots that they attach to the ideas they liked best and at the end of that the votes are tallied and the top 12 concepts are announced. I pitched a concept of an Enterprise Search solution but with only two votes my idea was crushed by others. Only the best survive and that is the way it should be.  

Teams

Next came team formation and this is really the magic of the weekend and it is pure chaos. As it approached the end of process there were just a few kids left to be picked for a team and I was one of those. When that was announced Garrett Perkins the evangelist for the Ethic Marketplace invited me to his team. So true to the Startup Weekend best practice nobody is left unengaged not even the Token Old Guy. 

Idea Evolution

The idea evolution is always an interesting process. Everyone looks at the challenges and goals differently based on their life experiences. From that diversity that the team gets its strength but it also causes tension in a fast paced evolving environment.As one of the people that brings up lots of the challenges it can be difficult for those possessed with the vision but the team always seems to find the balance. I like working with people that are smarter than I am and that was certainly true in this team. Working with brilliant people on tough problems is tons of fun.  

Judging

Before discussing judging I have to disclose my bias. I thought the team I worked with was clearly better than the other groups although in the same breath I have to say that all the teams did great work. Having served as a judge before I know how hard it is to compare highly diverse proposals so reasonable people can disagree and I have more than a little bias toward our team. I do not believe in the everyone is winner concept because without failure we have no growth. These people are about to enter the business community and they will change the world and it will be better off because of them.  

I was really disappointed in the level of community involvement in the final presentation and it is something that we can do better on. Our community and the tech community in specific needs to celebrate these people and this process because

as a community we get what we celebrate

If nothing else our team should have got honorable mention as the only team in uniform on Veterans Day. I am extremely proud of the work this team did on the important issue of conscious consumerism. I am excited to see them talk about taking this forward and they have the right stuff to change the world with this one.  

What’s Next

Startup Weekends are a global program with hundreds of thousands of participants. On average 12% of the ideas pitched go on to some advanced stage of business formation. Here locally because of the support from Cal Poly and the Tech Business community our rate is much much higher. Often business survival is compared to baseball batting averages so the global batting average is .120, SLO is much higher probably .350 or so and I am batting .500 with a ball in the air with faith that this one could go over the wall. It has a couple of evangelists and a team of incredibly smart people aligned on the mission. Ethic Marketplace could be something important to our community and the world.   

Watch for these Businesses in 2018!

  • Poly Peels
  • Tulum Cosmetics
  • Poly Talent
  • EleVate
  • Openspace VR
  • Obodo
  • Female Synergies
  • Health Block
  • Spiced
  • OMO
  • Ethic Marketplace

Why I do this?

Okay so I am a little crazy and that helps explain some of this but there is much more. To me this is a form of giving back to my community and I have been an advocate for Tech Entrepreneurs forever. Many of my peers give back as speakers, which is something I hate doing.   Others serve as mentors, which is another way you can give back, and the the team experiences are much better because of that service to community. My choice is to have the deep experience of working in the trenches with the team as they bring innovation and the entrepreneurial spirit to our community. These teams are a critical element in the high quality of life we enjoy. We have to continue to innovate and create new business so we can live locally and compete globally with a quality of life I want for my family and community.  

This is my 9th Startup Weekend and every time I learn from the team I work with and hopefully I contribute back. I love the fact that we are celebrating the Entrepreneurial Spirit in our community. Cal Poly and several community minded businesses and individuals have engineered a full ecosystem that starts with Startup Weekend, flows to the Hatchery and Hot House and ultimately to our tech business community. These new businesses create head of household jobs that improve our standard of living. I cannot think of anything better I could do over a weekend than help this exist in our community.  

Shout Outs

No article about Startup Weekends would be right without shout outs to the people that make it happen. That has to start with the Cal Poly Entrepreneurs (CPE) Club currently lead by Sierra Scolaro and the event lead Alistair Schwab. The entire team from this organization are just amazing.

They coordinate everything and while nothing is ever perfect this event is as close as it gets. The energy and attention to details makes a complex event seen simple.   

The sponsors contribute the treasure needed to bring this to the community but one sponsor has to be called out and that is Guayaki. They actually provide the energy and some might even say the caffeine to fuel the teams.

Our shout outs cannot be complete without without mentioning the mentors. These experts volunteer their time and help all the groups in their specific specialty. Here they are:

Elan Timmons
Nick Fisher
Zachary Sharpell
Lorelei Sibet
Carol Kerwin
Pankaj Kumar
Chris Rollins
Chip Besse
Lynn Metcalf
Elan Timmons
Nick Fisher
Zachary Sharpell
Lorelei Sibet
Pankaj Kumar

About the Author:

Bob Dumouchel is a serial tech entrepreneur with four successful tech startups and three spectacular failures (batting average .571). Bob has been a Softec Member since inception, served as the Softec President twice, and served on the Board of Directors for over 20 years, and his businesses has been Softec Sponsors forever. Bob is a Senior Data Scientist at Systems & Marketing Solution a Google Ads Agency that creates unfair advantage for clients in PPC, SEO, and Social Media. Bob founded the Regional CEO Roundtables and ran the program for the first 11 years.

Footnotes:

I was sick earlier in the week and was still recovering so my energy level was not what it normally is. As a result of that I did not get around to talking to all the other groups and I did go home 3 hours early on Saturday, which I felt bad about. I got 5 hours of sleep that day compared to the normal of about 3. As everyone on the team agreed sleep is grossly overrated 😉  

I have written about this in great detail in past years so I would refer you to http://softec.org/startup-weekend-2016/ for more details.

Startup Weekend 2017

Thank You to CPE for

Running a GREAT Event!!

This was my 7th Startup Weekend and since I have written about the entire process in prior years, this year I want to focus on how the event is evolving over time. Internationally 12% of the teams at a Startup Weekend will go on beyond the event in the business formation process. I can tell you without question that the Cal Poly event run by the Cal Poly Entrepreneur Club is way past that average. Our community has an advantage of a ecosystem that helps the ideas move through to the business community.  The services from Judy Mahan’s organizations, at the SLO Hot House (business incubator), are perfect for helping Startup Weekend Groups launch their business.

Great Progress

One thing that is really encouraging is the evolution of the gender mix. The percentage of women giving pitches and participating in teams have grown noticeably over the years. It was cool to look at the line of people waiting to pitch and seeing an equal split between men and women. The technology industry needs a smart, motivated, and diverse labor pool.  Based on this event we are moving in the right direction.

The concepts have gotten much better over the years. The winners of this year’s competition were all serious ideas that hold the potential to be startups in our community. In the earliest events there were some concepts that were fun for the weekend but not really serious. There were still a few that will never see the light of day but like any creative process you must allow for this type of fall out. We will not know for a few months how many go forward but I would wager that it will be way more than 12%!

The Business Community Should be MORE Engaged

People ask me why I participate in these events and its because it creates competitive advantage for me. For $65 I get to talk with smart people for 54 hours as we explore business topics of interest to me. I get to hear smart ideas from brilliant minds and meet people that are self-motivated to solve those challenges. I get outside, independent, creative ideas and they feed me! It does take time but as I told my wife I have to be somewhere, and this is more fun than most of the alternatives.  I am shocked that business participation is so low. Out of the 100+ involved in the event I was one of three that were over 30. Since the average age of a successful entrepreneur that launches a high growth business is 39 you have to wonder why this event was not full of experienced business people. All this happens for $1.20 an hour – WHAT A DEAL!!! Here is what Time Magazine says about this:

Start-ups in some industries, such as biotech and business software, gain an edge from the experience that comes with a founder’s age. According to research by Vivek Wadhwa, an academic and tech entrepreneur, and the Kauffman Foundation, the average age of successful start-up founders in these and other high-growth industries was 40. And high-growth start-ups are almost twice as likely to be launched by people over 55 as by people 20 to 34.

Source: http://business.time.com/2013/03/14/ask-the-expert-the-best-age-for-a-start-up-founder/

CPE Organizers Help Startups

Stepping On Out!!

A Word about Cal Poly

I am a big fan of the CPE and CIE at Cal Poly. Their support hosting this event is a huge contribution to the local business community. What our business community must realize is that this is not just for University students. Startup Weekend is open to anyone in the community that has the entrepreneurial spirit, an idea to change the world, and the drive to make it happen.  Learn more about the great people in CPE Leadership https://cpentrepreneurs.com/officer-bios/

See You Next Year!

About the Author:

Bob Dumouchel | Senior Data Scientist bob@smsrd.com

  Systems & Marketing Solutions Inc. www.smsrd.com

Digital Sales Agency

Softec Past President – Board Member for over 20 years

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 – 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