Last weekend I attended Startup Weekend New Jersey. For those of you who don't know, which is most of you, Startup Weekend is a worldwide organization which brings people together to work on startup ideas.
Here's how it works: developers, designers, marketers, idea people, etcetera, get together at a venue (ours was Juicetank, a coworking space in Somerset, New Jersey). People who have an idea for startup have five minutes to pitch their ideas to the group. When all the pitches have been pitched, the group votes on the ideas they liked most. Depending on the size of the group, the top n voted ideas are chosen to be worked on. We had about 110 people in attendance, so that meant we had about 15 or so projects selected. Then, depending on your interests and capabilities, you break into teams and work on these ideas. At the end of the weekend, presentations are voted on by a panel of judges with the criteria being how well you did, how well you followed the lean startup techniques, etc.
Now, keep in mind the idea here is not to build a software project. It's to validate a business idea using Lean Startup techniques and maybe build a demo for a startup business. The business may have to do with anything, such as transferring money between people in real-time, to wiping out unemployment, to creating a dating site for cats. By the way, all three of those examples where actual projects that were pitched and worked on during the weekend.
The most-voted project, and the one I joined, was called Waddle The idea behind Waddle is to aggregate a traveler's posts from various social media and present the data on a map. The founders, Suma and Vishnal, had done a lot of upfront work and had a very well thought out business idea, hence why it was the most upvoted project.
The Waddle team was made up of a bunch of pretty cool people who knew their stuff. We put together a cool demo and presentation; unfortunately I wasn't able to be there for the presentation on the last day. Apparently, it was such a good presentation that we won along with another team. The winners of the competition won acceptance into a startup accelerator called Techlaunch and a purse of $25,000 to further the idea. The team and I are meeting later today to discuss where we go from here. :-)
The thing that impressed me the most was the power of the lean startup techniques, specifically be customer value proposition. Although Suma and Vishnal had done a lot of research, we still got a lot of value out of applying the techniques. Not only did applying the customer value proposition validate the business idea, it also showed us several new markets that no one had ever thought of! These techniques actually work!
So, if you are entrepreneurial, or just like to work on new business ideas, check out a local Startup Weekend. Its a lot of fun and you will learn quite a bit.