Apr 19 2011

How Startup Weekend got our company off the ground

Startup Weekend is writing a book about their program and its effect on participants. Here's what I wrote about my experience there:

When I came into Startup Weekend, I’d formed White Glove Apps and been working on my idea for an in-store shopping iPhone app for over a year. But as a non-developer, I didn’t have much forward momentum because there were no developers on my team. In fact, it was basically just me. I’d never really discussed my idea publicly: worried about compromising my intellectual property, I’d been tight-lipped.

Startup WeekendThis approach wasn’t getting it done, so I registered for Startup Weekend, and threw caution to the wind by crafting a pitch explaining my ideas. I practiced it with family beforehand. I decided to be one of the first few to pitch at SW so participants wouldn’t already be overwhelmed with ideas when I spoke. I pitched third, nervously explaining my idea and referring occasionally to my printed pitch. After many more ideas were pitched, I was excited that several people wanted to talk to me about mine and expressed interest in joining the team. Encouraged, I focused on getting a balanced team together.

We got a great deal of work done over the weekend, including things I hadn’t had the motivation to do myself. For example, we went to supermarkets to interview shoppers and managers. On Sunday, our demo and pitch went well, and our iSpeedShop app won the competition.

Startup Weekend helped me determine what kinds of people I needed for my team. Over the weekend, we had two developers and a couple of marketers. Previously, I had worked with one developer; after SW, it became apparent that multiple developers would jump-start the programming. I also realized we would need a retail expert. In the months since SW, White Glove Apps has recruited two developers and two retail experts, and one co-founder who was also at that SW.

I also won two valuable prizes. One was consulting from a retail expert. After talking with her, I better understood the structure of the industry and what iSpeedShop should do to reach profitability more directly. The other prize was legal services, which let me get agreements written to make sure the company would be protected.

Startup Weekend opened up the DC area’s startup tech scene to me: since then, I’ve joined several groups. I often see people from SW at these events, and there’s camaraderie because we went through SW together. Plus, a co-founder and I were accepted into the Kauffman Foundation’s FastTrac TechVenture incubator.

Startup Weekend was a great entrepreneurial experience for several reasons. First, the ability of strangers to work together toward a common goal was inspiring. Another thing I noticed was how much entrepreneurs help each other: people freely lent each other equipment, expertise, and time. The organizers and coaches were experienced and gave us help and encouragement just when we needed it. Finally, by sharing meals and meeting with participants outside my team, I got to know many people in the DC area’s startup scene.