First Dublin Startup Weekend a great success
I was involved in running the first Dublin Startup Weekend. Here are some of my thoughts on the experience.
For the uninitiated, Startup Weekend is an event which brings together people from different backgrounds with the objective of creating a startup over a weekend – typically, they are web and/or mobile based.
My motivation for being involved was simple. I saw some of the outputs of other such weekends, understood that new development platforms can enable a lot of functionality to be realized in a short period of time and thought that Dublin should have the right skills and entrepreneurial disposition to make an event like this a success.
Following a process of gauging interest by getting people to vote on the startup weekend website, I approached NDRC to see if they would be interested in supporting it. They thought it a very exciting format and responded enthusiastically. They provided the venue and secured Â additional support through their network. Myself and Amy Neale, NDRCâ€™s Programme Manager, worked on the ground together on the logistical stuff for the event.
By the time the event came around, over 50 people had signed up â€“ a mix of developers, students, graphics folks and business people. They all turned up on Friday evening for the pre kick-off pizzas and the event proper kicked-off at 7pm.
The event started with an overview of what a Startup Weekend looks like given by Clint Nelsen, partner at Startup Weekend, a Seattle based not for profit. Clint outlined how it works, what Startup Weekend has achieved and what people should expect from the weekend. Following this, there were talks by Sean Baker, Technology Entrepreneur and NDRC Director, Teresa Dillon, Senior Content Manager, Inventorium and Enda Flynn of Microsoft Bizspark.
After the intro talks, the pitches started. Any of the participants could stand up and present an idea they had. 17 ideas in total were presented, many of which were very impressive. After the pitches, there was about an hour for people to discuss the ideas with each other and for teams to form. People voted for the ideas they liked and the teams were formed by the end of Friday night.
Photo by Ben Arent
Saturday and Sunday were spent by each team building their web and/or mobile apps and trying to determine the business potential of these systems. The teams worked late into Saturday night and the work wrapped up around 6pm on Sunday evening, when people had to show their wares.
Six teams were formed throughout the weekend:
- GeoDealio â€“ a primarily mobile service which enables people to find deals that nearby cafes, bars and restaurants are offering;
- Classometer â€“ a web based service which makes the job of administering classes such as yoga, dance, karate, music, etc easier by tracking attendance and payments;
- Hit the Road â€“ a web based service for finding routes between places on Dublinâ€™s public transport system;
- CauseHere â€“ a web based service which enables people to gather around causes, find volunteers, organize fundraising etc;
- BragBet â€“ a web based service which integrates social networking and betting platforms to enable a group of friends to form a betting pool and share control over it;
- LendUrStuff Â â€“ a web based service which enables people to share items they use infrequently and obtain some revenue from doing this.
All of the teams managed to produce some working functionality, with some of the teams producing very impressive stuff indeed.
On Sunday evening, each of the teams presented their concept, what they had done and what potential it might have to an adjudication panel. The judges evaluated the ideas based on how much was achieved and whether there might be a substantial viable business.
Photo by Ben Arent
The winning team was GeoDealio: the panel felt that this was an impressive implementation of an iPhone app and web based backend which had significant potential. The team was, however, encouraged to consider the intense competition in this space and should take this into account as it progresses the work further.
A special mention must also go to Classometer who launched their service at the end of the weekend. They gave a very impressive demo of their capabilities and the team is in good shape to bring this forward to generate a modest revenue stream from the service.
Hit the Road is still in prototype mode, but it is a service which would be useful to both Dublin residents and tourists visiting the city. The site went live a couple of days after the weekend.
The event was a great success and certainly exceeded my expectations: the output was very impressive, there was an excellent bunch of people involved, good networking took place and there was a generally good buzz around the room.
The one question which most people ask and I canâ€™t answer is how the teams bring the work forward â€“ this is something that each team must determine itself. While teams can discuss ownership to some extent during the weekend, a key point is not to get hung up on this at the outset. Now those teams who plan on moving forward need to consider who has time and energy and interest in progressing the work and divide ownership accordingly. Of course this is not simple in many cases, but I hope pragmatism will prevail.
The valuable support of the sponsors must be acknowledged. Aside from NDRC who provided organizational support as well as in-kind supports, Microsoft Bizspark gave generously, DCEB made a handsome contribution and the DHDA, Smart Telecom, Dublin Web Summit provided in-kind support. IBM also gave their support. Thanks to all of the above for making it possible.
And now itâ€™s on to planning the next oneâ€¦