Wednesday, April 8, 2009

What happens at Startup Weekend?

Last year, I heard all the hype about Startup Weekend Columbus (SWC). Everyone I talked to said it was great, great, GREAT. So this year I signed up.

But as I walked into Tech Columbus for the SWC kickoff last Friday, I realized I didn’t have a clue what was going to happen. What does it really mean to start up a company in three days with a bunch of strangers? What do you really do at SWC?

I’ll give you my perspective.

Day one (Friday): Pick a winner

@rockson: #SWCII starts today!!!!! Yippieeeeeeee.....

After a rousing introduction by Rocky VanBrimmer, Chris Anderson from Tech Columbus walked us through the initial pitches. This is where anyone and everyone can stand up and, in one minute, give us their idea for the next big company.

@fricto: #swcii would you have voted for twitter at a startup weekend?

@nateriggs: @fricto I would have been like - that is pointless! (but that was then...) #swcii

@whitman: Answer: absolutely not.

From hybrid motors to the PeeTron (a device that helps you find the nearest bathroom, of course), I think we heard it all. Seventy plus pitches later, it was time to start narrowing them down.

@nateriggs: 73 ideas at #swcii and no one remembers what they are.

After voting for our top five favorites, and consolidating similar ideas, we were left with about 17 choices. It was hard to pick just one. Finally, I settled on what would later become known as Milton, a simple solution for solo-preneurs to run their businesses.

@alexmoore: Sounds like there is a need for a lightweight / mom-n-pop ERP system at #SWCII

We broke into our groups and settled in to finish the night brainstorming, discussing our ideas, and getting to know each other a little better.

@blantonious: On a team with @cherylharrison @blinkdaddy @briankjones @fricto @LaRees and others! #swcii Serious Energy in this room!

Day Two (Saturday): Mergers and Acquisitions

@NateRiggs A merger has happened - the social media name claim group has just merged with Big Time solutions group #SWCII

Saturday morning, I arrived to find our team had new members. Up to 17 now! We split into groups to divide and conquer. I went to work on the marketing and branding piece. Toughest job? Coming up with a name.

We broke for lunch and to hear an excellent keynote delivered by Will Schroter. I loved how he talked about the power of failure to make us into better entrepreneurs.

@SWColumbus: Wil Schroter of Go BIG gave lunch talk. What cbus needs is ppl ready to fail fast, ppl w startup experience #SWCII

After lunch, back to work. Collectively, we knocked out a preliminary business plan, marketing strategy, and figured out how our application would work.

@cherylharrison: - Brainstorming with our team - @fricto on the dry erase board #swcii

Day Three (Sunday): ROI

@SWColumbus: Sadly, YourMilton HR has announced pre-launch layoffs - they needed to have ROI by end of yesterday #swcii

The final day, the development team worked hard to get a website up and pull together some screen shots, while the rest of us finished up the business plan and planned our presentation.

At 6pm, all the teams got back together to hear what everyone came up with. Eric Ralph and Michael Paull did a stellar job representing our team.

@BryanGriffith: @YourMilton is live at and it is dead simple. #swc2 #swcii


It’s Tuesday, and I still haven’t recovered from exhaustion.

@KPfefferle: @LaRees What, you aren't INVIGORATED from #swc2 ?

But still, the energy is there. Already we’re talking about how to move forward.

I can’t say for sure what will happen with Milton. Maybe he’ll die quietly in the night, or maybe the 17 of us will be the next gajillionaires.

What I do know is that you can count me in for SWC again next year.

- Laura Rees

Laura is a copywriter who focuses on marketing communications for businesses that offer an IT service or product. Find out more about her here, or talk with her on Twitter.


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