Startup Weekend Hartford – Reflections

To put it simply, I loved StartupWeekend Hartford. The whole group was very supportive and it was great seeing what we could all accomplish in such a short timeframe. I’ve heard about startupweekend before, but never experienced one. I knew it was going to be a long weekend fueled with black coffee and ambition, but I wasn’t sure how the experience would feel. It was challenging, engaging, rewarding, stressful, exciting and fun. I had more fun that weekend than I have had in a long time.

The pitches were pretty varied, people were pitching some great ideas, and some really pie in the sky ideas. Some seemed like they were impossible to show working demos for. Some ideas felt old and stale “oh that’s been done before”. I KNEW mine was done before, but what better way to learn guitar than to play your own version of “Stairway to Heaven,” It was pretty surprising that anyone was actually interested by my pitch.

It seems like everyone that joined the group though was just looking for experience, winning would have just been icing on the cake. The primary goal would be to learn what we could from the experience and build up our skill sets for when we had another idea.

Saturday we worked most of the day, but mingled with some of the other teams to see how they were doing. We talked to a few of the mentors as well for guidance but mostly we were in grind mode.

The part that stands out the most to me was the presentation on Sunday. I remember distinctly pacing back and forth while we pored over the language of the presentation to make sure we gave off the most convincing argument that we could. We fought back and forth over individual words and timing. Over what slides we would include. How we would present it. Would I read the script off a tablet? My computer? Should I print it? No, there’s no time, just use my laptop. Tick tock. Tick tock.
Seeing the everyone’s results and how much progress they made since the pitch really blew me away.

Looking back, my idea wasn’t really new. I had been pondering it and taking a few stabs at it before. What had changed was the perspective that I looked at it. There was a lot of brainstorming in those 54 hours. We went from a very basic concept: visualize your todo list, to a much more full and well rounded concept. I wish we had more time to develop and code. Balancing the load of the team was challenging as well. We had a somewhat small group. 2 developers and 2 business and marketing guys. There were times I wish we had operated more like a well oiled machine, but we were just getting to know each other.

I was definitely torn as a developer between wanting to code and also driving forward the project that I pitched.
It was difficult going across the board from varying ideas and maintaining those ideas. I really wanted to create something more tangible but we weren’t able to in the time allotted. I think with more experience in rapid team building and rapid development, we’d be able to get something more tangible in a weekend.

I think I’m much better prepared for another startup weekend from the lessons I learned. Though talking out problem is great, there’s only so much time. Actions speak louder than words. Next time I’d put much more emphasis on a working prototype and customer validation from the beginning. A functioning prototype has a lot more “wow” factor, and makes customer validation a lot easier since you can ask for feedback on something more tangible than an idea.

Another important thing I learned about brainstorming was how important it was to timebox discussions so that they don’t run away from you into non-productive territory. If we sit down with the intent to hash out a problem, we better decide how long we expect it to take, or we can go on forever, and we only have a weekend.

I still want to continue my project, but with the weekend over, and the team and the intensity lifted, it’s back to the daily grind. I’ve kept in touch with my team to keep developing it in our free time.

At the end of the weekend I went out for drinks with a few of the other participants and we discussed our pet projects and visionary ideas and how we would get there with a lot of hard work and a little bit of luck. I knew that I had found the people I needed to surround myself with. People with drive and creativity to solve problems we see around us big or small.
This is only the beginning. I’m already planning on going to SW Boston and SW New Haven. I still have a lot to learn, but I’m loving every minute of it.

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One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Rajesh Patel on October 1, 2011 at 10:05 pm

    It was definitely a refreshing experience. The nice thing is that the event self-selects for motivated people who are passionate about entrepreneurship and wanting to learn by doing. Definitely looking forward to continuing to work with my own team from the weekend, and the after-event social was definitely a highpoint of the weekend.

    Reply

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