Just the other week another Lean Startup Machine came to Toronto, occupying the [IN]cubes office in Toronto April 26th -28th. I’m not a coder or a startup person myself. In reality I’m an observer whose seen the frustration and spark that goes on when you are forced to face strangers with your ideas and watch them either tear you a new one, confirm your hypothesis or reveal the unexpected. I’ve always wanted to get involved but I still feel like a newbie writer whose still searching for his sense of self, of belonging.
I’ve found in my own experience doing Startup Weekend and LSM that its the unexpected that really reveals a lot. Lean Startup Machine parallels the structure you find at Startup Weekend. You pitch, the best build teams and you go through the process of validating the idea. The only difference is that at Startup Weekend your team is coding from the start. I was helping out as one of the Toronto people who helped put it on, it always reminds me of the risks and rewards out there for those who are willing to head into the unknown.
At LSM you are working on the problem, seeing if that awesome idea you had at the start really has substance. More often than not what you thought and what reality says are 2 very different things. Soon enough most teams are pivoting so much they might as well be spinning. While at startup weekend once you commit to building going back and changing things becomes a tad harder. (more…)
Great job guys, I was proud to be part of the team that day no matter what else happens.
By the time day 3 rolled around it was all hands on deck for everyone at Startup Weekend Toronto, Matt had contacted is professors to get feedback and some of us got out of the building and surveyed folks. All the while our dev dream team continued the coding marathon and the graphic designers where making things look all sleek and sexy.
The buzz high but so was the stress and the pressure. Last minute pivots were coming fast and furiously all weekend for many of the groups. Matt was putting the finishing touches on the pitch, we were combing the web to find that last stat to seal the deal, the designers were cranking out an awesome landing page and creating mock ups of what the UI would be.
When you get into these types of situations you get into tunnel vision mode, where all the chaos that surrounds you fades away, you get into the zone where the only thing that matters is the task at hand. By talking to professors, students, and people in general Matt realized that Groupnotes could help educators, in particular Professors with a way to assess how team members contributed.
For Groupnotes Matt has prepped for the pitch for the last few hours. He is caffeinated up and ready to go. Do you ever feel like you are working with a group when you are researching online? My answer is NO and that is a consequence of having the world’s data available at a touch of a mouse or swipe of the finger. Groupnotes will unify students research efforts to prevent repetition and give focus.
While we were talking to students and educators we found that Groupnotes could help professors check how each student was involved, especially as new rules come into play that must take into account each contribution for group work. The energy at Startup Weekend Toronto is infectious and you enter the pitch nervous as F, feeling like you can climb a mountain, become King, and take over the world (but in the best way possible). I found. Matt will pitch 3rd, so let’s get it started.
All the teams are amazing, the talent is much, the ideas and execution are top-notch and that is what Toronto offers every day and why it is a great city to give a startup a try.
The team we have is made up of the fastest devs ever,
At this stage of the game at Startup Weekend Toronto it is about validating the idea, as the coders code and the designers do their thing. It is where the race starts to pick up speed and everyone goes all in. The group I joined called Groupnotes had 10 or so people. Matt Gardner who just one the Peel Startup Weekend the other week for another and pitched groupnotes was in the zone all day much of the day, talking to the parade of mentors being a sponge like all of us were with each other. We had one group bring in lighting for a video and by the evening you could see many hitting their mark as they made the mad dash to the pitch point which is now just hours away.
Startup Weekend makes you feel like you are a screw loose, always reaching and falling, you have face problems, roadblocks all while trying to herd the cats is a job unto itself (Matt’s been great thus far, that’s for sure). Everyone has approaches problems differently and you get such conflicting advice from one mentor to the next is hard to figure out what you should do. There are more than a dozen groups all working to have their demos ready for the pitches, we started testing the extension late last night and into the morning.
I will give it up to our awesome devs who have been coding non-stop since the flag dropped, they have been machines and that is why I will bow before their skill, and that of our designers. While the extension is crash prone we have proved that the syncing ability works and that is a win for us. Now we gotta prepare a demo for the pitch. Meanwhile the business folks on the team were figuring out the business model, doing the lean canvas, SWOT, competitive analysis and as the day wore on and light turned to darkness it was time to figure out what would be said for the pitch.
One of the issues we have is one how to monitize the idea and get past the chicken and the egg (damn am I hungry now). The hard part is that the feedback we received from students and educators shows us new perspectives from the administration’s perspective. This almost splits those who pay for the system (educators) from the primary users of the platform which is what our fearless leader Matt is trying to figure out as we speak. I have seen at least a few pivots go on by several of the groups and we are on the cusp of a similar pivot, not for the product but its positioning.
This is limited by time since we are building all the pages we need as we speak and putting together our deck all to make some pivotal 5 minute magic. It is crunch time, crunch time, and more crunch time but you can tell just by looking none of us would have it any other way. OK my randomish observations from Startup Weekend is over and time to get back in the game, wish us luck.
So last night was Startup Weekend Toronto at The Working Group, Chris Eben’s biz. Take 160 devs, designers, and non-technicals and put them in a room and let the best ideas win. I don’t know how many pitches actually happened but I think it was +60 or 70ish. You only have 60 seconds to make an impression on the audience, the hard part is that many people are talking in the background so being in the back it was hard to hear some of the pitches.
After the pitches were said and done it was time for the pitchers to find the votes they would need so they make the final lot to build teams around. There were so many ideas that it was hard to keep track of them all. Once it was down to this stage of the game it was about building teams. Usually at Startup Weekend the non-technicals are the biggest group and they are on the hunt for developers and designers. It is a good idea to take on folks who are jack of all trades because they can fill in the gaps when and where you need it and in a 54 hour project that is gonna be the name of the game.
There were three that I really liked Statalitics which is basically like the movie Moneyball with a heavy dose of statistics but for fantasy sports was pitched by someone with experience in the VC world. Another one I really liked was Groupnotes which is a way to put sticky notes on webpages as you are doing research that is sharable with your group.
This was Matt Gardner’s idea and having previously won another Startup Weekend he came with devs and business folks ready willing and able to get to work. Radius was an idea that took craigslist and added geotagging which I thought was interesting. Menu Wave was a startup that would change how you read menu but they would have to go up against the Just-eats of the world which could be quite daunting.
The idea I chose was GroupNote by Matt Gardner because it is something that I would use. Even as an individual I can see it helping me when I am doing research on subjects. It is hard to choose one idea over another because there are so many, it becomes a crap shoot in a lot of ways. Startup Weekend this year kicks off global entrepreneurship week which celebrates the entrepreneur. At a time when it has never been as easy to do a startup, the volume of noise makes it that much harder to get noticed or have your idea be the one and only.
If that is what sets the scene then what will define who wins and who doesn’t is the execution, whoever executes the best will be the ones to win the battle. So after Matt created the team we started to get together and set out a task list for what needs to done. That is what today is about, so one thing is for certain there will be no sleeping this weekend, it will be time to work it to the grindstone and back again. Good luck everyone and see you at the end of the gauntlet, MVP in hand and presentation pitch perfect, ready, set, go!