This past weekend was fast paced and intense. Exciting. Almost 50 participants, 25 ideas, 8 projects and 3 winners. Two of them left the event with seed capital.
Here are the projects:
- WachaBache. A mobile application to crowdsource the reporting of streets that have holes and make driving a miserable experience.
- Indueducation. A web service that offers leading indicators to help the government with academic decision making.
- Eventum. A community for public social events.
- Cruzas. A mobile application that shows indicators of when it is a good time to cross the border to San Diego.
- Happy Birthday 2 me. A web service to help you organize your birthday and take advantage of local business offers.
- Congresoplon. Monitoring the productivity of Congress and its participants.
- Pimiento. Mobile app that suggests cooking recipes based on the ingredients that you have in your home.
- Instapart. Find the auto part your are looking for in real-time.
And the winners were:
Great job guys.
This is my first time being part of an event like this. I was part of the organizing group so I didn’t get a chance to participate (and believe me, the fire in the belly was stoking me to participate), my role was more of supporting the participants by helping them stay focused and providing moral support.
Here are a few lessons from Startup Weekend:
Innovation breeds from play. How do children learn? Through play. Through trial and error. Children are not worried about making mistakes, they are more concerned with learning. This is important because the “innovation process” Startup Weekend follows is similar to the Lean Startup movement. And while the ideas presented were not ‘breakthroughs’, the next step is to iterate the initial ideas. Small or big, it doesn’t matter. What matters is people learn to become free of the expectation of failure.
Focus on the right things. Building a product in 54 hours might seem crazy to most. That is how it seems to most people who don’t understand startup culture. The way Startup Weekend organization structures the event is similar to the Lean Startup movement, this encourages a very fast and intuitive creative process. It is very loosy-goosey, this makes participants very anxious. The key is creating a very focused product, not one that appeals to everyone.
Collaboration is chaotic. Creating teams is a chaotic process at SW. Someone pitches their idea, people vote on it. Winning ideas are announced and people start deciding who they are going to join up with. It is an intuitive process and can make things seem out-of-order.
Execution matters more than the idea. It isn’t about launching X number of companies. It’s about opening people’s minds, it’s about understanding that execution matters more than just having simple idea.
You will fail, but you will learn. Taking the previous point further, there were three winners. But that doesn’t mean they will become sustainable businesses. Nothing is certain and most likely they will fail. It’s not about being first, it’s about doing it right.
The Pitch is important. This one is the killer and it played a huge role in determining who won. As much as the message is important, so is the messenger.
Not everyone is fit to be an entrepreneur. There were deserters. These people don’t have the passion and drive to create. Much less fail and learn.
Scarcity of leadership. When people don’t know each other, and are not familiar with one’s way of working, to a certain degree people follow ideas; not people. I think leadership comes into play in the form of persuasion. But leadership comes into play when the going gets tough. When problems arise. When the fun of creating seems like an afterthought.
A few observations
We have touched upon most of the lessons from above in some way or another in this blog. But, as I’ve argued before, we’re too focused on technology as the main source of innovation. It isn’t. Innovation isn’t just about technology. It’s about communication, delivery, business models, management, customer experience, etc.
All of these dimensions can become valuable in their own right. Each of them can help redefine the game.
With that said, I would like to see a different type of hack-a-thon. One where we take on real challenges in a fun way. One where we explore not just technological innovation, but also the other dimensions that make up a business. A hack-a-thon where teams are composed of not just techies, designers and marketers.
Breakthrough ideas are born in environments where cross-pollination of ideas is a natural occurrence. And breakthrough ideas, for the most part, are not born in strategic planning sessions. They are born from accidents, from mistakes, from trying things out and seeing what happens.
For Omar Monroy, Ulises Elias, Jaime Valdovino III and me, the work has just begun. Our intent is to mobilize minds in Tijuana and break the status quo. SW was just one event, it was the beginning of the journey.
There will be more to come.