What Was I Thinking?

#Startup Weekend London Writeup

with 2 comments

So, Startup Weekend London was, hands down, one of the best events I have ever been to. Met a great bunch of new people, spent all weekend working my butt off and came away with a possible new venture for my imminent rat-race retirement!

[Yes, I know this blog is supposed to be about the trials and tribulations of creating OneServing.com but let’s be honest; I’m not working that hard on it and the new venture has an actual viable business model. Probably]

For the uninitiated, Startup Weekend is a series of events designed to bring entrepreneurs together. They have a truly horrendous website at the moment but don’t let that put you off. The events are excellent! The logo is super-cute, too :)

OHP showing lots of different job titlesDay 1, 7pm:

Friday evening meet and greet. I actually went to Founder Friday with Women 2.0 beforehand, which was another nice event. 12 women, talking about businesses, eating Dim Sum and drinking cocktails. Very relaxed and a great way to bridge the gap between my day job and event itself. Not that I knew it at the time but I met my (hopefully) future business partner here, Jemima Garthwaite.

Turned up to the meet and greet, met and gret and then settled down for the welcome and the pitches. Oh, and the exceedingly boring IBM promo video. IBM desperately need some better marketing people.

Anyway, I used the opportunity to test out ScribbleLive, an interesting CMS/liveblogging that pulls in Twitter updates and hashtags, Flickr feeds, emails and allows blog posting and comments. It updates in real-time so no need to refresh your browser. Confusingly for me, they decided to roll out a site-wide upgrade between my discovering it last week, and the weekend event. So, I missed pretty much all the intro speeches due to faffing with my laptop.

Lots of yellow raffle tickets on A4 sheets of paper Then came the pitches. There were 22 in total; it took ages, I and few other people were tweeting on the hashtag, so you can go to the ScribbleLive link above to see what they were. Then came the voting.

Why we were voting, I have no idea because near the end of the voting period, Damien (event organiser) shouted that we should have all formed into teams by now and there was a quick panicky scramble to find someone with an interesting idea. As far as I could tell, the vote tickets didn’t come into it at all.

Once we established our groups and sorted out the indecisive people we got about 45 minutes to get to know each other and brainstorm before being kicked out of the building :P I joined Charity Maps Mashup, with Jemima, Katherine Kern, Pranay Manocha, James Hunt and Tom.

Quick adjourn to the Arch Duke pub and then home

Tom disappeared halfway through Saturday and never came back so I don’t know who he was. Fare thee well, mysterious stranger! (He sent us an email on Sunday, so we know he’s all right).

Day 2, bright and early:

Got up and left the house earlier that I do for my day job >.< Working for an NHS support service may be stressful but at least I have the 10am-to-6 option. Quick McDonalds breakfast and then down to new business!

View through a doorway of team working on laptopsDay 2 was a lot of brainstorming and research. And post-its. I love post-its. Jemima had a pretty clear vision of how she wanted the site to behave, so we mapped a bunch of stuff out and argued a bit over Facebook Connect until we all came to terms with Open Graph and possibly the fact that I’ve only ever seen dull implementations of one or the other protocol. Did lots of research and basically discovered that the original idea, mash up lots of data feeds around different charity fundraisers, was sorely hindered by the fact that no one seems to actually publish event feeds.

D’oh. Never mind, there are many ways to capture information.

We also has a few moments of insanity where we toyed with the idea of competing with Just Giving and were politely squashed by a couple of mentors, who suggested much better ways to monetise the core concept.

I flittered about with my camera for a bit and drew some crappy concept wireframes on paper to try and figure out what info should go where from the usability perspective. Not my most productive hours for business perspective but I got some nice shots of all the teams I could find, which you can see over in my flickr set.

Day 2 had lots of highs and lows, stumbling on competitors, realising they were crap, refining our concept, changing business models, and generally talking a lot. Oh, and we hooked up Spotify to the conference room’s inbuilt speaker system, which was totally awesome :)

Day 2 ended in a 1am tropical downpour outside a pub on The Strand which would have been depressing, only it allowed James Digby, and I could make this fabulous video of Franck Nouyrigat.

[note to Animoto; make an embeddable version, goddammit. also make your “friends” implementation less shit. videos r awesome, kthxbai]

Day 3, not so early:
Some fantastic art and design work, lots of panicking over data and our coder beavering away at a prototype. This post is definitely too long now, so in summary:

We have a business model.
We have a load of marketing opportunities.
We have a prototype.
We almost have a data source.

Charity Mapper. Give Local. (Logo)

The final presentations were scary as shit; not just because we couldn’t get our proper sample data working in time, nor that our lovely developer was coding right up until the last second. Nope, we also discovered that his laptop battery had died and if the power cable came out, the whole thing needed 10 minutes to restart >.<

Also, our supposed 5 min slot + Q&A time got cut to 3 mins INCLUDING Q&A and we got told about that AFTER presentations had started. No time for discussion over what to cut O.O
But, we survived and managed a 6-second proof of concept demo. The judges didn't ask us any questions which was disturbing until Alicia Navarro kindly let me know on Twitter that it was because we had covered everything they wanted to know. Hooray!

What now?

Good question. We agreed to go our separate ways and meet up again on Saturday to discuss what we want out of things. We still have our Google Group and are emailing every day so I hope at least 3 of us will stick with it. Out for Startup Weekend Alumni drinks tomorrow. We’ll see next weekend!

Do you support charitable giving in your local community?

Online: http://www.charitymapper.com
Twitter: @CharityMapper


Written by Weefz

9 June, 2010 at 9:15 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. […] of great people, had a lot of fun, and successfully launched a new website! Arianna, Pedro and Debbie have already written up great summaries of the event, so instead I’ll be focusing on how our […]

  2. […] participated in London Startup Weekend and reminded myself that bureaucratic insanity was an option, not a […]

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