Since co-founding the ManCard iPhone app almost a year ago at Columbus Startup Weekend, Suzy Bureau has become one of its most vocal supporters.
Bureau, along with Brian Billingsley and Steve Gacka, also helped coordinate the most recent Columbus Startup Weekend, which was held Nov. 9-11. So who better to enlighten our readers about the event than her?
Herewith, the marketing and communications manager for BringShare (Bureau is one busy gal) shares the questions she is asked most frequently− and her answers, of course.
1. What exactly is Startup Weekend?
Startup Weekend is a 54-hour event where designers, developers and businesses-minded individuals, who I like to call “hustlers,” come together to work on brand new ideas for a weekend. Around 100 people come together on Friday, ideas are pitched, and people break off into teams to work on their favorite ideas.
These ideas can range from “As an undergrad the process to be connected to research positions is incredibly difficult. I want to build something that makes it easy.” to “My friend told me something I did at lunch today wasn’t manly. We argued about it for 10 minutes. I wish there was a simple app that would settle debates on what is manly.” Both of those were real pitches that were made into Startup Weekend companies.
Teams work all weekend on building their product −they launch websites, build smartphone apps and more− as well as defining the business side of things− how they gain users, make money, etc. The whole weekend culminates with presentations on Sunday, where attendees share with the community the amazing work they have created in just 54 hours. We also bring in prominent local entrepreneurs to judge and provide feedback for moving forward.
2. Do you have to have an idea to attend?
Definitely not! Attendees to any Startup Weekend can come ready with an idea to pitch or just ready to help create some amazing things over the weekend. You don’t have to have an idea to attend, you don’t have to have any startup experience, and you don’t have to hate your job to want to jump out of the box and work on an idea for a weekend. All you need is a desire to take a cool idea from words to reality.
3. What’s your favorite part of Startup Weekend?
The people. We have an amazing startup community here in Columbus. People are excited to make things happen and are willing to work hard to make it work. I think it’s one of our greatest advantages.
Beyond that, Startup Weekend attracts the best of the best. Who else but the most driven, innovative people would give up their entire weekend to hack away at a brand new project? And most of the time, the project is someone else’s idea!
The people definitely make up the best part of Startup Weekend. We get such a great variety of talent. From designers and developers to business-minded folks from a variety of backgrounds. This previous Startup Weekend we had people with experience ranging from aeronautical engineering to your typical marketing.
4. What is it like to attend a Columbus Startup Weekend?
The energy of Startup Weekend is unreal. As I mentioned before, the people are amazing. This past event had over 100 passionate designers, developers and hustlers who were just pumped to be making things happen.
On Friday, we have anyone who has an idea come up and pitch what they want to create in 60 seconds or less. We had 47 pitches for new ideas. Forty-seven! From there, people more or less just go crazy. A single 60-second idea starts spiraling into entire conversations of what the idea could evolve into. And then people take that and run with it.
They break off into teams and feverishly work on their ideas for the next few days. I have never experienced more energy, enthusiasm, hustle and general startup swagger than I experience again and again at Columbus Startup Weekends. It’s amazing. It’s an entrepreneurial high that you have the whole weekend and it carries off post-event too. I’m still pumped about all of the amazing things created at our last Startup Weekend!
5. Building a company in a single weekend seems like a big task to take on. How does that work in just one weekend?
It’s a huge undertaking to try to take an idea you just heard and transform it into something tangible, but that’s just what teams do. We have a huge emphasis on actually building the ideas. That means designing and developing the website, iPhone app, etc.− not just talking about it.
Startup Weekend is not a business plan competition. Everyone at the event rolls their sleeves up to make ideas a reality. Organizers, mentors and judges help coach teams along and encourage them to not only think about the future of the product, but, more importantly, what they can achieve in a weekend to create their minimally viable product. Once teams have their MVP, they can start testing their live product with real users, which is instrumental in determining what customers actually want and, perhaps more importantly, what they’ll pay for.
6. What types of projects and companies come out of Startup Weekend?
Every type of project you can think of. We have projects that are just ridiculous fun and projects that focus on real, identified pain points that people face. At this most recent weekend, we had the website GIFSpinner.com launch, which was an incredibly fun side project that was completed in a weekend and pretty hilarious. It more or less just puts funny gifs to music, but it makes for a pretty amusing product. Perhaps it’s the next big thing!
Another company that came out of the most recent weekend is Lytehouse. Lytehouse addresses a file-sharing problem faced at certain types of events. It allows you to seamlessly share files with anyone within your geo-located area via the cloud− think sharing a PowerPoint presentation or business card with anyone at a conference.
7. Do companies work on their Startup Weekend ideas after the weekend is over?
It depends. Some teams do, some teams don’t.
The weekend is really about learning what it’s like to start a company. Startup Weekend is truly a microcosm of the real world in a lot of ways. Sometimes ideas work out, sometimes they don’t. Sometime you work well with the people you decide to startup an idea with, sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you love an idea at first, then find that the need isn’t there like you thought it was or there’s no foreseeable way to make it happen.
The most valuable part of Startup Weekend is that it takes a bunch of people who have ideas and want to work on ideas and gets them doing just that. You can talk about how an idea could or would work for hours, but at the end of the day you don’t know until you jump in and try it. So many circular conversations and “what ifs” can be answered when you have a real product. It’s a huge learning experience in what it takes to actually start a company− adversity and all.
That being said, we do have a decent number of products that gain momentum coming out of the weekend and continue on. I still work on a project that came out of a Startup Weekend about a year ago called ManCard. It’s a really fun side project for our team.
There was also an iPhone app called Cannon.fm that functions as a Pandora for local music that is making some pretty big strides right now, launching in cities across the U.S., like Washington, DC and beyond.
To learn more about Columbus Startup Weekend, visit Columbus.StartupWeekend.org.