Monday, March 22, 2010


Business plan competitions are a thing of the past.

That was my conclusion after last weekend's experience. I was at the Startup Weekend event where high performance teams worked for 53 hrs straight (most did sleep for some time , I assume), and came out with a product/service at the end of it. This is a great way of prototyping an idea and throwing it on the wall to see if it sticks. No more business plans, exit strategies, funding, etc. Get the idea implemented, present it in front of a panel, gather immediate feedback as well as get voted (or booted). If it is an acceptable solution, then sit down and figure out how to monetize it. In fact, the reality is that the revenue potential dawns on the team during implementation. As the team implements the solution, and starts understanding the functionality, new avenues for revenue dawn on the team.
Startup Weekend is an event organized by Jeremy Lightsmith and Marc Nager, and is a great way to meet smart people. I was fortunate to be able to work with a team of exceptionally talented people. In fact, one of my team mates is a kick A$$ marketer and another is a Heavy Guerrilla. SW is an event for energized teams that are ready to crank out something meaningful in 53 hrs. And, all the teams did!

A pattern I noticed is that almost every pitch was geared towards leveraging the social sites and the data they offer. Several ideas were harnessing the power of iPhone (location, usability, motion sensing, etc.). There was one team working on the iPad and trying to leverage its form factor over the iPhone.
Another pattern I noticed was that majority of the attendees were attracted to ideas that were cool or ground breaking or funky. Not many were interested in ideas that were not cool, but had great revenue potential, IMHO.
SW is a very informal event and open to all interested in creating something new and cool. People with ideas pitch at the beginning of the session (Friday evening). The ideas are voted and the top ideas are published. The leader (one with the idea) then 'recruits' a team with varied skills needed for the project. The team sets off and builds the product/service in the next two days. At the end (Sunday evening), the results are presented to a panel who votes on the best product/idea. The beauty is that all the teams had working solutions that they demo'd. The winner finally walks away with prizes (money, services, exposure).

This is a great way to test the waters and see how practical and viable your idea is. This is a very fast paced, and quick way to plan something and execute it to completion.
Imagine, building a web application as well as its equivalent iPhone application and launching it to the public in 2 days. It happened last week. We did it as part of our project!
And, I had RedBull for the first time in my life!