Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Startup Weekend - Hyderabad

It all started on Thursday when I saw a post on one of the blogs announcing that there was going to be a Startup Weekend being hosted at ISB in Hyderabad. Something in that article triggered my imagination that it would be a fun event to attend to understand and feel the start-up ecosystem. With a lot of encouragement from the home front I was all game to go. I went ahead and bought 5 tickets to the event and then started to ask all my friends and colleagues asking them who would like to come for the event and the 5 tickets disappeared fairly quickly.

To tell you a bit about Startup Weekend, I copied a paragraph from Annkur's post, one of the organizers about startup weekend

"Startup Weekend is this 54 hours madness that brings together business folks, developers, designers and jack of all trades like me to build a startup over a weekend. Ones with an idea pitch it, voting follows and teams are formed organically. These teams have to come back with a product / prototype / demo / whatever by Sunday evening and present to the judging panel. In march, Startup Weekend, which has as of today done over 100 cities and 250 action packed weekends, came to India."
Day 1: The first 14 hours - Product Concept, Team Formation, Branding and Technology Identification

On Friday afternoon about 2 hours before we were to leave we had no idea what we were going to pitch. So we called everyone we knew into a room to help us brainstorm and come up with ideas to pitch at the event. After about an hour we settled on 5 ideas and then used the next hour to narrow down the ideas to 3. We all then jumped into the car and started our 30 min drive to ISB. It was here that we finally gave shape to our ideas and wrote a pitch for each one of them.

On completion of our registration we had pizzas and a lot of coke to set the right mood and then it was onto the pitches. While having our pizzas we got talking to other participants there and this kind of got us in touch with other participants that can become team members. It is important to take this networking session very seriously and meet as many participants as you can. It is during this period that you can introduce your self to everyone present there and also get to know about them as this can influence the team formation as there is not much time later on if your idea is shortlisted.

We all stood in a line and started to make our pitches one after another in fairly quick succession and it was down to the voting.  The results were announced and since there were some ties we had 15 ideas that were selected and out of the 3 ideas that we pitched 2 got selected, Park-e-mon and Feriwala. We quickly formed into our teams and the Park-e-mon team consisted of 4 members Krishnamraju (Developer), Jeevan (Developer), Shahnawaz (Sales and Marketing) and Sudeep (Team Lead).

Soon after forming the team it was all work from then on. We had to decide on the MVP (Minimum Viable Product) i.e. the least amount of functionality that can be coded on a weekend and that will show the functionality of the application being built. At the same time we had to fill up a brief description of the product and also submit other paper work like the team details and stuff. We closed the day at about 2:00 AM with a clear idea of what was our product and the division of tasks for the next day. We had  a mobile component and also a web component so each developer took one, the other two of us came up with a product validation strategy and branding which we had to complete before 11:00 AM the next morning, this included coming up with a survey, presentation demonstrating our product, name of the product, logo and buying of the website URLs and shortlisting one or two potential clients to meet and check the viability of the product in the market.

Day 2: Hours 15 to 40 - Market survey and Development

The next morning while the developers were hard at coding the product, we spoke to a couple of mentors that gave us very valuable feedback about the product. There were altogether 5 mentors that were present the whole day but we had time to talk to only 2 of them. After this the business development team went out to meet some potential customers. We met the owner of a construction company that builds commercial spaces, an architect and the parking administrator of a large mall. After having met them the idea fine tuned itself into a truly promising product that can be taken into the market. The business development team touch based with the developers who promised to have the product completed which finally happened at about 5:00 AM in the morning.

Day 3: The final 14 hours - Presentation, Fine Tuning and Pitches

After a few hours of sleep it was the start of Day 3. We all headed back to ISB, while the development team was fixing all the final issues in the product the business team worked on the presentation and the video that was going to demonstrate the usage of the product. We were done by about 4:00 PM and the pitches were to start at 5:00 PM. A few practice runs and it was time to make our pitch which went well. The pitches were all well managed. You were given 2 min to setup while the previous team was answering questions and then your 5 minutes started as soon as the previous team was done. On completion of the 5 minutes, there is 2 minutes of questions where the judges and audience were free to ask any thing. How to ensure that you make the best of the pitches
  1. Ensure you are ready for any eventuality,  during our pitch the internet was very slow and so we could not show a live demo but our video bailed us out. So have a back up plan to show the demo.
  2. Practice your pitch and ensure that it does not cross 4:30 min. It will finally end up being 5:00 min.
  3. Check out all the connections before hand and do not let the members of the team doing the pitch operate the laptop, unless there is no other option.

Once all the pitches were completed it was time to announce the results and our team the Park-e-mon team came first. It was a nice surprise as there were some very nice product ideas that were very well presented. On the whole the learning experience was amazing and also the opportunity to interact with so many different people in an environment where you are all thrown together and forced to work on an idea and this brings out the best in everyone.

You do what you are

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