This past weekend in Baltimore, I attended part of the Baltimore Startup Weekend. It was really cool! Once I heard the concept – I’ve wanted to check it out and since my brother, Adam, was going to be part of it that was good enough for me.
Here’s the deal…
You put together about 100 ambitious and aspiring entrepreneurs with a mixture of tech and non-tech skills. Then have them pitch their ideas for 60-seconds each on Friday night with the 20 best ideas, as voted on by the group, get selected to be developed. Everyone divides up into teams based on the idea they were most excited by and then the fun begins. The teams have 54 hours to create the project and get something working by Sunday night. On Sunday they pitch their idea to a group of judges for cash and prizes.
I love it!
To me, the thing that makes this work is the hard deadline. They all know they’ve got until Sunday night to have something working to show the judges or else they get zilch. That hard deadline is part of the magic and something we can all add into our lives. (See a previous post I made about “tricking” yourself into action.)
I was up there helping out the different teams as a roving mentor or coach. I’d pop my head into the different groups and ask what they were working on and how I could help. I brought an element of actual marketplace knowledge from taking 8 different products and ideas from startup to seven figures+. Some of my typical questions were around:
- “What problem does this address?”
- “Does this problem mean people will pay for the solution?”
- “What is your revenue model here?”
It was an cool mix of projects. Some were pretty blatant iterations of companies that were hot at this moment (i.e. Groupon). Some were pretty original and solved unique problems. It was also interesting to see the mentality of some of the teams. Many were focused on the unique technology and building something without even verifying if there was a marketplace willing to pay for their solution.
I wasn’t able to make it to the judging on the Sunday but it was great to see the Twitter stream with the hashtag #BaltSW active with the results and updates from the weekend. It was very smart that the organizers gave you a tshirt with the hashtab on the arm of the t-shirt. (I’m actually wearing mine as I type this.)
I was keeping track of the winners through the hashtag and I’m happy to report my brother’s team actually won the top prize. Their idea is “Parking Panda” which is a real-time location parking tool for events and crowded downtown areas. So it matches together private driveway owners with people that are frustrated with not being able to find a parking spot or who want to pay less than a garage. It’s really cool and can’t wait for them to roll it out in Baltimore.
You can see a raw video of Adam’s winning pitch here:
It was great to see the startup spirit come together for one long red bull powered weekend. And it was awesome to have the Baltimore Sun there covering some of the action with not one – but 2 different articles. It’s events like this that get me fired up with the entrepreneurial notion of starting from scratch and building something in just one weekend. If you get the chance – I’d recommend checking out a Startup Weekend.