Startup Weekend Perth happened last weekend, and once again I got to play Facilitator, so here’s my take on it and some of the photos.
Once more the horde of eager entrepreneurs gathered in the town hall at Spacecubed, and prepared to spend a weekend building dreams. This time we had 80 tickets sold, though there were a higher than usual rate of dropouts on Friday; we ended up with 60 people forming 11 official teams (and one unofficial, but more on that later). The average team size was 5, though we had one monster team of 10, and one team that got cut down to 2 on Saturday.
The official teams were:
- Codename Canary: instagram for trash, solving the problem of litter and pollution by crowdsourcing funds to changemakers who can clean it up.
- FitBis: providing business services for personal trainers
- FoodieFix: Sharing home-cooked food
- Over Coffee: arranging meetings with strangers for a coffee with conversation
- Motor Mate: services for things with engines
- Streamy: connecting your home streaming devices together regardless of manufacturer
- TapMap: an app to tell you where you can refill your (non-disposable) water bottle locally
- Tuckr: an app to tell you where the food trucks are in your area
- VeriVote: a solution to secure e-voting using blockchain tech
- Writtum: a platform to share story ideas with readers before writing them
- YoPro: connecting students with mentors in the career they hope to join once they graduate
The winners were:
- Codename Canary
- (honourable mention) Motor Mate
There was also one unofficial team. During the Friday pitches, an observer got so carried away with the moment that they rushed up and pitched, and I didn’t spot they were an observer. It was such a good pitch that a team formed around it almost instantly, and only then did we spot that the team leader was an observer. I couldn’t let this form a precedent, otherwise we’d get people signing up as observers every event, hoping to pitch and repeat this story. So we had to disband the team and tell the participants to go find another team. Saxon Druce, a Startup Weekend veteran, didn’t like any of the other teams, so on Saturday he got back in touch with the pitcher and started working on the idea on his own. We don’t allow that, either, as part of the whole experience is working within a team. So we bent the rules a bit; Saxon got to pitch, but not as part of the official team list. He ended up completing the project, Mulch Club, and getting some sales over the weekend, and completing a pitch all on his own. An amazing performance, well done. Both members of the team won a free ticket to the next event, purely because of my mistake in letting him pitch in the first place. A mistake I will not be repeating.
The judges were:
- Angie Keeler from Zellabox
- Sheryl Frame from AusIndustry, who I think has judged more Startup Weekends than anyone else now!
- Lindsay O’Sullivan from CCI
- James Graham from WAAI
They had a hard time sorting out the winners, hence the honourable mention. Veri Vote was the clear leader, but then there was a really difficult choice between the next four or five teams to get the rest of the places.
My verdict on the weekend: great job by most of the teams. The step change between Friday night and Sunday evening was huge, again. The event also ran so smoothly (all credit to Nate, Raf, Kate and Tom!) that even with the StartupWA launch messing with our Friday evening timing it really felt like we could concentrate on getting the teams moving rather than herding cats all weekend.
The event itself seems to be changing, with a much greater focus on validation and less focus on getting stuff built. As a consequence we’re seeing less teams showing ideas that no-one wants, though there’s always a couple of them, but sadly less teams having completed MVPs too. Since one of the major aims of Startup Weekend is teaching people how to stop building things that no-one wants, this is clearly good. However, I know I’m not alone in mourning that we’ve lost that sense of amazement at what people can build in a weekend when they put their minds to it.
I think Veri Vote is a good example here. They had three devs on their team, actually built the platform over the weekend, and could have done a great tech demo of it. But since they had such good validation from prospective customers, and the blockchain tech is so complicated it would have been hard to communicate exactly what the demo was doing, they didn’t bother. They could have just waved their hands and said “we’ll work out the technical details later” and won anyway. The extra credibility and authenticity from having actually built the thing helped them, but it wasn’t what won the weekend for them.
I’m amazed to see the same ideas popping up again and again on successive Startup Weekends. I don’t know whether these are ideas whose time has come, and all it needs is someone to get them executed right to make a unicorn since clearly so many people have this problem, or whether these are just easy ideas to think of that turn out to be almost impossible to execute on. I’m curious to see whether broadcasting a list of “ideas that have been done before” to the attendees before the event will help people think of new and different ideas. But then we’d be discouraging people from iterating on these ideas. I know some teams really benefit from the mentors being able to say “last time the team working on this idea did this, and it worked, or that, which didn’t work”. Maybe it just takes enough Startup Weekend teams failing on the same idea enough times to finally crack it. Failure is part of the process!
Massive thanks to everyone involved. The next Startup Weekend Perth will be around April 2016, probably, we’ll keep you informed!