About 2 weeks ago I participated in the Fall 2012 iteration of Portland Startup Weekend. The whole thing greatly exceeded my expectations and I was very happy that I participated.
If you are unfamiliar with the concept of Startup Weekend, the basic idea is that a bunch of programmers, designers, and business types get together for a weekend and have about 54 hours to try to create a new company. Ideas are pitched, teams are formed, products and business plans are developed, and finally you get judged by a panel of experts.
The week before, the Startup Weekend organizers held a “boot camp” on Saturday afternoon. This was an optional event to introduce people to the principals of Startup Weekend and give us some practice pitching our ideas in front of a group. During the “boot camp” I worked with a couple other guys to refine a pitch based around improving the accessibility of local produce.
During the intervening week, we worked on the pitch a little more and by Friday afternoon, after a couple hours of feverish memorization and practice, I was ready.
I believe there were about 50 pitches total on Friday night, and the top 12 would get the chance to form teams and work on their project during the weekend. Each participant was given three stickers they could use to vote for their favorite projects. You could use your stickers however you wanted, including using all three to vote for yourself. After a tense 30 minute voting period the results came in, our idea was in!
After forming our six person team on Friday after the pitches, everyone came in on Saturday morning ready to get down to business. About half our team were “hustlers” who ventured out into the rain to meet with potential customers at the Farmers' Market and worked their connections with local chefs and restauranteurs. Our goal for the weekend was to successfully connect a chef with a local farm that he hadn't worked with before and to build an initial prototype of the web app we would use to scale this process.
Sunday night we had five minutes to pitch our more formalized idea to the panel of judges. After having seen how well most of the other teams had been progressing over the weekend, I really had no idea what the results would be. But when the final verdict came in, our team was awarded third place! I was incredibly proud of how hard everyone worked. And not just on our team but it seemed like everyone that participated really put everything they had into the weekend and the result was a great experience for everyone.
Thanks to all the participants (especially my teammates!), organizers, sponsors, mentors, and judges who helped make the weekend such an excellent event.