Startup Weekend Kansas City

How the event is structured

Startup Weekend attempt to shove building an entire business into one weekend. You show up, pitch an idea if you want, vote on ideas, then join up with one that you like. Everyone splits up and gets to work, looking forward to Sunday afternoon when you present your work to a bunch of people.

Thanks!

First, thanks to the organizers. They did a great job answering questions, being available, planning good meals. The venue at the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce was fantastic, as well.

Comparison to Rails Rumble

My previous experience with weekend events like this was Rails Rumble. There, you build an entire web application in 48 hours. It has to work. No one cares about if it makes money. So, coming into the weekend with that premise made me think that we’d actually have some sort of working prototype at the end of the weekend.

On Sunday, they posted the judging criteria on the website. Somehow, I’d missed these during the intro presentation:

Judging Criteria

Customer Validation

  • Interview potential and target customers.
  • Integrate feedback into your product.
  • Build a fan base and would-be customers.

Business model

  • Differentiate yourself from competitors.
  • Define your customer acquisition and rollout strategy.
  • Clearly and realistically articulate your revenue model.

Execution

  • Develop a functional protoype.
  • Execute well as a team.

I was surprised to see “develop a functional prototype” as 1/3 of the judging. A prototype? To me, that’s something you demo and throw away. For instance, maybe you build it in a mockup tool to get an idea of what screens and flows you’ll have.

So, I focused on this working demo. Exclusively. Meanwhile, the teams that placed had no functionality working; just ideas on how it would work, but they spent a lot more effort on the other sections of their project.

You Ain’t Gonna Need It

In the agile world, we use the term YAGNI (You Ain’t Gonna Need It) a lot. We try not to build features that we’re not going to need. As the saying goes, “No code runs faster than no code.” By focusing on building the smallest thing that works, we can be more productive.

Applying this to the business as a whole, we shouldn’t work on businesses that aren’t going to work. Do the smallest thing that works to validate your business before you jump into designing and coding.

This means asking questions first like “will people pay me for this?” and “how will we find customers?”

Currently, our company builds web applications for others, so I haven’t been focused on these questions. As we start thinking about other ideas and products, they’re going to become increasingly important.

Why Isn’t Someone Else Doing It

This is a great question to ask. Thanks to Nick Seguin @nickseguin for bringing it up in conversation. I think a good corollary is “How Are We Going To Do This Better?” or something similar. In short, differentiation.

In Closing

All in all, I had a great time. I learned a lot, put some faces to Twitter avatars, had some great conversations, and enjoyed myself. Certainly, I have a lot of food for though, as well.

Comments are welcome, either below or emailed directly to wes on this domain.

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