After 54 hours with some of the most talented, motivated people in Philadelphia, I feel like a new woman. When my friend Melissa recommended I attend Startup Weekend Philadelphia, I took her word for it, since her own experience had changed her life completely. I knew I had to give it a shot. I couldn’t comprehend where all this magic that she talked about could come from. And now I know.
For those that are unfamiliar, “Startup Weekend is an intense 54 hour event which focuses on building a web or mobile application which could form the basis of a credible business over the course of a weekend. The weekend brings together people with different skillsets – primarily software developers, graphics designers and business people – to build applications and develop a commercial case around them.”
left: designed and photographed by Melissa Morris Ivone | right: the mecca of great ideas
It was phenomenal. When do you get the chance to put everything aside and focus on one project for 54 hours? When do you meet the most diverse group of careers, ages, races, idea-makers and personalities (well, they’re actually all pretty awesome) that you normally would never work with? When do you have coaches that are way more intelligent than you are, available to help you? When do you have delicious food and beverage brought to you so that you can keep working? Answer: at Philly Startup Weekend. So here’s how it went down:
Friday night we mingled for a while and took a seat in the grand ballroom area. After a hilariously awkward ice-breaker, we went right into 60 second pitches. Anyone who had an idea was given the chance to pitch it to the group. After 45+ pitches, we got the opportunity to talk to each person about their idea, asking the hard-hitting questions about their mission and business plan. After voting for the top ideas, the top 18 presented one last time and then we were set loose to pick a team.
Ted Miller pitched an idea for Zazzberry, a site to connect talent from all over to create dream projects. We liked to call it a Startup Weekend in web form. I was the sole designer, and our team consisted of Mark Starkman and Patrick Bradley, both developers, and Aakash Shah and Tejas Bala, both high-school Sophomores who are way more mature than I am. Our team of 6 was formed and we spent the remainder of Friday night brainstorming and planning for the next day.
Saturday was a blur. From 9am until 11pm we talked, brainstormed, wire-framed, designed, tweeted, ate, wrote, talked even more and met with coach after coach after coach about Zazzberry. Since Ted had experience in project management, he took the reins with ease and we got to work quickly since we had to present by 5pm on Sunday. I still can’t believe everything we did. It was awesome.
And here’s the work that came out of it:
Mark and Pat developed a shell for the site and I filled in the pieces as quickly as I could. I designed icons and buttons, a splash page and as much type and anything else I could in less than 48 HOURS. I look back now and realize how crazy it still is! You can visit the live site and signup and see it continue to transform. (It’s just the beginning!)
Sunday was a rush as we got ready to present our work by 5pm. We finished our business plan thanks to Aakash and Tejas and were tweeting away as our logo, site and back-end development all started to come together. As we neared the end I think we all felt relieved but sad that it was almost over. The chance to work with 5 other people that were from different careers and paths in life was unreal. And we laughed a lot. If you heard a group clapping and cheering loudly, that was us, too.
Presentations went beyond our expectations and I was so impressed with the talent and dedication everyone had for their start-ups. Our panel of four judges listened intently and asked questions about each 5 minute presentation. The energy in the room was palpable. There were so many entertaining presentations, too, I couldn’t believe it! I laughed so hard I forgot that we were still competing for a prize.
left: Our team was amazing!!! | right: the coordinators made it a weekend to remember
I highly recommend attending a Startup Weekend if it comes to you or if it doesn’t, make a trip and experience something great! No matter your experience, background, age or career path, you can find your place and work your ass off. It’s well worth it.