Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Startup Weekend México - Part 3

Startup Weekend México -  Part 3 (Part 2, Part 1)

The presentation:

The third day was of much adrenaline, in a few hours we finished polishing the basic functionality of our prototype and unfortunately time was running out, but I think that in our case, this was the day we got into the "zone". Just before 4 p.m. we had already the prototype and the last details of the presentation and video, we didn't even noticed we hadn't eaten, such was our focus to finish successfully.

It's wonderful to see what teams can do in just 54 hours, the presentation order is randomly assigned and everything goes fast, every team has just five minutes, timed, to present his finished project, video, materials and demo. A the end of the presentation the judges (mentors) have 3 minutes to make questions. You get to see a lot of things. An important decision is how many team members get to present, the innovation during problem presentation and the fluidity of the presenter and presentation. Even though there were some unfortunate accidents, in every single team you can see all the work done the last 54 hours.

The winning team of the event was LunchRabbit (!/lunchrabbit), I hope they can pull their project on in the future, the first prize involves participating in a BootCamp for 30 days in Silicon Valley, just to start. The other four teams where: Myfeelm (, 57balas, Ayuda por hora ( and Foodly( Some of these links maybe disabled by now, but don't forget to stop by our project from your smartphones (, wait for updates ;)

The dinner and beers at Chili's

So much fun! Closing the event, almost everyone followed to Chili's to dinner and have some beer to forget being so tired and with so little sleep the past two nights. I had the opportunity to talk with a couple of entrepreneurs that are already working with developing an app for smartphones (http:\\ I was also talking for a while with Jorge Zavala, CEO of TechBa Silicon Valley, he told me the story and goals that these kind of initiatives are following and the impact in our country. I must say I'm excited on the opportunities that these kind of events bring and the vision and change that all these hackers bring to the system, I truly think the have changed the way I see things.

I want to thank so much to all the organizing team, congratulations for an excellent weekend, also to the Traffic Circus team. I hope I will soon be able to contribute with something to these community's effort.

The future:

After talking some words with César Salazar, from the organization team, I must admit I'm very interested to bring something to this story and the best way of doing it is starting something. This is one thing I have followed for a long time ago, but there were always obstacles that stopped me one way or another. This weekend we learned part of the things that matter when jumping into a new project: identify a problem and a value solution, validate the concept with the market, start with a Minimum Value Product, integrate a balanced team that is willing to dedicate hours to iterate as fast as necessary. If we add to all of this the passion with which Startup Weekend Mexico is making things, there's nothing to lose and only starting successfully can bring you the vision that attracts us so much from the mentors we saw this weekend.

What we learned:

Networking: there's a lot of people willing to work in interesting projects, put your part in every project, get back tons of advices on yours.

Openness:  there are a lot of good ideas, learn to give up hooks that seem to pull you in one single way, adopt new ideas, play with them, build something with others.

Humility: you are not the only one with good ideas; maybe your idea wasn't that good, see how any other person would do right now. Would they use it?

Question time: don't tag a "defect" as such immediately, it's better to make a good question to find out if there's something behind that detail, your question can be of value to everyone.

Hack your ideas: bring someone from the outside and ask for his opinion, you may find there a new direction needed by your project.

Share your ideas: better if they are ideas that can change people's life, it's not a problem if someone else borrows it and get's the change you wanted.

Speed: Why is it so important to demonstrate yourself with a final product in just 54 hours? Because that's the speed used out there.

The graphic design (UI): is something ESSENTIAL against what some of us engineers imagine. One interesting concept I learned after the opening game at SW_Mexico: Design Thinking.

What I missed.

Interacting a little more with the mentors, one must make the most of this kind of opportunities.

The future:
I want more!

Other things:

  • The logic behing random distribution of people in the tables and afterwards in teams.
  • The teams and how different each team member lives the experience.
  • The pitch and "gifted speaker", projects that get group support.

Some things I heard during the weekend:

Long term vision, short term execution.

Startup Weekend Mexico - Part 2

Startup Weekend Mexico Part 2 (Part 1, Part 3)

The pitch.

This part of the program consists in presenting a business idea in just 1 minute, timed. Because there were so many attendees, each one would present no more than one idea, but in smaller groups people can present more than one idea in a single session. Each idea is noted on a big piece of paper and sticked on the wall around the auditorium. The impressive thing is how many good ideas get exposed and the mental process that fires up, because even if you hadn't brought and idea with you, a lot of things start to cross your mind, things that mix, add and sum your own ideas with those of the presenters.

Voting and teams.

Once you have listened every idea and once you have talked with those attendees that better catched your attention during the pitch, everyone gets three Post-it notes in order to stick them to those three ideas that he likes the most. There are ideas that get a lot of votes, others left without votes; I'm convinced that the pitch and the pitcher can kill or rebirth good and bad ideas, but the thing is that, keeping out the discussion on what a good or a bad idea is, in just a few minutes, the group had 16 ideas to start working on..

Then comes the time to search for a team in which your skills are necessary and where you can find some empathy wit the rest of it. You find it all, big teams and small teams, people that likes to work with a lot o people at the same time and lonely rangers. At the end it is important to get into a team, because you must recognize that even if you are an expert in one subject, you can have weaknesses in another, and the final presentation needs a lot of work that by yourself would be just too difficult to accomplish, and most important: it wouldn't be that fun as working in a team!

Polishing the idea:

I feel truly fortunate to find a team as Traffic Circus, the original pitch was from José Ankle whom later I found out was part of the organizing team of the event, so bringing both responsibilities to a good end and being able to finish a functional prototype deserves a lot of recognition. The original idea revolved around messages, traffic jams and license plates, something that would let you send messages to other traffic jam neighbors by using their license plates.

It is recommended that your first night ends with a good definition of the idea and a working plan to start Saturday with a common ground in which every team member can sum for the final delivery. That same night five members of the team ended up talking about games, geolocalization and the traffic jam pain index in Mexico, afterwards we lost a team member, but it was just incredible the level of commitment you can see in every single team around. I never expected to see them all on Sunday presentations. Moral of the story: ideas abound, no one leaves without participating.

That same day Paul Ahlstrom, writer of "Nail it then Scale it" was there to talk about how important it is to find a problem big enough so it's worth solving, to validate ideas with potential customers and the need to "nail it" before growing just for growing.

The second day, my nightmare:

This day I loved the most, but it was just so demanding. Working side by side with another developer, in a project of just two days where you just know that the little piece of your work is also part of the work of the other three teammates and of the final experience you take home. It's scary! I suppose you can see it in many different ways, there are obsessed people and relaxed people. Of course, you can always throw in the towel and leave the team, but believe me, it's not worth it. I think the short term gives you a need to focus and compromise that is lost in the long term.

Being faithful to  some of  the cloud development courses I had just attended, I proposed myself to develop our project's back-end, but I must recognize I wasn't  yet prepared to do it at the speed that an event this short  requires, so in the end I had to admit this situation with my teammate and we decided to change all the back-end (in which I hadn't really advanced a lot) to another platform in order to develop together (pair-programming) as I had not much practice with our new choice. What can anyone expect in a situation like this? usually I would tell you that throwing up some f-words wouldn't be that strange and deserved. What happened, and this is incredible, is that I got back a simple and calmed  assurance that we would be able to finish and that he would help me get a grip of the parts I offered to program. I think this is what you really find behind the team that is organizing these events: support and commitment with the experience that the attendees take home.

The rest of the team was concentrated in the business part and even though I was so stressed and focused trying to advance with some coding, it was very funny to listen on their discussions around platforms, possibilities, strategies and points of view, a lot of them written on big pieces of paper that I still keep.

Something I regret a little of Saturday is not being able to spend more time with the mentors. Saturday morning they came to see our work and it was amazing the way they can arm, disarm and turn around every project. That same night David Weekly and Britt Selvitelle where taking with all the teams about what's behind starting a project and the main goals behind doing it, it's very funny to listen them talk and interact.

Startup Weekend Mexico - Part 1

Startup Weekend Mexico - Part 1 (Part 2, Part 3) (in spanish)

The "other" reality

I wanted to write my daily review using the title "Back to reality", but I would be lying. This weekend I was lucky to attend Startup Weekend Mexico City and I can tell you with emotion that the adrenaline is still on my system and I've returned, to another reality.

Maybe it was fate, but last Friday morning I stumbled upon a strange tweet that anounced a Startup event; digging a little and pulling the thread I found out, a little discouraged, that such event will start that same afternoon and will end on Sunday with a presentation of projects and products built in just 54 hours by teams of entrepreneurs and entrepreneur's apprentices combining their ideas and technical, design and bussiness skills.

Maybe it was also fate that there was just one remaining developer's slot available. Immediately I thought of all the appointments I had already made for the weekend: a baby-shower of one of my best friends, a birthday party of one of my cousins that also was celebrating graduating from college, and last but not least, the boxing  fight between Paquiao and mexican Marquez on Saturday night. A tough decision because, besides all of these things, Saturday's morning I'm 100% responsible of my apartment and Diego, my two years old son.

"What a shame, another programmers event lost" I thought. But deep inside something told me this event was different and that it was part of the beginning of a path that weeks (maybe years) before I've been searching. So I would have to sacrifice some things and get into it. After a couple of minutes of thinking on consequences I bought the ticket and the rest of the things fall into place by themselves.

My expectations

First I thought a possibility was just to show up and explore a little around Start-ups, hear what it was all about and learn by "watching"; keeping myself aside just as needed to be able to escape to one of my other appointments during the weekend, and show again Sunday afternoon to see the results of the work of all the teams. Maybe I would be able to attend another future event and participate full time on it.

The event

I arrived just a little before six, I must admit I did that because the first arrivals would get the book "Startup Weekend: How to Take a Company From Concept to Creation in 54 Hours", and it was a good motivation. Once you get your material, they suggest you to network and talk with the people already checked in. It's a little strange as interacting with people you don't know is hard to do at the beginning, but in no time you get used to it and you find out a lot of them are in their first Startup event too, that they share the same questions around starting a bussiness project and that they have some ideas already "worked" for some time before. Some of us, first timers, bring a big safety net (just like the ones used by trapeze artistes in the circus) translated into sentences like: "I'm here just to check it out", "I'm thinking on not working in a team, I just want to check how it goes", " the truth is I don't have much time, think I won't be able to participate 100% on a project".

To wait a little more for the rest of attendees, Santiago Zavala, one of the organizers with which I have already stumbled before in a Google event, started up a group game to heat up engines: everybody must stand up and sit in a new table with unknown people, Post-it notes with words proposed by the attendees where sticked on a window, they were on two categories: funny words and techie words. Each team named  someone to go pick a couple of Post-it notes and with those words teams must prepare a pitch. Next day I discovered that one of my teammates was Mark Makay, the truth is at the beginning I thought he was just another attendee starting on entrepreneurship, the funny thing was that one of the words we picked up was "Design Thinking" and the other one "rejoice" and I think Mark, an interaction designer with years of experience was able to say something about it. The premises and the organization of the event were excellent, inspiring.

Starting is not easy

"Corpus omne perseverare in statu suo quiescendi vel movendi uni formiter in directum, nisi quatenus a viribus impressis cogitur statum illum mutare."

“Every body keeps it’s state of rest or motion on a straight line until and unless acted upon by an external force."

Isaac Newton, Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, 1687

Such an old statement, almost as old as my last’s year promise to begin writing a blog. One year after, I’m on it and pretend on writing both in English and Spanish as much as I can.

The inertia on rest or motion must be broken somewhere and as Newton said, to do it one must apply some force, so even if the effort is quite old by now (this original words where written in Spanish more than a year ago!), I’ll apply once again a little resolution and after a long period of incubating the idea of starting in the world of blogs, I’m ready to publish my first “translation” of my Spanish blog.

I was not sure if every blog must start with some kind of statement of intentions, but I thought appropriate to write a couple of them; that way I'll be able to laugh a little (as I'm doing right now) reviewing it in the future and discovering how mistaken they were, or smiling with pleasure over the ones that come true:

  • "Reflections on the road" pretends to be the creative space in which I'll try to bring a broad set of themes of my interest; toss them to the void to discover common interests and discuss them with people to learn in the process.

  • As writing isn't an easy task and work just keeps on coming, I hope to be able to publish at least one time each month.

  • If any theme seems fit to more than a couple of publications, either because I have a personal or professional interest in it, maybe I'll write it in a specialized blog, after all, being so much time at work gives us some deeper knowledge on certain themes than the one available to the general public, and yet, it is always interesting to hear what the world has to say about it.

Besides, I can't run around as a tech geek and let one of the most impacting creative phenomena of modern times pass by.

The push is given, let's just hope that the applied force is just enough and as Newton states, the blog will keep it's constant state of movement for a while.