Wednesday, November 16, 2011

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.

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