This post features Kennedy O’Dell, a summer marketing intern for the Kids Calendar, who is leading our Kickstarter campaign. A few of us from the team attended Startup Weekend KC at the end of May. Below, Kennedy shares her experience and what she learned.
(What I learned is that I would like to have all of my employees attend at least one Startup Weekend from now on!)
My Startup Weekend Experience
A few weekends ago, I attended Kansas City Startup Weekend with two other members of the Kids Calendar team. We arrived in the coworking space in downtown Kansas City where the event was being held around the time I would usually be headed out with my friends.
It was a Friday night and I wasn’t sure what I was doing but I figured I’d give it a try. I am a people person, a marketer not in title or degree but in personality, and I had no idea what I would be able to contribute to this tech weekend.
That being said, I had been trying to brainstorm potential apps to pitch for a few days. I had run into some duds but after a while I had two ideas that I thought might be worth pitching. Over pizza and a Coke, my table of budding entrepreneurs talked me in to taking the leap.
It was late before the call pitches came, and I had been slowly losing my nerve through introductions and the opening speaker. I wasn’t afraid to speak, I was afraid my idea would be laughed at. All I had to pitch off of were some hastily written notes and a smile. I watched people line up for a few moments before I stood up and took a place in the middle of the pitches.
What did I have to lose?
I pitched Push, my location based sharing application, in about 56 seconds. I opened with my name and some flashy tagline I can’t even remember. It was an old strategy I had picked up from my days of impromptu speaking in 4-H and it calmed me down.
Push was a social network based entirely on location, wherein a person could only “push” and receive content within 100 feet of their location. A user would pick up pushes as they traveled through space, only collecting pushes from those nearest them. In this way, they captured the social pulse of where they were. No two social pulses were the same because no one traveled in the exact same space at the exact same time. It was multi-functional, allowing users to push links, songs, videos, news articles, and alerts.
The first iteration of Push, the one I pitched on Friday, had a grand sense of scope. In the final seconds of the pitch I listed some of the grand uses I had dreamed of. “Imagine capturing music from around the world in Times Square, collecting news as you walk down Wall Street, or being pushed deals from local businesses as you walked through downtown.”
When the timer went off, I sat back down completely unsure how I had done. I didn’t feel like I had made a fool of myself but I knew nothing beyond that. After about 20 more minutes of pitching the silent voting began.
In a few quick minutes I had votes from marketers, developers, and designers. People thought I had something. Based on those votes, Push was selected to be one of the projects set for development that weekend. The next hour and a half was a flurry of team assembling and repitching. By the time we got into the car to go home that night, I was in disbelief.
Push was happening.
The next day was a much needed reality check. Nine straight hours of user validation studies, development planning, market strategy, and design mockups is taxing. Add to that about a half dozen coach meetings and 3 or 4 more iterations of the design and function of the app and you have quite the day.
Saturday was the day Push was stripped apart, critiqued, and reassembled. The process was mentally challenging and my team was incredible. We had two developers, two designers, two businessmen, and me, whatever I was. Together we created an MVP in the form of an Invision mockup that I was incredibly proud of. It was exactly what I had imagined, but better. When we left Saturday, we had the makings of something great.
I was sick Sunday, and despite my best efforts to return to Startup Weekend, I was unable to be there for our final presentation. My team presented Push without me but they perfectly captured my vision.
What I learned
Startup Weekend was one of the most intense projects I’ve ever been a part of, and I learned quite a bit about myself and the startup community.
My first lesson was that the only thing the startup community cares about is what you can contribute. They don’t have expectations or place limits based on age, specialty, or experience. Success at Startup Weekend is about what you bring to the table right there, at the moment, on that project.
I also learned that a vision goes through several iterations before it becomes a product. Vision is important in the beginning of the process, but flexibility and an open mind are the key ingredients as you move beyond those initial steps. Coaches, team members, and even the person who came up with the idea will add, subtract, and modify features and functions of an app. Ideas evolve over the three days, as they do in the much slower real world, so embrace it.
The last thing I learned might as well be the mantra of the startup community, at least from what I saw. Whether it was an idea, a business plan, or a logo design, everyone had the same attitude: Just go with it.
Run with what you have and do it with an unmatched passion; that’ll get you where you need to be.
Push ended up falling outside of the top three projects at Kansas City Startup Weekend but we did win Fan Favorite. It was an amazing way to finish a whirlwind of a weekend.
Now, I find myself unable to shake the big goal, quick action mindset that the weekend gave me. I also catch myself dreaming up new apps to pitch at the next startup weekend I attend.
Whatever I do in the future, I’ll do it boldly and with passion because how else can you do it after seeing what so many passionate people can accomplish when they work together?
So don’t hesitate to get involved. Attend up a startup weekend. Stand up and pitch. Join the startup movement.
Just go with it.