Startup Weekend stormed through Boston once again this past weekend. With almost 150 attendees and 17 teams making it through the weekend, the energy was high.
Sunday night each team presented their business to a team of five judges. Each team was given five minutes to present and three minutes to answer questions. Awards were then given by the judges for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place, Best Design, Most Technical Achievement and Most Fun. In addition, there was an Audience Choice winner and awards for best use of Twilio and Cloudmine. You can see the winners here.
Below are my notes on each team’s presentation and questions the judges asked that I thought would be insightful for people who’ve never attended a Startup Weekend, plus some I didn’t have time to edit out. When possible, I also included part of the answers by each team.
I didn’t transcribe any of this exactly, nor was I able to type as fast as people were speaking, so expect errors. I aimed to capture the gist of what teams presented and what judges asked, rather than the specifics.
The judges for the evening were Bobbie Carlton from Mass Inno / Carlton PR and Marketing, Sean Lindsey from Viximo / Founder-Mentors, Abby Fichtner from Microsoft, Ken Steinberg from Cambridge Research & Development and Enrique Shadah from Startup Blvd.
Teams were judged using three criteria:
- Business Model
Clearly defining the need, the target customer, price points, distribution strategy, etc.
- Customer Validation
Getting feedback from potential customers, gaining interest and traction, and ultimately acquiring customers.
Building the product or service and making it functional.
To showcase execution, teams showed everything from mockups to working demos of their product.
Helping keep campuses safer
A white label mobile app for universities to provide campus security and safety services. The team showed a live demo using a mobile app to call campus security. The app would be sold to universities and distributed to students during orientation. Universities would pay a monthly fee based on the size of their campus.
Making the world run on time
Nothing tells us proactively when an event occurs that will make us late. BeOnTi.me provides real-time alerts of issues that might make you late and integrates with your calendar to add buffer time to each of your appointments. Their business model included paid business accounts and a freemium offering. A live demo used Google Calendar to set an appointment for dinner at 7:30pm, to which the app then added an event beforehand to cover the travel time to the dinner based on route and traffic conditions.
- What was the biggest learning you got this weekend?
Looks simple, but one of the most complex products I’ve ever seen. Need to understand where your home is, where your work is, know your position, not drain your battery. Also learned that people lie about being on-time.
Building a better to-do list
Using MyGeode, you receive task alerts when you arrive at a location. You can order tasks by distance and see a map-based view of your day. Easily add new tasks, share tasks with others and re-prioritize tasks. First version of app will be in Android market by the end of the week, costing $0.99.
- Can you talk about tapping into existing task lists and calendars? Are these tools really open and can you access the data from?
Remember the Milk and Toodledo have standard APIs so you can build a better user interface on top of their services.
- What kind of customer validation did you do over the weekend?
We did an online survey and talked to other people. We received a lot of positive feedback about notifications.
- How do this work with non-geographic tasks?
It would function as a regular task list.
Helping active people find partners for activities
Do you ever want to go for a run and want a friend to come with you? Or want to organize a pickup basketball game? ActivePepper is a location-based mobile app that helps users find activity partners based on location, schedule and skill level, then book places where these activities occur and add them to your calendar. The business model was billed as OpenTable for sports facilities. They showed screenshots of a mobile app.
- How do you keep from getting mugged?
You can restrict your visibility to only people you know or friends of friends. The plan is to initially roll it out to colleges, where there’s already a level of trust within the community. But there is always some level of risk. There will also be a rating system to avoid bad apples.
- How much do you know how OpenTable is implemented? Just getting tied into the backend is the hard work for a business like this.
Premier booking service for all your nightclub needs
Premium ticket and VIP table booking service including pre-sale & cut-the-line admissions. Solves the problem of nightclub promoters not answering your call when you want to book a VIP table. For customers, they had 19 clubs on board in 13 cities in 6 states. The demo showed screenshots from the web site showing how you could choose your table location and order bottles of alcohol.
- Most nightclubs make their money on liquor. How do you reconcile your business model with theirs?
- Can you talk about where you started at the beginning of the weekend and where you were before you came?
We came to Startup Weekend with much already done. Over the weekend, we added 4 new nightclubs, ironed out what was within our reach and figured out where we wanted to go in the future. [Note: This was not in the spirit of Startup Weekend in that you aren't supposed to have any substantial work done on your idea before the weekend.]
- How do you differentiate from EasyVIP?
EasyVIP thinks people book their VIP tables based on the genre of music played at the club, which is not the case. All clubs play hip-hop / club music. EasyVIP blocks out clubs based on music choice, so you can’t book the club you want. We don’t do that.
The best way to discover music
If you use iTunes or Spotify, you only see the top 100 list. There’s no way to discover upcoming music, or local and worldwide trends. MapTun.es lets you tag songs from anywhere. The demo showed a map and how you could listen to music by selecting an area on the map. They used Last.fm, Spotify and SoundCloud APIs to show what music people are listening to where. The product was to provide music analytics to record labels, showing which songs were popular where, and helping them discover trends before they went viral.
- Where you able to do any customer validation?
Not yet. We talked to a friend at BMI Records who was interested in what they proposed. But they want to talk to smaller record labels and have a working product with users before approaching record labels.
- In thinking about minimum viable products, if record labels are your customer, it seems like you’re doing two different things. You might want to focus on one area to start with.
- It’s not clear where the pain point is for the customer. I listen to GrooveShark and can find new music that way, so why would I use this?
I’m sure most of you use Pinterest. You find a piece of music as you’re browsing the web, and you can clip it. I’ m looking for tastemakers and am always asking friends looking for new songs. This would help me.
- What was your biggest challenge this weekend?
We had two people drop out. We also had a lot of cool ideas and didn’t do well with time management.
Globalize your education
Senseii is a free online platform for teachers to upload their content, like a Wikipedia for education. Besides being an outlet for teachers to share their resources with other teachers around the world, it can be used as a teaching tool to upload lectures. The business model involves advertising within topic areas and sponsorship of courses.
- A local company called Better Lesson started out with this business model and then pivoted to start selling to schools instead of teachers.What makes you different?
We have a global perspective and want to provide global services like translation. We decided to go through the grassroots level since going through schools involves a lot of bureaucracy and takes a lot of time.
- In the first 6 months you need to deal with teachers on several different continents. How do you incentivize teachers to join this site?
We provide tools for teachers to use within their class. We’ll also only be targeting grades 6-12 and only exclusive schools.
- You mentioned you talked to some teachers. Can you talk about the feedback you heard from them?
Where nobody knows your name. Private conversations, discreetly.
Have you ever had problem so shameful you were too embarrassed to ask for help? Incognito Care provides anonymous care from credited professionals, on-demand when you need it, whether it’s a panic attack at 11pm or a break up with your significant other. They want to target people dealing with stress, insomnia, addiction, burn-out, loneliness and loss. The team had three doctors who are excited and ready to go. The team demoed a working web site where a user found a professional, initiated an anonymous call, and was connected through Twilio.
Existing players include Live Person, Samaritans, SpillNow.
- Why anonimity?
Lack of anonimity is a barrier to care. There exists a stigma about seeking counseling and it can risk some people’s jobs. People who live in remote areas or don’t want to be seen entering a psychiatrist’s office can get the help they need this way.
- How do doctors get paid?
We use multiple payment systems and never hold onto user data. A patient’s credit card numbers never reside on our servers.
- If anonymous, how would doctors deal with people with emergencies, such as suicides or runaways?
Practioners should know how to deal with crisis situations like these and counsel the patient appropriately.
Never think about parking again.
Pre-pay for parking at the same time you book your event. Then get e-mailed directions to a guaranteed parking spot, walking directions to venue and traffic status two hours prior to the event. Parq.it aims to be a middleman between booking providers (eg: OpenTable, StubHub, TicketMaster, EventBrite, etc) and parking lots. Already sold parking passes over the weekend and had revenue when they presented.
- You are late to market. How are you going to outsmart the competition?
No one else gets between the event providers and the parking providers.
- How do you manage the parking garage capacity? How do you handle parking lots that don’t allow for pre-booking?
A lot of hotels have pre-booking. More lots are adding this ability. We’re also looking for partnerships with companies that do want to reserve spaces. There’s already AirBnb-type sites that do this.
A better way to make plans with friends
Post ideas for events including a location and time, then invite others to join. Ottr showed a live demo of a web application that texted a friend with an idea. During the weekend they sent a survey to 230+ students and young professionals: 70% of plans made on the fly and 80% were usually made by e-mail. Competition includes HatchPlans and Shizzlr, though Ottr is viral without intrusion, eg: they don’t spam Facebook. “Going to cross the chasm from the start.” First going to go get a bunch of users, then allow businesses to float promotions and ideas for events.
- What is the revenue model?
Imagine a million people floating ideas. Bar owners can float their own ideas. Also they can get analytics on people already going to the bar. For every person who goes to the event, you have to check in to redeem it.
- I know you talked to end-users, but did you talk to bar owners?
No, “we didn’t leave the building”.
Sharing experiences and facilities collaboration among the international development community
Aim to change the way aid is delivered. Aid workers have no platform for knowledge and experience sharing. empowerID.org will have project & user profiles, a question & answer forum and an expert network. There will be no charge for practitioners; organizations will be charged on a per volunteer basis. The team showed a mock-up of the project page.
- I know you had developers on your team, but we didn’t see anything live. What did you actually build?
We decided to first focus on working with designers to come up with the user interface.
Incentivized learning for children
Incentivized learning helps parents motivate their children to study, monitor their children and reward their children. This has been validated by Roland Fryer. If you pay a kid to read a book, they are 15% more likely to see an increase in their reading scores. The team showed a mock-up where you could sign in, create a task for kids, enter credit card info and add money to a task. Quizzes allow you to keep track of what tasks are accomplished.
- How many of you have children?
- I’m curious because I’ve seen research that says money does not motivate.
Paying kids without training them how to get the results doesn’t work. You need to get people to pay their kids to do the work in smaller increments. Traditionally there’s a disconnect between the inputs and the outputs of the educational process. So if you pay someone for “better grades”, they don’t figure out how to do that better. Instead, you need to incentivize the inputs, not the outputs.
- What is the age range you are targeting? Is this COPPA compliant? Children Online Privacy and Protection Act?
What is COPPA?
Facebook mobile app similar to Guess Who?
Showed a demo from the web that was integrated with Facebook along with with mockups of a mobile app. Your Facebook friends populate the board. The Whoizit app will sell for $0.99. They’ve set up a KickStarter campaign and talked to bloggers & journalists. By the nature of the social game, you can’t play without inviting another person, so it’s naturally viral.
- Disclaimer: I’m in the social games publishing business. How do you deal with the fact that Facebook photos don’t always show the person?
They have a name under the photo. Or you can ask questions about the photo they do have.
- Can you talk why you’re choosing a paid model since there’s a huge rush to a free model?
We’ve seen other developers be successful with paid models and we think we can make it work.
- Have you done any customer validation?
Social media doesn’t provide the emotions behind the words. With Spea.cc, anyone can add voice to their social networks with 8 seconds of audio. The team showed a live demo of recording audio and playing it back. They are already integrated with Twilio and FourSquare. Audio can be recorded for specific venues. Initially they want to target people who can provide high quality content and focus on events. Spea.cc can be used to ask for feedback from people for specific events.
- What is your revenue model and how to you filter the system to prevent people from swearing?
The revenue comes from businesses who want to pay to get reviews from users. For monitoring, we played a little bit with Twilio and getting transcriptions to monitor. We may also add content moderation. But we want to be a platform to democratize media and let people have a voice around the world, so it’s important for us not to censor that.
- Existing service providers do this. Toyota has a robot that calls you asking for feedback. How do you get customers to use this service?
We’re exploring talking to local businesses asking them to get feedback from customers and looking at giving out promotions to get feedback.
- I would encourage you to avoid business models that require you to talk to every customer. Those companies eventually run out of money. Avoid models which require you to sell to every business individually using a salesperson.
League of Action
We make volunteering fun and social. You create a virtual, superhero version of yourself where you can log in and complete quests that help local non-profits in their mission to save the world. The initial target market is Boston, ages 15-40, helping lower and middle-tier non-profits. They have 7 different revenue streams: non-profit subscriptions, mobile app, online games, virtual currency, retail and advertising.
- The Causes app that has been popular in Facebook and the local company Inva [? didn't catch name properly] has played in this space? . Where are you targeting?
We focus gamifying with volunteer opportunities that are small. Inva sells into corporations to do micro-volunteering to help aid corporate good.
Share content across all devices and with friends. The team showed a video demoing drag-and-drop within a web browser, a native clipboard background application on Mac and a copy and paste to an Android phone. To get to a Minimum Viable Product, they need native applications on all platforms and multiple clipboards.
- This looks like DropBox for clips. Have you looked at how many people convert to paying customers for DropBox?
No. But other things we can do are maybe ads within popup notifications.
- In this case you need to think about copying to a named clipboard. How are you going to minimize that friction?
One use case is that you can have an event clipboard that people can paste to.
- There’s already clipboard.com. What’s their revenue model and how do you differentiate from them?
I don’t know. We’re not familiar with them.
- Can you speak to the customer validation you did over the weekend?
We sent out surveys and 65% said they would use a clipboard.
Easy bid tracking for subcontractors
Enter project information once, add multiple general contractors to the project and simply sending out proposals. Spend fewer hours sending out bids, tracking bids. 486,000 subcontractors out there. Revenue: Monthly subscription. Get people through LinkedIn, face-to-face, referrals, World of Concrete Expo.