Detroit Startup Weekend Success!

I spent last weekend with my new bestest friends, the people who StartupWeekendDet_Horizorganized and participated in Detroit Startup Weekend #SWDetroit.   Twelve teams of very smart, dedicated entrepreneurs stuck out the fifty-four hours to pitch their ideas and companies to the judges, of which I was one.

The twelve teams were: WeCollab, Gathrd, NFC Interactive, GameGeek, DineRoll, Pop-Up, Nfluents, RFP-House, Menti, Mundo, Trelay and MySwimPal.

The judging criteria was quite specific.  We evaluated teams on their Value Proposition, Uniqueness of their idea, Rollout/Growth Strategy, Revenue Model, Research, Customer Validation, Target Market, MVP/Prototype, Functional Technical Demo and User Experience/Design.

I also coached the teams and told them that I was interested in their financial model, but, most importantly, that their idea has ‘obvious value’, best answered a problem statement and captured my imagination.

Many teams focused on “what” they were building but neglected “who” they were building for and “WHY” they were in existence.   My advice for future startup-ees is to focus on the judging criteria because it’s very important to understand what we are looking for.  The teams that did the best were balanced in all areas.  Most teams fell into the middle-of-the-pack because they neglected their MVP/Prototype or business model.

Well, the top three teams were Gathrd, Pop-up and MySwimPal.  Number #3, MySwimPal, had an authentic idea and presentation and did very well in the Q&A.  Number #2, Gathrd, really rocked out their MVP and understood their place in the market.  Number #1, Pop-Up, which pivoted to name which escapes me now, did very well with their Technical MVP and focus.

As for me, I had a lot of fun, meeting new friends and inspiration from all the energy in the room!  So, congratulations to all and thanks for letting me participate!  I look forward to future events!

P-Cz

 

 

Detroit Startup Weekend – November 14-16

StartupWeekendDet_Horiz

 

 

 

It’s that time of year again.  Time to get the startup juices flowing and participate in Startup Weekend Detroit!   This is my fourth time attending, once as a participant, once as a mentor, and now my second time as a judge.   Judging at this event is an honor and I always spend as much of the three day event observing and helping any way I can.   The actual judging timeframe is pretty quick.  Team pitches are short: 5 minutes for the pitch/demo and 5 minutes for Q&A.   After all pitches are complete, the judges deliberate and select the top 3 teams from the weekend.

Some of the ‘official’ judging criteria are:

  • Validation – Did the team get out and talk to customers? Are they actually solving a problem? Have they identified a specific target market?
  • Product Execution & Design – Does the team have an minimum viable product or prototype? How functional is the technical demo? How easy to use is their product (design matters)?
  • Business Model – What is their value proposition and how does it impact the problem they’re trying to solve? Is the idea unique? What is their revenue model and how do they plan on making the business successful?

In addition, some of my  ‘unofficial’ judging criteria is based on the team and the individuals who make up the team:

  •   Is each individual “genuine”?
  • Are they ‘authentic’ with their pitch?
  • Are they in sync with each other?
  • Do they like each other?

I am currently reading the excellent book  ‘The Innovators: How a21856367-2
Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution’ by Walter Isaacson.  One thing that struck me was that the concept of the Silicon Valley startup happened in the 1950’s by a gentleman named Arthur Rock, who took the east-coast venture model (first named “adventure capital”) and funded a group of entrepreneurial engineers at Fairfield Camera.

As Walter Isaacson writes: “He had a background in business research, a love of technology, an intuitive feel for business leadership, and a lot of East Coast investors he had made happy. “The money was on the East Coast but the exciting companies were in California, so I decided to move west knowing that I could connect the two,” he said.

But Arthur’s true brilliance was in his evaluation (judging) of startup ventures.

Isaacson continues: “One of his key investment maxims was to bet primarily on the people rather than the idea. In addition to going over business plans, he conducted incisive personal interviews with those who sought funding. “I believe so strongly in people that I think talking to the individual is much more important than finding out too much about what they want to do,” he explained.”

I agree with this so very much.  I have evaluated hundreds of companies and I sat through their pitches, the overwhelming criteria for considering an investment was the people involved.  Ideas are wonderful but if they are not backed by people who are passionate and committed, the probability of success is extremely low.

So, to my friends participating in the fun, consider my perspective as you work with your colleagues this weekend.  I’ll be watching, and judging (and helping).

PCzStartup Weekend Detroit in Detroit Michigan on November 15-17th 2013