Startup Weekend 2011: Booming and Busting

I just got home from Startup Weekend West Michigan 2011. What an interesting experience.

I’ve been an undergraduate computer science student for four years, a graduate computer science student for two years, and software developer at Atomic Object for over five years. I’d like to believe I have a reasonable idea of how the world of research and development works.

That’s why startup weekend was a fulfilling experience. In two days I saw aspects of business development, marketing, sales, and other parts of our world that I’ve known very little about. Sure, I kicked in with development help when it was needed, but participating in the other activities is what I’ll take away.

It was a weekend of booming and busting for my group. The original idea – pitched by our group lead Adam – was to create a website where users can vote on whether they think something will boom or bust. The Verizon iPhone – boom or bust? The newest Windows operating system – boom or bust? The Detroit Lions – boom or bust? As a user, I can quickly vote and see how others voted. I can get my opinion out there. Adam’s idea made it through the Startup Weekend selection process. Boom. We begin brainstorming.

Before the end of the evening, it was clear that we didn’t have good answers to two important questions—how can this idea make money, and more importantly, what problem is it solving? Bust. What do we do now?

By Saturday morning, someone – I’m not sure who – probably several people – discovered a direction we could go in that was similar to the original idea, but solves a problem. And you can get paid for solving problems. Boom. We’re off again.

Come midday Saturday and we’re feeling a little discouraged again. We aren’t experts in the field and we’ve got some serious questions, with no answers, about the market we’re targeting. Bust. Lucky for us, one of the keynote speakers is an expert in the field. We speak with him and get some great suggestions and feedback. Boom. We’re moving forward again.

The rest of the weekend continued with the booms and busts. Whenever we ran into a bust, it was great fun to put our heads together and puzzle our way out of the problem. Carl wrote a little bit about what he saw.

Adam’s final pitch to the group on Sunday was certainly a boom: he impressed the audience, the judges, and his fellow group members. To the Startup Weekend West Michigan organizers, sponsors, participants, and Adam, John, Scot, and Mike—thank you for an incredible weekend.