Boyink’s note: StartupWeekend is an event where people pitch business ideas, the crowd votes on them, then form teams to try and build that new business (or product) over a weekend. I had started one in West Michigan in 2010, attended again in 2012, and wanted to do one again. They happen all over the world so it was just a matter of getting lucky with route and timing.
I was very excited to be going to Start-Up Weekend. I had wanted to go for a long time. It sounded like a lot of fun - making new friends, creating something that hadn’t been created before, being part of something and on a team, late nights. So when my dad found a Start-Up Weekend in South Carolina enroute to Florida, he asked me again, “Do you want to go?” And I said, “Yes.”
When we first got to Start-Up Weekend, I was a bit nervous. There were a lot of people around, most of them college students. I kept looking around, wondering if maybe I would be part of this person’s team later that night.
We got into the auditorium. Thirty-three people pitched, including Daddy. I took notes on everybody, writing down what I had gathered from their 60-second pitch. When everyone was done, I had to pick a team.
I had no idea who I wanted to go with, and I really didn’t want to talk to anybody. Okay, I was being a introvert, Joel Keiter, I confess to being a introvert! You can be happy now.
I kind of just hung around one guy Harrison had talked to. This guy, Trey, had an idea he called BiblioTech. BiblioTech is a browser extension. Say you were searching for a book on Amazon. BiblioTech would secretly search for that book at your local library. If it’s available, it will notify you at the top of the page, and give you a reserve button.
I wasn’t talking to Trey, but he asked me who I was, so I introduced myself.
It came time to vote. I voted for Daddy, Trey, and some guy whose pitch had to do with music.
Daddy and Trey both got voted in to the weekend. Harrison and I both went on Trey’s team.
Friday night, BiblioTech SW consisted of Trey, Harrison, me, a developer named Ralph, a developer named Matt, and Mason, a good friend of Trey’s. I liked our team. I thought we were pretty well situated, especially after hearing how my dad fared. We had a pretty big team, compared to a lot of others.
So we all introduced ourselves Friday night. I felt really comfortable around our team, and felt as if we were pretty much all of the same mind. We understood Trey’s product really well. I went home that night and fell asleep thinking about Start-Up Weekend, spent the whole night dreaming about Start-Up Weekend, and woke up with my first thought being ‘I get to go to Start-Up Weekend today!’
We were joined that morning by Laura and Felix, who were really insightful and helpful additions to our team.
We started off that morning without feeling rushed at all. Trey told us, “Okay, we have all day to work on this guys, so don’t feel like you have to get everything done before lunch.” This was a big change to my mindset. My dad had been to two Start-Up Weekends before, and had made it sound as if everything was done rushing around all the time, and only the highly elite teams with 20+ people really had a good end pitch on Sunday. I soon found this was not the case. We had mentors and coaches come in on Saturday and nearly everyone told us that we were doing really well and were ahead of time.
Mason and Laura began Saturday working on a survey. Harrison and I made FB, Twitter, and email accounts for BiblioTech (or BiblioTech Browser, if BiblioTech was already taken), Ralph and Matt worked on a mock browser to show how BiblioTech worked, Felix researched competitors and did some magic with numbers and budgets, and Trey bounced around, helping everybody who needed his input.
I really felt like we were all of one mind. If Trey was busy talking to somebody else and I needed input or clarification, I knew I could ask Felix or Mason and pretty much get the same answer that Trey would have given me.
After lunch, I was set with the task of emailing tons of libraries and asking them if they would use BiblioTech. I kept hearing stats from Mason about how many people had taken our survey. I handed the emailing libraries task to Harrison and Mason later in the afternoon, so I could go out with Laura and Trey and survey people at the library.
We spent about an hour and a half at the library. Laura was really good at surveying people. I didn’t do so well, but still got enough information to further our research.
When we got back to our room (or ‘The Glass Aquarium’ as Harrison called it) our survey had gotten up to about 85 takes already! We were really happy about that.
Harrison and I started making slides to be shown during our pitch the next night. It started getting really dark and late, and although we were still working, everybody was really tired.
Mason figured out how to project his face from a video cam on his computer to a huge screen that faced outside. We turned off the lights and he lit his face up with an iPhone and it was hilarious how creepy he looked. Harrison went and got our favorite videographer to take some short videos of us. He even went outside to do some footage of how it looked from beyond our room. It was a great way to just relax and be friends instead of co-workers for a while.
Sunday morning dawned, and while we had a bit of trouble locating a pitching coach (not the baseball kind, the speaking kind) later in the afternoon, our slides turned out pretty good and we felt really confident when we filed into the auditorium at 4:00 to give our pitch and listen to others.
We were second in the line-up, and I thought that Trey and Mason did a superb job delivering. I met Mason outside in the hallway during intermission and talked with him about potential competitors to us. It seemed to us like no one really came close to even tying us on both our pitch and our project.
We listened to several other pitches, including Ditching Suburbia, Daddy’s. I was happy when I heard a big buzz of smalltalk going on after he walked off the stage. There were lots of people talking about it.
The judges decided who would win while everybody else got dinner. After I had gotten my plate, I went back into our room, which I thought was empty. I was a bit startled when I found Mason lying on the floor. I don’t think that our team had really understood the traveling lifestyle until Daddy gave his speech. Mason asked me a lot of questions about it, and so did Matt when he came in. The rest of our team socialized outside.
After dinner, I had tons of butterflies in my stomach as I sat in my chair. Of course there was the prolonged speech thanking all the sponsors and judges and mentors and whatnot who had made Start-Up Weekend SC possible. Then the results came out. A medical team won third place, which we though was pretty reasonable. A thirteen-year old boy won second place. This came as a shocker to me. I had thought his pitch was great, but there were a couple other people who I thought did better. I began to think that maybe we didn’t have a chance. Then the person who was revealing the winners said, “I need to make sure I pronounce their name right,” and I knew it was us before he even said, “BiblioTech!”
I cheered loudly, along with the rest of our team as we headed down the row and descended the stairs to the stage. I got several hugs from my team and several handshakes from others during the next hour. We got our picture taken several times.
We were finally able to escape back into our room to clean up and just be able to accept the fact that we had really won. Mason played ‘We are the Champions’ on his iPhone.
I was very happy that night, but couldn’t get to sleep due to creepy hallucinations until one o’clock. But when I finally drifted off, I slept for twelve hours. Needless to say, Monday was a very short day.
I can’t wait to see where BiblioTech goes, and I hope that the friendships we made weren’t just a weekend’s worth!