I spent last weekend attending the Dublin Startup Weekend event, hosted by the National Digital Research Centre (NDRC). Startup Weekend is a movement, based in Seattle, but with events world-wide, which is aimed at putting technologists, designer and business people together to come up with an idea that might have the potential to be a startup business. To quote the Startup Weekend site:
Startup Weekend recruits a highly motivated group of developers, business managers, startup enthusiasts, marketing gurus, graphic artists and more to a 54 hour event that builds communities, companies and projects.
As this quote suggests, the idea is not just to develop a piece or software, or a website – although that is often the end point. Rather, it’s about developing a business idea, which might be realised through a web service.
The basic idea is that those with ideas for startups pitch their ideas on Friday night, the best pitches get chosen, and a number of teams form around those leading the chosen pitches. Those teams then spend Saturday and Sunday developing and implementing their ideas, ultimately leading to a presentation on Sunday evening. All in all, a fairly frenetic but hugely exciting and inspiring event.
I joined a team led by John Healy (@johnghealy), called CauseHere.org. John’s proposition was based around the idea of cause marketing. In particular, CauseHere.org was setup to provide tools to empower local communities to organise and manage local causes. While large charities are well placed to manage their causes over the long term, many of the local community causes are run by private individuals with little structural support.
CauseHere.org is a social network (yes, I know, another one), designed to allow local cause promoters to create and manage their cause, and for supporters of those causes to find them and lend their support, be it through donations, contributions of material and volunteering. In addition to John, our team was made up by Peter, Niamh, Art, Luke, Jethro and Jude.
By 7pm on Sunday evening, at demo time, there were six teams left standing. We were up first, and did a reasonably good job of presenting the pitch and the system that we had developed.
Next up was geoDealio.com. geoDealio was led by John Fitzpatrick, a post-doctoral researcher in UCD. John’s idea was to allow Cafe’s, Restaurants and Bars to advertise their special offers through twitter, and to allow would-be customers to find those deals through a location-aware mobile phone app. The geoDealio team presented a very nice business idea, with a significant amount of development effort behind it – delivering a web application, iPhone app and (almost working) integration between them.
The third team to present was LendURStuff.com. The idea behind LendURStuff was to provide a web service that allows people to lend their property (camera, lawn mower, whatever) to anybody for a fee. The idea was pretty similar to usemystuff.com, from what I could see.
The next presentation was from the bragbet.com team. Bragbet is a social network that allows small groups of friends (the example was a local football team) to organise a small sports betting circle between themselves, along the lines of group investing. This pitch undoubtedly caught the imagination of the judging panel best. Although the implementation of the idea was (completely) lacking, the judges really liked the novelty of the idea, and said that they wanted to use it when it became available.
HitTheRoad (aka Commutable) was next. The problem that this web site was trying to address was that of allowing the user to figure out how to get from point A to point B in Dublin using all available modes of transportation (including Dublin Bus, Luas, DART, and on foot). At present, there’s no single point where all of the available routes and timetables are available.
The last team to present was Classometer.com. Classometer is a web service designed to support people who run classes (yoga, pottery, karate, and so forth). It allows them to track their attendees, fees and profits for each class that they run, and also to communicate with all members of the class efficiently through email or SMS. Classometer was certainly the most complete and polished package on display during the presentations, a testament to the tightly knitted and talented development team, but they failed to convince the judges as to the value of the idea itself, or the size of the market.
At the end of the judging process, the geoDealio.com was adjudged to be the winner, on the basis of their idea, execution and having gotten a few local businesses to sign up in the early stage. Congratulations on the guys on a very impressive result. It will be very interesting to see if geoDealio has legs, and whether John and the team take it forward.
Overall, Startup Weekend was a great experience – very empowering and invigorating: something I would highly encourage anybody with an entrepreneurial bent to participate in. Many thanks and well done to Sean Murphy (@seanrmurphy), Amy Neale (@amisnealis), Clint Nelsen (@clintnelsen) and everybody else concerned.