Last year when I attended the first Startup Weekend Louisville, I was the only woman involved in the event in any capacity. Participants, mentors, judges, organizers – all men.
For Startup Weekend Louisville 2, getting more women involved became priority number one. And it worked. Almost a quarter of the participants were women. Three of the judges and two of the mentors were women. I was on the organizational team this time.
And the winner of the whole shebang? One of the two women-led competing teams.
The weekend was organized by Kelby Price, Eric Roland, John Receveur, Greg Langdon and me. I don’t know that I’ve ever been involved with an event that was so universally enjoyed. I didn’t hear a single complain over the course of the 54-hour contest.
The event, which took place in the beautiful former bank building now occupied by Jefferson Community and Technical College at 620 South 3rd Street, fielded 75 participants in 12 teams (which dropped to 10.5 teams by Sunday).
On Sunday the 10 (and half) competing teams presented their five-minute pitches to the judges and a crowd of more than a hundred people.
Here’s a rundown of the competing companies:
Give a RAC
This team, led by Patrick Goodman of Red-E app, created an app that connects non-profit organizations with volunteers. Give a RAC (which stands for “Random Acts of Compassion”) recommends service opportunities to individuals based on their preferences. Users can sign up for push notifications on their mobile devices to be alerted when a new opportunity that fits their profile pops up. The Give a RAC team interviewed Councilwoman Attica Scott and Anthony Smith, the new Director of Neighborhood Safety, and both were enthusiastic about the project.
Judge Phoebe Wood asked, “How do you keep out the volunteers you don’t want and the organizations who aren’t really what they say they are?” Goodman admitted that this was a problem, but they would likely use a service like Facebook or Linkedin to authenticate users.
Is a beautifully designed app that lets friends set quantifiable goals and “tally their way up.” The website copy begins, “Have you ever wanted to count mullets with your friends? Have you ever wished there was a quick way, more organized than text messages, for having fun, playful competitions with your friends?” Sam Borstadt, Creative Director and team leader says, “Anything is quantifiable. This is stuff people already do.”
These little “rallies” can be sponsored on branded pages. Borstadt used the example of the Daytona 500; Budweiser could sponsor the “Budweiser Mullet Counting Contest.” The app would allow users to take pictures and tally their sightings. And that way, users are generating content and stories for the brand, driving the conversation.
According to the team, they are 70 percent finished with an Android version of the app.
Scrambler is a golf stats app. According to presenter Charlie Rowland, sometimes your golf game plateaus. Scrambler is a social and competitive golf app that allows you to compare your golf game with other people who have played the same course. The app, which looked pretty complete at competition time, uses voice recognition software to log the scores – a smart move, as many mobile device screens are hard to read in the direct sunlight.
Scrambler integrates with YouTube – you can watch golf tip videos directly in the app. It also allows you to share strokes and scores on Facebook. The revenue model involves charging for the app (golfers will pay oodles for golf gadgets) and through ad sales via mining data on golfers.
Where The Trucks At
This is an app that will display the precise GPS location of food trucks currently open near you. The app will also use push notifications to alert you when trucks start serving in your neighborhood. Truck owners will be able to signal to the app with just a two-step operation that tells the app when they open and when they close. Subscribing trucks can also add custom information to the app– menus and specials, for example.
According to the team, the National Restaurant Association says the food truck market will grow by 400 percent by 2017.
Everyone loves Pinterest (right?). Share Search is like a Pinterest for local stores and products. You can upload local purchases to the site and tag the photos with the name of the stores. Then you can share you pages with your friends. If your friends want to know where you got that gorgeous new purse, they can peruse your page and find out. The team surveyed 80 people and more than 90 percent were interested in sharing their finds with friends. The team suggested that businesses would pay to promote their stores.
Buy Me Lunch
Buy Me Lunch pairs proteges with mentors. It is an app that allows you to search for a mentor by field and availability. Users are authenticated via their LinkedIn profiles. Once a protege finds a prospective mentor, he or she can send an email through the system offering to take the mentor to lunch. The mentor is notified and told a bit about the person requesting the meeting and then chooses to accept or decline. Judge Phoebe Wood called it “Match.com for professionals.”
Restaurants subscribe to the service and when a meeting happens at their place of business, Buy Me Lunch receives a cut of the lunch tab. The team also said that proteges are willing to pay to subscribe to this. Next week, the team is meeting with U of L and Bellermine.
Local Weird Louisville
Did you know that Louisville Independent Business Alliance was ranked number three among business associations nationwide? According to team leader Daniel Johnsen, there are 140 different business associations in Louisville alone. What’s the most important thing that they do for their members? They create events that showcase the businesses under their banner. For retail, these events include Bardstown Road Aglow and our various trolley hops.
But paper maps, says Johnsen, are often outdated as soon as they come back from the printer. “Mobile is the gem,” says LIBA. But LIBA has been through three failed attempts to create an app. During Startup Weekend, Johnsen and his team solved this problem. And perhaps won the “biggest” prize of the weekend:
a signed letter of intent from LIBA saying that they would like to implement this technology.
Dan Vonderheide presented a website pitched by Startup Weekend organizer Eric Roland. Vacaygo matches property owners with value-conscious vacation planners. This company already had its first client from the outset, a property owner named Jim who owns vacation homes in Florida. Like Priceline or Hotwire, Vacaygo matches “last minute” vacationers with discounted empty vacation homes. According to the team, vacation homes worldwide lose $12 billion a year on unused weeks. This service will help property owners get people in those homes.
By presentation time, the team was already processing transactions. Roland says, “We’re going to be the low-cost brand that nobody wants to be.” Judge Felisha Allen suggested that the service may want to offer memberships and exclusive access to subscribers.
Front Row Upgrade
Have you ever bought a ticket in the nosebleed sections of the Yum! Center and coveted those empty season ticket holder seats on the floor? Have you ever watched a game on TV and been appalled at the number of empty court-side seats at an exciting game?
Hunter Gerlach presented an app that would allow people with bad seats to bid on seats left empty by absent ticket holders. The system would integrate with existing ticket scanning hardware, so the system would know which ticket holders had not walked through the door. You could even pre-bid on a better ticket when you bought a lousy one. The website is snazzy, and the team performed a test upgrade during their pitch.
Christine Vaughan presented a web-based mobile webpage pitched by Nick Such of Awesome Inc. in Lexington. Both Vaughan and Such are considered by their friends to be “bike experts,” so whenever one of their friends wants to purchase a new bike, they field a lot of questions. The core of CycleMe.co is a survey that walks you through all of the questions that a bike expert might ask you to determine what kind of bike is right for you. Are you a recreational user, a sporting user or a commuter? Are you using it on-road or off?
The site takes all of the questions that you answered and suggest bikes available at local and reputable shops. According to their survey of bike shops, the team determined that it can take anywhere from 1 to 3 hours to sell a bike. This will cut that time dramatically and send educated and informed bike-buyers into local bike shops.
Turns out that every Startup Weekend Louisville ends with a comedy routine. Last time it was Nick Huhn describing all of his team’s failed ideas. This time it was all the more ironic that the lesson on failure was taught by Greater Louisville Inc’s Tendai Charasika, Director of Innovation and Commercialization at Enterprise Corp. He lived his own lessons in Lean Startup this weekend.
After four failed attempts at creating a business (pivot!), the main lesson the team learned was that you “need passion” be an entrepreneur.
The final slide of the evening served up a trueism that after 54 hours of work, everyone who attended Startup Weekend could agree with: “Entrepreneurship takes stamina, bitches.”
And the winners were:
And the first place team “was definitely the judges’ favorite,” according to Cohn. Tally Rally took home the grand prize package which included 15 hours of work with Kertis Creative to create their own pitch video.
The Tally Rally team included: Sam Borstadt, Zack Pennington, Benjamin Douglas, Paul Staff, Janet Moery, Vidar Ottosson, and Savvy Bhatnagar.
The judges of the event were Phoebe Wood (Angel Investor and former CFO of Brown-Foreman), Felisha Allen (Former Partner and COO, Ascend Venture Group), Kimberly Spalding (CFO Consultant), Andy Swan (founder MyTrade.com and Daytrade Team) and Mike Dahlem (Former CEO, TelaPoint).
The judges deliberated with Zac Cohn, a volunteer with Startup Weekend’s Seattle HQ, for almost a half an hour. According to Cohn, first prize was a unanimous lock; it was second and third prize that were highly deliberated.