Monthly Archives: December 2011

Heart on a leash.

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stARTing a business in 54 hours

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For those of us who regard creativity as a vital use-it-or-lose-it muscle, a stART-up opportunity is like going to the gym. We don’t think about it too much. We just go.

As far as I can tell, this is why I went to Start-up Weekend.

Start-Up Weekend is a 54-hour anybody-can-play event for designing new businesses. Heralding the launch of National Entrepreneur’s week, Kansas City’s 4th Start-Up Weekend began at 7 p.m. on a Friday night. Seventy-some people paid $80 each to work over the weekend, teaming up with strangers to build a business from scratch.

Because it is difficult to manufacture, say robots or beer, in 54 hours, most weekend start-ups are internet-based businesses. In the course of the weekend, businesses are researched, designed, branded and assigned business models. Some are fully prototyped and go live online in time to be promoted by social media. Some even make money by Sunday.

The weekend begins with a Friday night pitch session. Every participant has the opportunity to make a 60-second pitch for an original business idea. These ideas are then voted on by a very unscientific, but adequately efficient, post-it voting system. Participants vote for one another’s ideas by placing post-its on the poster-sized sign bearing the business name and concept. Participants with the fewest colored post-its on their business sign are encouraged to face reality as soon as possible by looking around for another concept they can get behind and negotiating their way onto that team. What comes out at the end of it all is a motley collection of teams determined not so much by individuals’ interest in the particular business concepts as by the team leaders’ abilities to recruit and refuse individuals, including those frustrated souls whose ideas have just tanked. I was one of these.

I began Start-Up Weekend with the right motives but with a wimpy commitment to my own idea. I had a new business concept, but my idea was fuzzy. I could not yet sell myself on investing in it, and my lack of conviction was visible in my pitch.

I quickly pulled my own idea out of competition and wiggled my way on to another team with a young stARTist and web programmer named Royce Hayes. Royce had a concept called DAWGbnb – a site to match pets needing boarding with dog lovers willing to take in canine guests for a fee. I thought the idea had legs – at least four furry ones – and that it would be fun to work on.

Indeed it was. DAWGbnb and our team of seven tied for third place in a field of fourteen outstanding business ideas. Read more about it at http://kansascity.startupweekend.org/2011/11/13/711/