Tonight I attended the first day of Atlanta Startup Weekend. The concept is simple and cool – get a bunch of sharp and motivated people together to build a technology company from scratch. Most participants will walk away from the company with an equity stake, some will stick around to move the business forward. Biz Dev, marketing, development, creative, and usability were well represented… not much on the sysAdmin side of the house.
We started with 20-30 ideas, and were faced with the challenge of narrowing it down to one idea. I suggested an idea that came out of a conversation today – making it easy for people to use amateur/semi-pro photography to decorate their home. Right now, this is a mess of integration, licensing, etc, but I know I’d much rather pay $60 for a nice photo print on canvas to decorate my house than the $500-$1000 I see at the Atlanta Dogwood Festival for “professional” work. In my opinion, the best work on Flickr isn’t far off from the nicest work I see at art festivals. This concept didn’t even make the first cut, and that’s no big deal at all. To Lance’s question – the beer helps. Truth serum and pain killer all in one.
We narrowed it down to 4 concepts somewhat quickly and then hit quite a hitch. We had one idea of letting people indicate they wanted to buy something (like a new phone, an oven, golf clubs), and letting vendors (Apple, T-Mobile, etc) pay for access to inform the users of why their product would meet their need. Biz dev loved it, engineering, not so much. It’s easy to monetize IF you can get people to volunteer to be spammed, and that’s a BIG if.
On the other end of the spectrum, the technical side of the house was more passionate about Paul Stamatiou‘s idea, a blog widget that allows readers to easily suggest things they’d like a blogger to write about. It solves the friction of how to make this suggestion (typically a comment or email to the blogger), declutters the comment section, solves writers’ block for the blogger, and can provide a network effect of blog topics requested by readers of similar blogs. The catch is that the monetization approach wasn’t immediately evident, which made biz dev more than a little uncomfortable.
Though other ideas were still in the mix, the conflict centered around these 2 concepts, and in the end, the blog topic suggestion widget won out.
We got to the point of paper prototypes tonight, and will get into code tomorrow. I’m excited about the tech team, and am eager for the teams working eagerly on the business, marketing, and user experience angles to bring their conclusions to the table. A name should be forthcoming early tomorrow. So far, so good. More later.