Atlanta, startups, Technology

Atlanta Startup Weekend 3 – Launch Something!

Atlanta Startup Weekend 3 is coming November 13th-15th.  Based on my experience at the first 2 Atlanta startup weekends, I want to challenge anyone who is planning to attend to come with the intent of launching some version of their company & product by Sunday night.

The first Atlanta startup weekend created Skribit, which launched VERY late Sunday night of that weekend, and was one of the first Startup Weekend projects to take on a life of its own beyond the weekend.  With every ASW1 attendee united on 1 project, we had an amazingly balanced and capable team, but we lost a lot of people after day 1 when they decided the idea wasn’t for them.  Skribit received funding from Georgia Tech’s Edison Fund, and is actively being worked on by Paul Stamatiou and others.

The second Atlanta startup weekend took on a new format.  Instead of having 60+ people create one company, we split into multiple groups to launch multiple companies – this was a good thing, although it led to a skewed distribution of resources (Reepli may have had 1/3 of the total developer pool, possibly with zero non-developers.)  I’m not convinced that the multiple projects led to any less attrition on day 2 than the ASW1 format.

The other big change was that teams were no longer encouraged to launch their company by Sunday night.  I think this was a VERY bad thing.  Businessy types who had been hunting for a technical co-founder for months pitched their huge-scope ideas.  Developers don’t show up at Startup Weekend to get another job, especially on ideas that several other developers have already declined to work on.  Friday night, I decided to join the Seed Stage Records team.  Late that night, when SSR’s goal for the weekend was set as launching a static web page by Friday night and doing more in the months ahead, I bailed.  The team imploded on Saturday over vision & direction issues that wouldn’t have been a problem if they had been focused on launching a minimum viable product by Sunday night.  Saturday morning, I joined the GivingTi.me team.  I rolled up my sleeves and put a lot of work into building a launchable site over the next 2 days.  It didn’t launch, mostly, I think, because there was NO pressure to launch.  Nobody cared if Giving Time launched by Sunday night, so there was no pressure to work until 1 AM at night, no pressure to cut scope, etc, etc.  It STILL hasn’t launched 9 months later.  As best I can tell, none of the code our team wrote will be used when it does launch.  Almost sounds like a wasted weekend, but I still had a blast.

I believe the first Atlanta Startup Weekend did a better job of building community and launching product.  ASW2 did launch TwitPay, but it germinated from the core Merb team, and I’m not sure the weekend did more than give those guys a kick in the pants to launch a rocking idea (to their credit, they DID launch something).  ASW1 did a LOT more to build Atlanta’s entrepreneurial community.  Part of that is because ASW1 was a part of Atlanta’s Great Awakening.  In many cases, it was the first time many of Atlanta’s startup-oriented minds met and had a chance to size each other up.  I think that’s too flippant, though.  The process of fighting over the concept, scope, and design of Skribit to successfully launch it in 3 days led to a better product and a better community.  At the end of ASW1, I knew who I wanted to work with again, and who I did not (AND I currently work with 2 of my Skribit co-founders).

So my call for Atlanta Startup Weekend 3 is to LAUNCH SOMETHING.  Don’t pitch an idea that can’t be launched by Sunday night.  Don’t join a concept that needs 6 months of work to launch – this isn’t startup speed-dating.  Don’t let your first team meeting degenerate into 1 year planning meetings and a goal to launch a landing page.  Find a great idea with other smart Atlanta / SouthEast regional people to work with to LAUNCH some version of that product in 3 days.

And if you’re working on a startup either full-time or on the side, the same challenge is out there.  Launch Something so you can begin getting customer feedback, iterating on your idea, and learning, instead of thrashing on an unlaunched app.

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9 thoughts on “Atlanta Startup Weekend 3 – Launch Something!

  1. Great overview of the past SW’s and thanks for the linkup! I agree with Sanjay that it’s all a community building exercise, I love the tangible fruits of a sunday night launch.. and you get into a real startup mode about whether or not you can all work together and collaborate effectively. I expect to see all of the Shotput Ventures people out this year..

  2. Question. It seems like Startup Weekend is out of the hands of Andrew Hyde and into the hands of some new folks, They want to charge $75 per participant vs. the $40 last year. Thoughts?

  3. Lance – I recall paying $20 the first year, and $40 the 2nd year. I suppose we’ve been pretty much offsetting the food/drink cost with sponsorship cash. Honestly, unless they’re drastically changing their offering, I don’t think they bring $75/person worth of value to the table. If the sticker price is $75 to register, I think we will start to lose people who would have contributed nicely but decide they can build community at other events at a much lower cost.

    I am not sure what part of the Startup Weekend formula they stake an IP claim to apart from the name, but I think Atlanta is past the point of needing outside influence to jump start the weekend. Frankly, I think you and a handful of other locals would do a better job facilitating the first night than what we saw last year. If there is a way an event can happen that will draw similar attendance in a similar format without “stealing” Startup Weekend’s intellectual property, I am all for it. I find it hard to believe that they have an airtight claim to the right to get intelligent and motivated people together to create companies over the course of 3 days.

    Chris – I don’t think that’s the case at all. The team dynamic would have worked pretty differently if we were launching by Sunday night. Also, if I’m not mistaken, the Rails developer you scared off also let themselves be scared off at ASW1. Seems like more their influence than yours.

  4. Just found this and now my cheeks are burning. I’m the Rails developer who got “scared off”. Or, as Lance put it once, “Yeah, I know you. You’re the guy who always takes his ball and goes home.”

    My main beef is that the ‘W’ in ASW stands for ‘weekend’, and I don’t want to spend my free time with people I don’t like. I had a very bad first impression of Chris and decided I’d rather not spend my weekend with him. I think I said as much when I left.

    Plus, I already have my own startup to work on (two, in fact). That means I’ve got more than enough on my plate already. Still, I go to ASW to check out the ideas, reconnect with friends, and usually to pitch an idea. It’s always a launchable idea (like human-moderated dating profile reviews), since I know once the weekend is over I’m back to my real startups.

    Anyways, look for me there on Friday night pitching tvvittter. I’ve already got a team ready, and we think we can probably launch it on Saturday morning or afternoon. Still, I’m excited to demo it to everyone because it’s gonna be killer!

  5. Rob, just saw your comment. Sounds like things are going well for you this year. Excited to see the launch.

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