NYC Startup Weekend, part 2

Finally got around to typing up my notes from NYC Startup Weekend.

Initial Impressions

General Assembly rocks. The space is laid out very well, but the real gem is the people that work there and the companies that call it home. I hadn’t been there and was impressed.

The night kicked off with networking and pizza. I forgot my business cards unfortunately, but the pizza was still good.

The first presentation was from GA, and then it lead into a quick rundown of the mentors available. Mentors are there to help in specific aspects of the startup creation. Business people, financial people, lawyers, and of course development people were all present to lend helpful advice and give guidance. They reinforced a few general points that I have expanded on below.

  • Networking is valuable. Intermingling isn’t just important tonight or tomorrow, but will help you on future startup ideas and with other projects.
  • Know what you want. Keep your “needs” list specific. Want to build a phone application? Find a designer with mobile experience.
  • Create viable goals. Reinventing Facebook is not going to happen over the weekend no matter how hard you try. Define achievable goals for the weekend but with a roadmap in mind.

Pitches & Projects

Pitches were presented in a rapid-fire 60 second stand up. No slides or other props allowed. Presenters were told to focus on the “core of the idea” and ignore features or other distracting elements. Getting people excited and enthusiastic did work well for a number of people hoping to create workable teams out of the Friday crowd.

My first thought a few people in? These pitches suck. There were people pitching Mint clones, bedazzled RSS readers, escrow accounts and everything in between. Clones are not original ideas; where is the product?

There were three major groups of people attending. Designers – those that design stuff; Developers – those that make it work; and Business people – those that tell you how they think it should work. I might be slightly biased against business people. I would feel comfortable saying most of the presenters felt they needed everyone. A common closing line was “Oh, I need developers, designers, and business people.” No joke.

My own project – Oinkerbox – suffered from the “We need everyone” issue right off the bat. We had no designer, five business people, and two developers. I was one developer, and the other turned out to not be a developer. Wearing a green tag means you should be able to code. Looking at tutorials doesn’t count. While we had a designer join us later Saturday our product could not be prototyped by me alone and we ended up with no technical product.


My initial concerns about not having a technical product were partially mitigated by the fact that prototypes turned out to be the exception, not the rule. Some of the teams had come up with really great presentations and technical demos, but these were rare. These handful of people scooped all the weekend’s winning slots.

Wrap Up

I had a great time. The networking alone was worth it. There most obvious problem I saw was a lack of qualified developers. Put another 20 solid developers in that room and I think the end-product quality would have risen significantly.

written August 18th, 2011

August 2011

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