Tuesday, July 29, 2014

start me up

I can't remember the last time I've had to much fun. And learned so much. And made so many new friends so quickly. But that's what happens at Startup Weekend.

If you're like me, you don't run in tech circles. You don't have company CEOs as coffee dates, and you don't spend your free time on Arduino discussion boards. So how is it that I found myself trapped for three days in the basement of a Tech Museum (The Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose) with these exact people?

I suppose it started when a friend sent me an email about Startup Weekend Bay Area Makers and I immediately signed up. I didn't think much about what I was signing up for. I only knew the event was local, during the weekend, and focused on making things. I'm a maker, so this would be a good program for me; I do make jewelry, after all.

I arrived at the museum on Friday afternoon with a friend (although I would have gone to the event solo), and from the instant I arrived, every single person I met was friendly.

But the participants were also interesting. And highly educated. And worked in Silicon Valley (with actual silicon). 
And made everything themselves. Which caused me to start to think, "who is going to take me seriously?"

I even had to make my own name tag at check-in

After Startup Weekend check-in (Friday evening), the fun and games began. New potential start-up ideas were pitched by about 1/3 of the participants. The best ideas were chosen by the group (90 participants total) and teams were quickly formed. Since I didn't have a specific idea or product to pitch, I had the flexibility to join any team. I found myself gravitating toward a scientific instrument based team for two reasons. 1. It was science (biology) based. 2. I met two electrical engineers signed up with the project and they were kind, welcoming, and funny. It was an easy decision; I had my group.

Slowly more participants joined the group until we became a team of eight. Eight strangers to be exact. We had a quick introductory meeting before getting down to business. I took a deep breath and looked around the room. Once again, I found myself sitting next to some of the most brilliant engineers, scientists (one of our members has a PhD in physics), and business consultants I'd ever met. And then there was me.

The tech creative process

The business development process

52 hours later, I found myself standing in front of a group of participants, museum goers, and very fancy CEO judges, pitching our final product; a hand-held, portable, low-cost, fluorometer. We presented last (not by our choosing). I was so nervous, I don't remember what the other 11 groups presented. We were the underdogs; the only team to barely pull together a company name in the 13th hour. The only team striving to create a low cost scientific instrument in two days. We were the team quietly operating under the radar, asking for coaching and advice at every turn.

                           From initial concept           to MVP (minimum viable product)

But then we won. The whole event - we were the judges choice and also the fan favorite. For once in my life, this left me completely speechless.


I can't believe how much I have grown these last three days. I know what a flouormeter does (and how it works inside and out). I know that the Spark chip inside our product runs on wifi and uses Arduino. I know that the product has wide ranging commercial use. And I know that I have skills that helped our team win. Plus, I know that I want to work with these people again. Simply put, I know that I met some incredible friends, colleagues, and mentors.

And I know that, at the end of it all, I care about making a difference. And I will continue to dedicate myself to service.

But also hopefully learn how to code.

Interested in joining a Startup Weekend? Check out the website to see if one will be taking place near you: http://startupweekend.org/

1 comment:

  1. Yay! Great write-up! So happy to have been on a team with you! :) - Danielle