Things I Learned at Startup Weekend Calgary

Posted by – May 4, 2011

Last weekend I went to Startup Weekend Calgary. The event was hosted by @deveshd and @justinnowak at CoworkYYC. Our Startup Weekend coordinator was @thubten. I would like to give a massive shout out to all of these people as they did an incredible job making the weekend great.

As I had never been to a startup weekend before, I really had no idea what to expect. Despite never having been to a startup weekend I had two goals:

  • I wanted to meet some new people in my field or a related field
  • I wanted to try something a little bit new and different and fun

I’m sure there’s a ton of people who have written posts about what happens at startup weekend. Aaron and Chad sum it up much better than I will likely be able to anyway.

My Journey

The night started off with the pitches. There were a ton of good pitches and some very exciting ones. I had some ideas but there was exactly one reason why I didn’t pitch: All my ideas had some sort of resemblance to applications I have built at work – And I came here explicitly not to work on the sort of things I do at work. I came to work on something fun.

My night started off by getting on a team with @clangager. Despite my goal of working on something fun, the original idea we were working on centered around bridging two applications via a middle tier. Luckily for us, the problem had already been solved and in such a way that it wasn’t worth attempting over.

Finally, after a night of deliberating, Chad and I ended up deciding on building @sextrics (Sex+Metrics), initially created to be iPoo of sex. Yes, a ridiculous idea. And if you check our twitter stream, many, many laughs were had over the weekend.

Here is the interesting part. Despite being a totally crazy and outlandish idea (I mean – “Hey! We’ll track how often you have sex, what position, what room and we’ll give you some badges and everyone will laugh”) everyone was intrigued. Literally every single person who came through the space came by to see just what the hell we were doing. And laugh. And talk. We had a ton of fun building it and a ton of fun with each other.

Halfway through the day Saturday, we were also joined by @ianj_alberta, who had never used Ruby, Rails, GitHub or Heroku before. We had a lot of fun discussing Ruby, what it was and how it works. However, where his expertise really shone was due to the fact that not only was he a developer, he is also a photographer with Photoshop experience. He built all of the location icons and helped cut out all of the position icons.

In the end, we made our pitch and came in second to @MidoDeals. Congrats to that team.

My Lessons

It was a long weekend and my description above is a very distilled version of the weekend. However, I learned one very valuable lesson.

Any idea, no matter how small or ridiculous you might view it to be has the power to become great if you are just willing to throw it out there and see what people say.

I never thought we would get as far as we did with our idea. But we did.

I never thought an idea that started out as a sex trophy case could turn into a viable prospect. But it did.

I never thought the experience would have such a profound effect on me. But it did.

My Takeaways

  1. Take a step outside the norm. It doesn’t even have to be outside your comfort zone. Just something different.
  2. You would be surprised what you can accomplish in 54 hours.
  3. Never limit yourself. Negativity and nay-saying could prevent you from seeing true value of something.

Oh, and if you’re going to pitch something – make sure you have some sort of a business plan. We didn’t and I’m sure it cost us winning the weekend. Not that I care because I came away from Startup Weekend learning things that are far more valuable than a first place finish ever would have been.

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