Monday, October 17, 2011

Startup Weekend

This weekend I was at Startup Weekend in Boston, and words fail me in an attempt to describe how awesome (and exhausting) the event was.  I'm definitely glad I went, and will be attending these events in the future.  The entrepreneurial spirit and drive throughout the weekend was inspiring, not to mention the friends and business contacts made while working together on a project like that.

The idea behind the weekend is simple.  People pitch their start-up business ideas the first night, everybody votes on which ones they want to implement, and the top projects (I think it was 16 of them) recruit teams among the rest of the attendees to develop the business plan, prototype, etc. throughout the weekend.  There was a wide variety of ideas being pitched, so there was easily something for everyone.

Being a web developer by trade, I was specifically looking for something where I could flex those particular muscles.  There was no shortage of mobile phone apps being developed, and maybe I'll do one of those next time.  But I wanted to stick to a web application this time so I chose a team in that space.  (I'm going to hold off on marketing the end result here until we've vetted the system a little more.  I'm not entirely sure why, and I don't have the wherewithal to explain it until the caffeine sets in, so I'm just going to go with my gut for now.)

The really interesting part for me was that I ended up not really doing a lot of development.  I knew that was going to be a challenge going into the event because I don't really do start-up work.  I'm not a cowboy who throws code at something to rapidly build a prototype.  I'm a methodical enterprise developer.  A whole product in a weekend?  It takes us at least a week just to talk about building a product, then a few more weeks for requirements and design.

So I ended up in a role where I sort of oversaw the development, making decisions about the technology so the developers could keep moving forward, and trying to drive it toward the business goal.  When I had no hands-on development tasks (such as the occasional jQuery widget to fit into the designer's vision), I helped with the business development and product envisioning.

It was kind of weird, really.  Not heads-down coding?  Standing around the designer's desk and helping the group envision their product presentation?  Helping to film a commercial?  These are not my normal tasks.  But, honestly, it worked.  I like to think I was pretty good at it, and I definitely enjoyed it.  Don't get me wrong, I wanted to code.  But the goal wasn't to have a fully-functional website by the end of the weekend.  (Although some of the other teams seem to have managed that, or something close to it, but those were different products with different business drivers.)  The goal was to make the final pitch at the end of the event.

So I imagine I'll be doing a lot more development as we continue with this endeavor.  (That's right, we weren't playing around.  Nobody there was just toying with the notion.  These people are really building start-ups and I really want to be a part of that.)  Though there's much to be discussed in that.  I mean, what we did write was in PHP.  I don't know if I want to do that again.  We'll see how things go with the team once we've decompressed from the weekend and re-group perhaps next weekend.

We're not building "the next Facebook" or anything of that sort.  But the team leader had an idea and pitched the idea and we've come together to make it happen.  Whether or not it works is for the market to decide.

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