I got to Facilitate the last Startup Weekend Perth, so this wrap-up is a bit personal. Forgive me if I depart from the usual event wrap-up format and indulge in a bit of opinion.
First, the facts: we had about 140 attendees, made up of roughly 50 non-technicals, 25 devs, 1 designer, 40 observers, 10 mentors, 4 organisers, plus judges, VIPs and odd people who just wandered in (thanks to Hipflask for mentioning the event was on without mentioning that it was a paid event that people needed to buy tickets for! We had a few people just wander in and start drawing up their ideas).
There were 10 teams in all, much lower than usual, with (obviously) the teams on the whole tending to be larger; one team ended up at 3 people which was our smallest team, and we had two teams of 8-ish people, the average being around 6 people, which is unusually high. Out of those 10 teams, 7 managed to get some revenue from customers by Sunday pitches, which is incredibly high. Previous SWPerth’s have had more, smaller teams (usually around 15 teams) of which one or maybe two at best will have got revenue. I wish I could claim credit for this, but we made a few structural changes for this one and I think they were the cause.
Facilitating a Startup Weekend took a lot of energy, but is one of the most fun things I’ve done in a while. The boost of seeing people “get it” and switch from “how do we get our product built?” to “how do we reach our customers and find out what they really want?” is so gratifying. You can see the light suddenly go on in their heads and the team pull together because now they understand it and they’ve only got 12 more hours to get someone to pay them. Seeing so many teams do this, and being able to help them, was an amazing and gratifying experience.
It’s also been a real “fake it ’til you make it” experience. My imposter syndrome really played up; what the hell am I doing up there telling all these people what to do? I’ve never built a successful business, I’m struggling to make ends meet while building //Startup News, any minute now someone’s going to call me on it and I’ll have no answer. How am I going to teach all these people how to do it right? But somehow I could answer most of the questions, and we had some amazing mentors who have actually succeeded doing this, and by some magic process the knowledge spread through the room and the lights went on.
Sam’s covered the event in his Pollenizer blog this week (and if you’re not signed up to it, go here and do it now). He mentions that we’re seeing a trend of people pitching so much better recently, and I agree. It’s a bit mystifying as to why, given that we didn’t have that many veterans on the teams. Again, it seems like there’s some magical process of knowledge dissemination going on, the Perth Startup Hive Mind incorporating more people at each SWPerth. Whatever it is, it’s working, the pitches were really good (Textie’s pitch was particularly stand-out in my mind, they really nailed it).
I got asked a few times why the winners won, and I was privy to part of the deliberation with the judges so I can partially answer this:
Easy OT won because they pretty much achieved “problem-solution fit” over a weekend. They didn’t randomly achieve this, either; they started with a different idea, and really reached out to their customer base and listened to them. The customers they found who really had a problem were the Occupational Therapists, so the team migrated their idea there. Then once they’d got to something they thought the customers wanted, instead of saying “if we built this, how much would you pay for it?” they actually asked their customers for money to build it. They then went the extra step of getting a customer to come in and talk them through the problem and business on Sunday morning so their pitch was absolutely believable (because it was absolutely true). Without a developer they had no choice but to completely focus on their customers and not get bogged down in “but how are we going to build something?”, instead asking “what will customers pay us to build?”. I’ve seen so many other teams get lost in the weeds trying to do this, so it was a real achievement for the team to maintain focus.
Likewise Equipd came second because of their focus on the customer. It seems like a bit of a waste of time, spending 6 hours out snorkelling and drinking with backpackers, but what they did was walk their target customers through their solution, capturing absolutely invaluable insight into what will appeal to them and any potential problems along the way. They had some gun developers (amazing job with the site, chaps, well done) but kept their focus on the problem and the customer, letting the devs build a product that assisted them in providing the solution, rather than letting the product become the focus.
The “Honourable Mentions” were really hard to pick apart. All three Honourable Mention teams had done amazingly well, achieving some real gains. Basically, over half the teams were worthy of a prize and the judges were down to nit-picking to even get that down to three teams. As I said on the day, the pitches and prizes are not the important bit, they’re purely there to give the teams a deadline and goal to aim for, the real value from the weekend has already happened before the first pitcher opens their mouth. I know it’s a bit of a cliche to say that everyone deserves to win, but yeah, pretty much.
However, having said that, Textie.co deserves a mention here because it looks like their viral campaign is actually getting some traction. They got a post on Daily Dot, got listed on ProductHunt, and are getting some decent numbers of global traffic. It’s a bit too soon to tell, but they may have something viral here…
The Lord Mayor sat through the entire pitches and judging ceremony, which is an indication of how much importance she places in the startup community. The City of Perth has always been a solid supporter of the ecosystem, but taking that much time to be present and engage is not a small thing. Hopefully this is a sign that we’ll see more growth and more engagement in the ecosystem from the wider Perth business community. Then we just need the State government to understand that the state’s future really isn’t flogging irreplaceable resources off as cheaply as possible and we’ll be all set.
We’ve already said thanks to everyone involved, so repeating that is a bit redundant here, but… thanks to everyone! The next one will be sometime in November, probably, we’ll let you know 🙂