Startup Weekend Okanagan AAR

It has been a week, and I think I have finally recovered from Startup Weekend Okanagan. I had a total of 7 hours sleep over the three days of taking a product from concept to pitch. The team was a powerhouse with 5 devs, a designer, 2 biz/cust devs, and me (a product dev). Throughout the weekend, we never thought we had a chance of winning, and were in it for the love of the product, the love of the tech, and fun. In the end, our enthusiasm prevailed and we were able to take home top prize, even though I think half of the audience still had no idea what it was we made.

1st place: Arkitektor
Champions, with AO CEO Jeff Keen on the left, and city councillor Colin Basran on the right

The Arkitektor concept was formed out of a #devKL session where we discussed visual modelling. Our fearless team leader @neh decided that we should use Startup Weekend as a chance to try and build the product development app of our dreams. At the pitch he said “graph database” and boom! He had a team. Originally, I wanted to join a team with people I didn’t know. However all the other pitches did not excite me as much as Arkitektor, which I threw myself into.

It was a tiring/amazing experience. I truly believe that the amount of talent on the team made it a once in a lifetime experience. I didn’t get much of a chance to learn Node.js or Neo4j as I spent so much time on the planning, presenting, biz and cust dev side(s) of the project. I was pretty ragged by the end.

I was very happy that SW integrated market validation into the judging this year. At the #devKL beforehand we were planning on pushing such an agenda and basically told all the dev’s not to make anything until it was proven. The Arkitektor team used both the Lean Startup Machine’s Validation Board and the Business Model Generation tool.

I had a crash course in delegation. Our dev team was experienced and could quickly get up and running, but our designer and biz people were not used to working in a startup environment. I introduced a kanban style task list to the biz people, which worked pretty well. I hope they got a taste of what startup life is like: you cannot afford to be a specialist, you cannot wait to be told what to do, you must use your initiative.

My other big lesson learned was the importance of honing your message. I practiced explaining our concept to as many people as I could, and even though I felt I got better, we still were not able to to explain it to a non-dev in two or three sentences.

Prize

The only thing that I would suggest to the organizers, other than providing lighter meals, is to have a physical object to award the winners, even if just a piece of paper. We had no idea what we won, and had nothing to show for it, which was a bit anticlimactic.

If we are to have this thing every year in Kelowna, I think it would be great if we could make an 8-bit trophy, maybe 3D printed, to give to the winning team to keep in their office until the next year.

Taking Startup Weekend into another dimension

Speaking of 3D, I think it would be brilliant if we had a special edition of Startup Weekend that focused on physical products, with 3D-printed prototypes. It is hard to imagine what amazing products would come out of such an event. I am sure physical product-focused events like Startup Weekend happen all the time in other contexts. However, Startup Weekend has typically been the purview of digital products, and we find ourselves in an era of bit-pushers being able to push atoms, bringing all their web and graphic design skills to the physical world. We could even get Objet or some other company to sponsor the printers, and have to include the lengthy printing time in the development strategy.

Furthermore, think of the new types of people that would be introduced to Startup Weekend. Kelowna has healthy gaming and animation communities, filled full of modellers that would be worth their weight in gold on a 3DSW team. It sounds like lots of fun…

Well, what do you know, it has already happened!

Wrap-up

Highly recommended. We are still considering whether to make Arkitektor in real life. Regardless, I will be there next year, hopefully as a well-rested volunteer organizer.

Author: Chad Kohalyk

Bellatrist, communitarian, tech contrarian. Generous with Likes. http://chadkohalyk.com