This was written for the Startup Weekend book, which you can find more information about on their Facebook page: http://on.fb.me/h6hoaY
I sat rigidly on a white plastic chair, fidgeting with my phone as I tried to look occupied. Looking around I saw a sea of strangers, all conversing and laughing. The din of conversation all melded together into an incomprehensible stream of noise. It all felt familiar; being aloof in the midst of chaos. I had staked out my position in the back of the room, content in observing the surroundings at Startup Weekend. As I looked up, a hand reached out:
“Hi! Are you going to pitch?” said Jeremy. I had an idea knocking around in my head but I wasn’t sure if it was good enough.
“Maybe, I’m not sure yet” I replied. We then proceeded to discuss the idea, how it would work, and who it was for.
“I like it. You should pitch!” he said. That was all the validation I needed. In an instant my outlook had changed and I was poised to present my idea, a phone karaoke service, to the room of 200 strangers.
The next 30 minutes or so were dedicated to refining my pitch to be as short as possible. Although I had done much public speaking in my life, I wanted to be on and off the stage as quickly as possible. Every time I ran through the pitch in my head, a few words would get cut. As each progressive person in line went up to give their spiel, I continued to refine and practice in my head, detached to all that was going on around me.
When my time came, I blurted out my pitch. The crowd laughedy laughed (in a good way). After it was done, the organizer Shane said “That might have been the fastest pitch in Startup Weekend history”. Mission accomplished.
For the rest of the weekend I worked with a team that helped me come up with ideas to support the original idea. I worked furiously to figure out how I would actually code this project, as it wasn’t fully clear how it would work with the tools I had been provided. I was stuck on some implementation detail until finally there came a breakthrough on Sunday. Everything fell into place and the service was finally working a few hours before the presentation. Deadlines can be a powerful motivator.
I got up on stage to present and had a great time. The first response from the judges was “I love this idea!” Their reactions and the ones from the crowd made me thankful that I had decided to put my ideas out into the open. Their support and guidance throughout the weekend helped me to understand the importance of having others help you to formulate your ideas.
I easily could have thrown the idea out, as it is trivial to come up with reasons why any idea will fail. Startup Weekend help to stifle my paralysis of over thinking and encouraged me to just try things out. It is the only true way to learn.
Startup Weekend was also one of my introductions into the NYC tech community as well. Throughout the course of the weekend I met many people that I still communicate with and are helpful to me. Working on startup ideas in isolation can be difficult, and having the support of 200 like minded people can be the deciding factor in your success.
Today, I am still working on a variant of the original Startup Weekend idea (now called Songsicle). The music industry is no easy maze, but I continue to learn and push myself to figure out its intricacies in order to make my idea real. Much thanks to Startup Weekend for setting me out on this path.