This past weekend was Charleston’s first Startup Weekend, a Google-backed event that promotes a productive competition in which teams of two or more lock themselves in a room for two full days and emerge with a near-functioning business, with their entrepreneurial spirits likely deflated and their consciousness waning.
Friday night was a round of pitches, where any attendee had 60 seconds to convey their app, website, or product idea around which teams would later be formed. Nic and I had planned on sticking together, and our anxiousness to begin working made for a long night of waiting for an overzealous emcee to trudge through the opening night’s filibuster. So it goes.
Nic’s awesome idea was an online marketplace of donated toys, to give more families access to the joy we all felt as kids when we got a new action figure or play set. Donated toys would be cleaned, spruced up, and shipped off at a fraction of the price listed on stores’ shelves. What that looked like and how that operated were the two questions we’d spend the entire weekend figuring out. Five other people joined the team in room 224, where the caffeine kept flowing and sleep became the new s-word.
As the business guy, the most rewarding part for me was evolving the idea from something financially impossible to an entirely feasible business model. As a few of us chipped away at spreadsheets, we’d be throwing out new ideas for all logistical aspects of operation. Whether it was Ryan’s background in truck rentals to help us figure out how to pick up the toys, or Sean’s input on consumer behavior to determine how to present this service, we all provided a different piece to solve the puzzle. After 14 hours on Saturday, we had a legitimate business plan.
Meanwhile, Nic and the developers were hacking away on the site, creating an amazing product for us to unveil at our final presentation. We ended up being one of only two teams with a functioning site, but it was by far the best design work of the competition. We were on-premises for 32 hours from 6 pm Friday to 9 pm Sunday. Plus a bit of time after-hours at a bar, and even continuing the efforts at home (had to turn my phone on silent when I finally needed sleep – thanks to Nic’s dedication!).
Sunday night, our five-minute presentation was extremely buttoned-up, and we handled the judges’ questions with quick, previously-thought-out answers that touched on the aspects we were hoping they’d ask us about. In the end, a universal wish-list app won first, a property management app took second, and an app to fill voids in restaurants’ employee schedules squeezed into third. Afterwards, the judges’ praise of our idea made it clear we were in the running!
It was a challenging, strenuous weekend, the most difficult part being going back to work on Monday. But as we clanked our glasses together late Sunday night, proud of our work and reliving the tasks we had just conquered, I think we all took a look around the table at our new friends knowing that no one could’ve outworked us. Knowing that we just made a pretty stellar story.
Check out the site at: bit.ly/sunnysidetoys