This weekend I took time off from my “side project” to participate in the Atlanta Startup Weekend. For those of you unfamiliar with the event. It was essentially 100+ entrepreneurs with varying skills (technical, marketing, design) getting together to see how many “startups” they could start in a weekend – 54 hours (Friday 6pm – Sunday 9pm).
I signed up for it, at the encouragement of a friend whom I had shared my desire to get more involved with the entrepreneurial community. I had no real expectations; but, I was pretty sure that trying to build a startup in 54 hours was not necessarily going to be “fun” by normal people’s expectations. (Which may mean I’m not normal?)
The event went like this. On Friday night, we all gathered, heard pitches on people’s ideas, voted and chose teams. Late Friday evening, we met with our teams and had to start figuring out how to tackle the project: define the scope, choose the platform, decide roles, etc. Saturday and Sunday – get to work. Sunday evening – present your product.
I joined the GivingTi.me team. The idea guy is/was Sanjay Parekh, a serial entrepreneur, and is being partially funded by the BMW foundation. We developed a website to essentially allow people (entrepreneurs) to barter time, one hour at a time. We had 16 amazing people on the team, a blend of business (marketing, design, product management folks) and technology folks. So, after defining the scope of the project, we divided into 2 teams. I was on the tech team.
We had our fair share of issues. We had a heated discussion on project scope. We chose Ruby on Rails as our platform, and then, lost one of our Rails programmers. Leaving one senior guy and a bunch of newbies, until we picked up 2 part-time senior guys. We chose HAML as our markup language (to create HTML) and only one person knew it. It took HOURS to get our development environment set up. I was the only one with Sphinx installed, so I was the only one who could test “Search”. We installed a “fix” 30 minutes for the demo, which broke a pretty critical piece of functionality.
I coded for about 28 hours in a language that I “played” with for about a total of 12 hours prior to this weekend. I’m, now, almost proficient. Certainly not an expert, but, past the curve…
I worked with a team of amazing people whom I consider friends.
For me, this past weekend was a reminder of what is possible when you get a bunch of talented and passionate people all focused on the same vision. I haven’t had that for years, not since eTour.com (1997 – 2001). Now I really miss it.