Nine local business teams have made the cut for a one-of-a-kind event that kicks off at the Innovation Depot 6pm this Friday, November 2nd. The Birmingham Startup event (www.BirminghamStartup.com) has selected a handful of Birmingham based entrepreneurs to participate in the first of two back-to-back weekends that will culminate in the launch of a brand new Internet-based company.

This Friday, the nine teams will bring their Internet-based business ideas to the Innovation Depot in downtown Birmingham, ready to work through an intense round-the-clock business boot camp. By Sunday afternoon, investors and analysts will have selected the three most promising concepts. The three finalists will go on to formally present or “pitch” their company to a panel of judges Sunday evening, after which a vote will be taken and a winner will be announced.

The winning business team will participate in part-two of the event that takes place the following weekend beginning on Friday, November 9th. During the second weekend Birmingham’s best software developers, graphic artists, and project managers will join in the effort and converge on the Innovation Depot campus to slingshot the winning concept into reality with two days and nights of massive action!

The lead entrepreneurs chosen for the event and their business/product ideas are as follows:

  1. Dannielle Branam / Pleasant Grove – Party-Extras
  2. Allan Branch / Helena – LessTimeSpent
  3. Chris Freeman / Vestavia Hills – social network analysis
  4. Craig Huggart / Birmingham – web-based speaker bureau
  5. Duncan Lamb / Vestavia Hills – Sous Chef
  6. George Mizzell / Vestavia Hills – web-based instructional materials
  7. Harris Reynolds / Helena – NimbleLabs
  8. Jim Sutton / Birmingham – CrossConneXion
  9. Andy Tillman / Hoover – LeagueDepot

Each entrepreneur is bringing a small team to run through the weekend process. The organizers of the event will surround the entrepreneur teams with additional resources and provide specific training in topics important to the success of the endeavors, regardless of whether they are chosen to participate in the implementation weekend.

There is still time for developers, graphic artist, etc. to sign-up to participate in the second weekend. Those who register by this Friday morning will be invited to the Sunday night presentations and will cast a vote for the winning team.

Birmingham Startup t-shirtMany thanks to Shawn Pearson for taking on the logo design, t-shirt design, and eventual production!

Our vendor promises we’ll have them in-hand this Friday midday.  While the original plan was to have multiple colors, we decided to simplify things and stick with one shirt design/color.

Have you registered to participate in the Business Development Weekend to help with one or more of the teams?

And have you registered to participate in the Implementation Weekend yet?? 

Participate in either weekend and get your very own limited edition t-shirt! 

Unlike other startup weekend t-shirts, these will not be offered for sale.  Only participants will be wearing these around Birmingham after the weekends are complete!

We’ve got a good group forming for the 2nd weekend and a decent number of applicants for the 1st weekend.  There’s still time to submit your “next next thing” idea… well, one more day actually.  We’ve begun notifying several finalists, but if you’ve been waiting until the last moment to send us your concept, then now is the time.  Deadline is midnight Monday the 29th.

I have long since stopped keeping up with the “right” development platform for new applications, choosing to trust my development staff to make these critical decisions.  Maybe it’s my old age (43, if you’re asking).  Maybe it’s my focus on the business and strategy decisions.  Maybe it’s the fact that I’d rather spend time with my family than learn the newest development tools and tricks.  No matter, though.  As I said, I leave the big decision about a development platform to the development team.

In Boulder’s Startup Weekend, witness what happened:

By Sunday morning, when still nobody had seen any sort of working [JAVA-based] prototype this mutiny hit full steam. A small mutiny was underway. By around 11am on Sunday, it was in full force and it was announced that a Rails team would set off in competition to pass the Java team. In the end, Andrew tactfully saved this by a) admitting his mistake, and b) getting the Rails team to work in concert with the Java team. – from Brutal Honesty: A failure, and a success

What struck me most about the Boulder experience is that this is not how business works.  It would be suicidal for a company to hire a dozen or two JAVA developers and an equal number of Rails folks.  Witness, further, one invididual participant’s observation of the process in Boulder… read it here.

Andrew Hyde made the following valid points about the most recent StartupWeekend near Purdue University:

The ‘what programming language’ discussion is always weird to me, and still is problematic every weekend. The group chose .NET and then changed to PHP after a rogue coder decided he could build it faster (and said, hey, guys, um.. I just kinda built it, want to see?). What can we do to solve this in future weekends? I don’t know. “What language would you like to code in?” is really not the question that needs to be asked, instead, “What language are you a rock star in and can create a prototype in a weekend?” might just be better. – from Review of Startup Weekend West Lafayette

When faced with the decision on how to address this for the Birmingham effort, we turned to other members of the organizing team.  It was clear from the Boulder experience that it would be helpful to address the issue in advance.  So, because of the larger supply of .NET developers in the region we made what some may see as an arbitrary decision to align the platform with the resources available.  In fact, our local .NET user group is larger and more organized than our local Ruby group.

One argument against using .NET was procuring enough “legal” licenses to build the product.  No problem… everyone can work with a free, 90-day trial of Visual Studio.  The resulting company will be responsible for securing any required licenses.


One last thing… if an idea-submitter is truly unhappy with this decision, then they are still FULLY ENCOURAGED to participate in the “Business Development” weekend.  There is plenty of benefit to putting your idea through the paces… just indicate to the organizers that you wish to withdraw from the selection evening on the first Sunday.  It’s that simple.  Of course, there is a better than good chance that we’ll swing the pendulum back to open source for our second Birmingham Startup effort (in 2008, anyone?) and your idea will be better prepared to compete for the Implementation Weekend under those conditions.

This morning’s Birmingham Business Journal contains a story about our efforts.  It was written to educate the local business community about what we’re trying to accomplish.  What’s interesting is that the reporter tracked down Andrew Hyde and got some background material about the Startup Weekend concept.

What follows below is some quoted text from the tail end of the article and my comments:

In New York, the startup weekend, held last month, produced an Internet-based company called Favoreats! which will be a consumer-driven resource to find the best hamburgers in the city.

… not exactly true.  Favoreats is all about finding the best meals, not just hamburgers, I’m sure.

Picture of Andrew Hyde from a newspaper article about the Boulder weekendStartupWeekend.com founder Andrew Hyde, a 23-year-old former interactive designer, started his new company following a conversation with some Boulder-based entrepreneurs.

Since the first startup weekend in Boulder, he has made the company his full-time job and now spends five days a week traveling and has 14 events lined up this fall, including Boston, Atlanta, Seattle, Dublin and London.

So, the question that occurs to me… if we invite him to Birmingham who pays for his visit/time if it’s now his full time job?

Hyde said launching a new company is not as important as strengthening the tech community in each of the cities where startup weekends are held.

“If you create a cool company that makes money, that’s cool, but the main goal is to help the community,” Hyde said. “You have a better product in the end if you do it that way.”

TechBirmingham logoAbout this I totally disagree, at least as it relates to Birmingham.  TechBirmingham is OUR community’s effort focused on strengthening the tech community.  The organizers behind our startup weekend effort are first and foremost looking to build companies that make money. We’re capitalists and entrepreneurs. The feel-good PR and coordination of efforts is a task for TechBirmingham and there’s no reason to overlap.  In fact, many of us are intimately involved in TechBirmingham, many holding board seats and other leadership positions in the non-profit.

Well, nonetheless, the word is now out in the local Birmingham community. We’ll have more big news to announce in the coming weeks, so keep an eye on this blog and our main website for all the details.