12 May 2008
We just announced the winner… by an overwhelming margin, the winner of the 2nd Birmingham Startup pitch contest is GalleyPro! The entire audience voted, but the judges seemed to favor this pitch as well.
The judges were (left to right as shown above):
- David Gray, DAXKO – representing tech company CEOs
- Grey Wood, Jemison Investments – representing Venture Capital
- Susan Matlock, Innovation Depot – representing incubation and entrepreneurism
22 February 2008
Announcing the next Birmingham Startup event! We’re happy to announce that the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce has requested that we hold our next event during the first two weekends of May 2008 so that it coincides with their annual “Small Business Week“. Block those weekends now so that you can participate.
20 January 2008
I’ve always got a kick about how StartupWeekend is supposed to “build community” when our TechMixers have long been doing that here in Birmingham. We use our startup weekend effort to build a company, as I’ve noted before. If it’s community you want, however, then there’s no better than a TechMixer!
The good folks at TechBirmingham recently announced that the next TechMixer will be held Tuesday, February 12th. This one follows the more traditional “expo” format of yesteryear, unlike the “unplugged” (and lower key) event held last November at the Innovation Depot. This TechMixer returns to the McWane Science Center‘s 3rd floor, sans the Bob the Builder exhibits that cluttered traffic flow last May.
Be one of the 500+ attendees expected at this must-attend event! The Birmingham Startup organizers will be there, so look for us.
14 January 2008
Start-Up Weekend with Tim Lennox
In early November, eight teams of entrepreneurs meet to pitch their technology business proposals to a Birmingham business incubator, vying to be chosen as the group to land the funding and then launch its company the next weekend. All of the proposals are Internet-based, and all want to be the next big thing. Reporter Tim Lennox follows the winning start-up from proposal to launch.
Not quite the way we’d have described it. The weekends were hosted AT the business incubator, but their staff wasn’t around to vett any of the concepts. We also did not provide funding, unless you consider pro bono work a form of funding. If we could rewrite the program description, here’s the way it would read:
Start-Up Weekend with Tim Lennox
In early November (2007), eight teams of entrepreneurs met to pitch their business proposals to a team of technology business professionals, vying to be chosen as the group to have their business built for free and launch a company the next weekend. All of the proposals were web-based, and all wanted to be the next next thing. Reporter Tim Lennox follows the winning start-up from proposal to launch.
11 January 2008
It’s election season out there… the candidates are criss-crossing the nation looking for your votes. The mastermind behind it all just announced that the official list has been published and more candidates may be considered in the future. Except here and north of the border. Mysteriously (or not), Birmingham and Toronto aren’t on his list. We don’t care, actually. We’re running our event again here in 2008 with or without any official affiliation.
The “Birmingham Startup” management team should be meeting later this month to select a date in the springtime… we’ll post details about our next startup weekend just as soon as they’re set! Save your votes for determining the next company that we’ll build!
27 November 2007
I was flying back from California last night, reading my latest Seth Godin purchase (Free Prize Inside) and happened to slow down and ponder pages 112 and 113. After reading Software Project Survival Guide, Seth argues that successful projects have lots of thrashing up front with all the inventing at the beginning. The “lock the thing, throw away the key and spend the last third of the project doing nothing but building it and testing it.” Dang, that reminds me of the Startup Weekend process, whether here in Birmingham or over in ATL. If you don’t, there’s no way that a final product can be launched by Sunday at midnight!
Then, he evokes a memory I’ve long but forgotten… that of a “charrette“.
The French word, “charrette” means “cart” and is often used to describe the final, intense work effort expended by art and architecture students to meet a project deadline. This use of the term is said to originate from the École des Beaux Arts in Paris during the 19th century, where proctors circulated a cart, or “charrette”, to collect final drawings while students frantically put finishing touches on their work. – from National Charrette Institute
I started my college career in the field of architecture. Many, many projects were assigned with a due date of the very next morning. Nevermind family. Nevermind work. Nevermind dates with your girlfriend. We had a massive amount of work due in an impossibly short period of time. I got used to working ALL night and depriving myself of sleep. To this day, some 25 years later, I still pull a full all-nighter about once a quarter. Now, it just takes me longer to recover! :^)
Seth claims the charrette is “the last-minute hoo-ha that occurs right before a presentation is due – where all the great juices flow and the good decisions are made.” For that, he’s flat out WRONG. While the cart is circulating, no one is making decisions… they’re putting the final production touches on the work product. It also couldn’t be further from the truth for Andrew Hyde’s Startup Weekend, nor Birmingham’s. But he does get one reference right… “have your charrette at the beginning, not at the end.” That’s what is great about the Startup Weekend effort… it puts the high-pressure, time-sensitive effort up front and at the very beginning of the entrepreneurial process.
12 November 2007
And so the debate continues… two recent articles following this past weekend talk about Andrew Hyde’s StartupWeekend’s focus on community building:
“… these events are clearly wonderful for creating community. Note that I am not saying “for creating useful startups” – it’s highly unlikely any of these will get funded, let alone reach a liquidity event. But participants are clearly charged up after the sessions, and the overall feedback is positive.” – Michael Arrington of TechCrunch
“… it should come as no surprise (and Mike is very right) that it’s not primarily about building sustainable companies. Instead, think of it as building sustainable communities.” – David Cohen of TechStars
and in Andrew’s own words…
“The weekend is about building community, that is the first and biggest goal (and always will be). The connections made during the weekends are where you will really see the value of Startup Weekend. Partnerships and relationships forged out of these weekends will lead to greater business development in the future.”
SAY WHAT? If it’s all about “community” then why take 5% equity? In fact, Birmingham *already* has a very strong technology community. For instance, TechBirmingham‘s TechMixers regularly draw 600+ attendees. Our community has a wonderful startup ecosystem that supports efforts like the Birmingham Startup weekends. My hats off to Andrew and his startup gypsies who are packing the house with ‘out of towners’ at each of his Startup Weekends. But, what happens to the community when they leave town? IF it’s about community, why not let local organizers build on and adapt the concept (as we’ve done) a little to fit into their local system? When the 2nd Startup Weekend’s organizers tried (in Toronto) they were summarily slapped down for trying. Now it’s as if they never had one, if not for the counter-blog’s recollection of the effort.
Instead, in Birmingham we set out to create a bona fide company. I’ve blogged a couple of times about the rationale behind the organizers and participants not taking equity from the founders. Even though the sleep depravation hasn’t subsided and I’m still consuming Advil in far greater doses than the bottle recommends, I believe that everyone who played with us in the past 2 weekends feels that it was worth their time to volunteer for such a momentous undertaking!
So, I ask the following rhetorical question… Is this all about creating a true STARTUP or is it all about having a great, invigorating, and challenging WEEKEND? In Birmingham, we had both!!
10 November 2007
We’ve got our requirements figured out… technology solution set is being considered… UI wireframing has begun… documentation is already underway.
Plan the work – – – work the plan!
It’s midnight (actually just after by 15 minutes)… we’re due back here at 9am for the next ‘sprint’ and six of us can’t seem to find a stopping point and leave this place!
8 November 2007
We kick off our second phase of the Birmingham version of a startup weekend tomorrow at 6pm.
Some have asked if we’ve got enough participants? Probably, but the right answer is “never enough”. At Tuesday night’s TechMixer (~600 attendees), some told me they couldn’t allocate the whole weekend to the project. That’s OK! We had 40+ different people participate last weekend, just not all at the same time. Some came in for just 4 hours and others were there every waking hour. This coming weekend will be no different… if you can spare even a few hours, then show up and we’ll find a way for you to make an impact in our techno “barn raising”. See the agenda page on our wiki for blow by blow details about how we think the weekend will shake out.
You can register to specific roles (pick as many as you like) HERE. Otherwise, show up at 6pm tomorrow and hear the founder’s presentation and participate in the discussion of requirements, design, and system architecture that will immediately follow.