Devon Higgens is a Marketing Manager with Organik Consulting Growth Marketing, a Michigan-based marketing and strategic communications firm. Devon participated in StartupWeekend this year, and graciously agreed to share his Startup Weekend experience with Rapid Growth this week. Learn more about the company he works for at Organikconsulting.com.
Startup Weekend is a 54-hour event for hackers, hustlers, and designers to come together and make business dreams become a reality (or as far as you can get in 54 hours). The event drew people from all over Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Detroit, and some even came as far as Cincinnati, Ohio; Tulsa, OK and Thunder Bay, Ontario.
The whirlwind weekend began Jan. 17 with a light meal of walking tacos, some casual networking and a few adult beverages. As networking and dinner wound down, people were asked to pitch their business, website, app, or design ideas in front of the entire crowd.
There were a total of 32 ideas pitched and each pitch lasted exactly one minute, and not a second more thanks to Startup Weekend’s emcee, Aaron Schaap. After all of the ideas had been pitched, Startup Weekend participants were given 3 stickers to vote for their favorite ideas. Of the 32 total pitched ideas, only 12 were selected to move into the development stages.
The 12 ideas considered most ready for development included:
- Maqion Locks – A cloud-based program to lock heavy machinery and prevent injuries.
- Vote Align – Helping you better understand the political views of those who represent you.
- Bid2FixIt – Allows consumers to have contractors bid on your project you need worked on.
- PayUp – An app for helping roommates pay/reimburse each other for bills.
- ffun – An app to help you find fun ideas to do in your area.
- I’m Bookable – A portal that helps you book local talent and speakers for events.
- FusionGrow – Hydroponics technology to have better indoor gardens.
- Body Buffer – The anti-slip soap which gives you a “new way to wash”.
- Starting11 – Fantasy soccer draft-style game for the English Premier League.
- Fetch – “A sports fan’s best friend” will allow you to order concessions from your phone and have them delivered to your seat. (This also happened to be my idea…)
- Paket – A phone case/app that allows you to store pills and manage your consumption and usage patterns.
- Awesome Date Idea – An app that lets users suggest and go on dates with other users in a matter of 24 hours.
After these ideas were chosen, team leaders were set out to round up the talented individuals that they needed in order to make their ideas become a reality and begin working on their ideas immediately. Teams worked tirelessly throughout the weekend to validate, design, develop, revise, and market their ideas. Throughout the weekend, teams were able to speak with Startup Weekend coaches, a group of highly knowledgeable professors, entrepreneurs, and experts in their fields. Coaches for Startup Weekend included:
- Doug Singer – B2B Strategy Expert
- Ryan Vaughn – Entrepreneur
- Brooks Kindel – Small Business Strategist and Coach
- Thomas Coke – Crowdfunding Expert
- Paul Jacques – Entrepreneurship Professor at Michigan State University
- Jeff Royce – Director of GR Current
- Scott Daigger – Product Commercialization Manager for Spectrum Health Innovations
- John Malnor – Business Strategy and Development Expert
- Chase Lee – CTO at Ambassador
Teams were given until the afternoon of Sunday, Jan. 19 at 1 pm to put together a business plan, profit model, marketing plan, and a working prototype of their idea. Ideas were then presented again in front of Startup Weekends judges. Judges for Startup Weekend included a range of entrepreneurs, business owners, lawyers and investors such as:
- Rick Devos – Start Garden
- Laura Vaughn – Sitting in a Tree
- Mike Marsiglia -Atomic Object
- Felip Ballesteros – GR Current
- Erik Hall – Lee Shore Ventures
- Shelia Eddy – Smith, Haughey, Rice and Roegge
This esteemed group of judges then went into a private meeting to decide on awards based on customer validation, execution, business model and overall winner. The winners were as follows:
- Customer Validation – Bid2FixIt
- Execution – Body Buffer
- Business Model – Maqion
- Overall – Maqion
Overall, the weekend was a total success, voiced by everyone who was involved. It is events and programs like this that are the reason that Grand Rapids has become a hot bed for ideas, design, and entrepreneurship.
To be able to start with just an idea on a Friday night and then (in some instances) be able to present a 95 percent fully functional product just 54 hours later, is truly remarkable.
It is simply amazing what people are able to accomplish in such a short period of time. Aaron Schaap said on Day One that, “The hardest part of Startup Weekend is just showing up.”
Advice for anyone interested in Startup Weekend or maybe you have an idea that you think is worth pursuing: Just show up.
You don’t know what you are capable of until you put yourself out there and begin to make things happen. I guarantee you won’t regret it.