If you look at the Startup Weekend schedule, the West Lafayette weekend sticks out as the only non major metropolitan hub of the bunch. Paul Roales originally emailed me to tell me about the great community, and I was a bit skeptical. The main goal of Startup Weekend has always been to build up community, so I thought let’s give it a shot.
I also have a theory on small town talent. I would take a small town developer /designer /PR person over a tech hub developer /designer /PR person most any day of the week (aren’t generalizations fun?) based on the lack of competing projects and general quality of life. West Lafayette, which is home of Purdue University, was a test.
The weekend, as they all are (and as you can guess by it being Thursday before I had time to write a post about it), was a total whirlwind. Friday night opened with a very strange turn of events, we had no idea to make. Every weekend we try something a bit different. TipDish, the Houston Startup Weekend company, was not brought up as an idea until the night of the event, even after a week of brainstorming and discussion of the team. So we tried an approach hoping for TipDish gold, we didn’t have an ideas forum.
I know what you are thinking. “Dumb idea Hyde.” Well, in the end it worked out, and if and we only grow from the strength and street smarts of our community, let’s do simple tests like this. We had 15 ideas show up, narrowed down to 10, 5 and then 3. Then, we got rid of them all. The ‘what are we doing this weekend whiteboard’ was empty at 8pm on Friday night. I was nervous. Very nervous. “Yeah, see you tomorrow to build nothing!”
I don’t quite remember who brought it up (Zain or Drew?) but the idea of a “Contextual Chat Room” came up. Twitter is a cool tool, and people like Robert Scoble love it, with so many friends he has a ‘pulse’ of what is going on in the world. But what happens for new users? You get updates from the friend that helped you sign up. No pulse, the thing is dead when you don’t have friends. The idea was to create one room where people could talk about what they would like to, and be matched up with similar people. If you were a Chicago Bears fan, you could talk to other fans, and in the same room, chat with TechCrunch enthusiasts. With 1000 people in the same room, this could be a great product.
I was impressed with the team. Very smart, very flexible, and just plain fun people. It was fun being on a college campus with so much going on. Someone would say “I have a BBQ to go to” and then 2 hours later be back at work, creating a company with the 30 or so people in the room. The energy was great all weekend, with the highs and lows you can expect.
Paul and the team did a phenomenally good job at organizing the weekend. I was highly impressed with Pearl Street Venture Funds, of which Paul is a VC for. It is fun seeing someone who ‘gets it’ and the whole crew there defiantly does. The sponsor for the weekend was Ice Miller, and did a fantastic job helping us out with our legal needs (and dang good people too).
The company created is named scrolltalk, available at scrolltalk.com. It was really a weekend of firsts. First product to launch before midnight (15 seconds to spare on the server switch).
What didn’t go well? Perhaps we didn’t market to the right people (we had 38 people on Friday night, but I would love to see weekends have more). 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.
I have very good memories of West Lafayette. Such a great feel to the town, people and community.
Would I go back? In a heartbeat.
Here is the video we created to promote the new company.