Waggit Takes Startup Weekend NYC

11/22/11Follow @jpruth

The New York startup scene is literally going to the dogs. Waggit, a platform for finding potential dog sitters among other local pet lovers, on Sunday won the grand prize at Startup Weekend New York City. Like many other Startup Weekend events, the hackathon started off with a massive collision of ideas—some more original than others—then distilled into the final 22 contenders.

Though Audrey Tan actually founded Waggit in August, she says the hackathon gave her the chance to search for potential collaborators. “Waggit is my full-time business,” she says. “I came to Startup Weekend to find talent.” Tan says she is actively seeking designers and developers in particular. She thus far has operated as a one-woman operation the WeWork co-working space in the Soho neighborhood.

Waggit takes the search for dog sitters to the social sphere. Users would create profiles about their pets as well as their interest and availability to take care of other users’ furry companions. Users can then choose to interact further to establish some trust before dropping off their pets. As the grand prize winner of the event, Waggit will receive $200 worth of Web services from Amazon, a book package from McGraw-Hill, a couple of boxes of craft coffee, an Xbox video game console, will be entered into a global startup competition, and other rewards.

Over the course of Startup Weekend NYC, Tan worked with Jenifer Hill, Theo Skye, James Turner, and Nils Weinhold. Though they divvyed up the coffee and a few other prizes, there were no concrete promises to keep the team together. “I would be honored if they had me as part of their lives,” Tan says. “I plan on contacting them. You don’t get that kind of dynamic easily.”

Tan was an IT consultant prior to founding Waggit. She says she currently has not ironed out her financial plans to nurture the business. “I’m still doing some self-discovery with how comfortable I am with   different types of funding,” she says.

Shai Goldman, a judge at this Startup Weekend NYC and a director at Silicon Valley Bank, called Waggit a no-brainer idea that fit the needs of busy pet owners. It did not hurt Waggit’s chances that Rocco, Goldman’s Yorkshire Terrier, sat at the judges’ table during the presentations.

Austin Neudecker, an associate with Genacast Ventures, says he and the other judges weighed the scalability and revenue models of the presentations but took into account the short timeframe the teams had to work with. “We do recognize it’s a weekend,” he says. “They’re not going to have detailed financials out to five years; we don’t expect that.”

Neudecker says entrepreneurs come to Startup Weekend to advance ideas they have already been working. “That can work but it’s a little dangerous,” he says, due to the friction that can arise within these quickly formed teams. “Someone may start ‘Winklevossing’ your ass,” he says. “That’s an issue.”

Neudecker says judging the competition also serves as a sort of audition for people he may be interested in working with for potential long-term projects. For example, he says he liked the ideas from the CK Tech team, which created software to remotely control smart appliances, though the technology needed fine-tuning. “Smart equipment in the home is going to be a big space,” Neudecker says. “They haven’t addressed it quite yet but I like where they’re going.”

Tan says she plans to continue working on customer development for Waggit while sorting out the team to build up the business with her. “I’m quickly realizing this is not a sprint; this is a marathon,” she says.

João-Pierre S. Ruth is the editor of Xconomy New York. He can be reached at jpruth@xconomy.com and followed on Twitter @jpruth. Follow @jpruth

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