Startup Weekend’s Award Winners: Search Kick and Learn That Name

8/31/09Follow @gthuang

[Updated 8/31/09 11:15 am. See below.] Startup Weekend brought together about 180 people from 15 teams to compete for 54 hours at Microsoft’s Redmond campus, and in the end, two official winners emerged last night. A mobile software application called Learn That Name, for the iPhone and Palm Pre, won the audience favorite vote, while contextual search startup Search Kick won $5,000 from Microsoft’s BizSpark startup program, plus a potential investment of $5,000 from H-Farm, an Italian-based design and investment firm that set up shop in Seattle last fall.

Search Kick is a browser plug-in that displays discounts from your trusted memberships while you search the Web. Say you have a AAA card, or are a member of AARP or the American Bar Association. As I understand it, you could install the Search Kick plug-in, and then when you search for things like restaurants, hotels, or any products, the software identifies any discounts you may get based on that membership. The startup, led by developers from Microsoft’s Bing search engine, would go beyond that, but that’s the initial concept.

Max Ciccotosto, founder of Seattle-based Wishpot, was there to represent H-Farm in its selection of Search Kick. “We liked the team, we liked the progress they made over the weekend and we liked the idea as well (it’s simple, useful and everyone gets it in one sentence),” he said in an e-mail this morning. “We also think we can help quite a bit in that space.” [This paragraph, and the final one below, added at 11:15 am.]

Learn That Name was led by Eric Koester, an attorney at Cooley Godward Kronish. He came up with his product idea on Friday night after forgetting the name of another attendee at Startup Weekend who was one of his LinkedIn contacts. His team’s mobile app quizzes you game-style on the names of people in your LinkedIn, using their photos and multiple-choice answers. As part of its demo, Learn That Name had two of the Startup Weekend organizers, Clint Nelsen and Cameron Preston, go head-to-head to see who could correctly identify the most attendees on an iPhone.

In the demo, Koester added that a future version could help people network more effectively. “In terms of growing this further, we think there’s going to be ways you can actually communicate with people,” he said. “So what we want to see in future releases is, if you miss someone, it will recommend, ‘Hey, you should talk to this person, and get to know this person better.’”

Afterwards, Koester said the team is planning to launch the app on the App Store and Palm Pre store in the next few weeks—that involves adding and testing some final features, submitting the app to the stores, incorporating the business, and getting the word out. He also told me that the Startup Weekend experience was particularly interesting to him as a startup lawyer. “I learned more about what my clients go through every day,” he said. “Building a successful business is an art—so seeing that unfold in a 54 hour period was really eye-opening for me. Lots of hard work and collaboration…fun to be a part of it.”

I also asked Ciccotosto for his advice to entrepreneurs at future Startup Weekends. “I’d say to focus more on the ‘proof of concept.’ Define the problem, give a rough idea of the market, and most importantly get some of the key scenarios to work,” he said. “Ideally the outcome should be ‘could I now bring this to a few prospective customers and validate the idea?’”

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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