13 Teams, 100 People, 54 Hours: Lessons from Startup Weekend in Seattle

3/22/10

“Exhaustingly awesome.”

“The talent in that room is pretty inspiring.”

“54 hours…from idea to products I’d pay money for in just 54 hours. Wow.”

Those are just a couple comments I gleaned from some of the attendees and guests at the demos held at the Startup Weekend demo finale. I’d second each of these thoughts—you are crazy if you didn’t walk out of that room with a clear sense of potential and possibilities.

I had the privilege to attend Startup Weekend held in Seattle from March 19-21 at Adobe’s Fremont campus—my third time participating in a Weekend. If you haven’t heard about Startup Weekend, it is a 54-hour intensive event that throws a group of entrepreneurs, developers, business people, coders, and startup junkies into a room, lets those individuals form teams around crowdsourced ideas, plies them with caffeine, beer, and junk food, and lets the magic happen.

And what results from that combination is downright stunning. Sitting in the audience on Sunday, the crowd was treated to demos of an amazingly rich Facebook application, a powerful application leveraging open-source mobile phone camera software, a ready-made online portal for “green” consumers, an iPad game for kids, iPhone applications for video game swapping and mobile app discovery, and location-based tools to better connect users, just to name a few of the demos. I go to meet the people and get a chance to see what smart people think are the next big ideas for innovation. And this weekend we saw some interesting trends.

What did I take away from this Startup Weekend?

Now first let me say that it’s easy to get caught up in the exciting demos and the “tech-focused” product ideas being offered up at an event like this. But the reality is we might only see a couple of these technologies make it past the weekend and be heard from again. Even still, I think there are some real insights that I drew from the projects about what is on the horizon for startups in the technology space, mass-adoption of technologies, and more generally about the Seattle tech scene. Here are my thoughts:

* Everything is getting more social. Facebook and Twitter alone have created huge opportunities for new companies. Raising Uncle Jesse (a “hopefully” viral Facebook app), Digri (discussed below), MobVoice (a real-time crowd-source rating service), Locql (a tool to get local information from local individuals in your social networks), and EveryDayOneThing (a “green” consumer portal) were technologies that all tied into Facebook, the largest social network in the world, and/or Twitter. As our personal online networks grow, technologies will be needed to help us better manage, mine, and understand our networks.

* Location, location, location. Lots of folks outside the tech world have never heard of tools like Foursquare or Gowalla which provide location-based mobile service (the most common current application is some variation of “checking into” bars, coffee shops, etc. to let your social community know where you are at). While these location-based platforms may not be completely mainstream yet, a couple “little” companies (such as Google and Facebook) have their eyes on this space … Next Page »

Eric Koester is co-founder and COO of Zaarly and an attorney, formerly with Cooley LLP. Follow @

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