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


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themselves. Several of the ideas from this weekend utilized geo-location: SwarrmApp (a location-based video-game swapping service) and Shall We Meet Up? (a tool to help users meet new people in an area or location). With more phones able to track your location, look for this trend to continue to grow.

* Open-source software tools are making development faster and cheaper. You really can build a mobile application in 54 hours that works, looks good, and doesn’t require an army of developers coding away. I was part of team App And Seek, a gang of 10 people (five developers) that developed matching games for the iPhone and the iPad designed to help you discover new mobile apps in fun, game-play style. We first sketched out the basic idea on Saturday morning at 11 am, worked hard over the weekend, and submitted our App to the iTunes AppStore at 8 pm on Sunday evening. Total time: 33 hours. Total out of pocket costs: $100 for the iTunes AppStore Developer ID. With any luck, it’ll be available for sale in two weeks. That’s what I mean about faster and cheaper development.

* Think we have a lot of iPhone and Android Apps now? Just wait. The team Shall We Meet Up? had an interesting idea for a mobile application, but found itself without anyone with iPhone development experience. Never fear, Seattle patent attorney Adam Philipp made a couple phone calls and became a beta user of Red Foundry, a new tool set that allows non-developers to create iPhone apps. Adam is not your average “non-developer” (he has a degree in computer science), but Shall We Meet Up? utilized some unique location-based functionality that was probably out of reach of anyone trying to pick up app development for the first time.

* Seattle’s got talent. Lest you think all the best developers and entrepreneurs are in the Valley, check out the technology from the attendees including SnapIt (a browser plug-in that integrates any web page with mobile camera phones), EggStuff (an educational iPad application), and PitchBank (think UrbanSpoon for the startup investment community). Seattle definitely has top flight talent and it is great to see the community embrace it.

Digri (pronounced ‘de-gree’) may have served as the intersection of all five of these themes at Startup Weekend. The winning team from Startup Weekend (as selected by a judging panel and the votes of the attendees) designed a service to combine your personal social network with location-based services—all on your mobile device. As an example, imagine if you attended a conference and were able to get a report on your phone as soon as you walked into the room with not only the names of other people in the room that you may have something in common with, but who you may know in common through Facebook. (Digri tells you if you share a mutual friend to help “break the ice.”) And like the rest of the teams, Digri’s fully functioning platform was built in just a weekend.

So, does Startup Weekend really foster new businesses for Seattle?

One of the criticisms of Startup Weekend is that very few of the teams that form … Next Page »

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

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