Day 110: Oh my god, what just happened to me? Startup Weekend. #swsea

Startup Weekend

Sometime around lunch on Saturday. That’s me in the blue hat. Photo by Dwight Battle. http://blackartdirector.com/

Where do I even begin? I guess about a month ago. That was when I got a Facebook message from Kyle Kesterson. I’ve known Kyle for years now. Long before he became well known, doing things like interviews with Geekwire and traveling all over the country, excuse me, world. I am not even sure I knew that Kyle was doing those things when he asked me to attend Startup Weekend, “Rise of the Designer.” I was flattered that he remembered that I was a designer, and proud that recruiting women to attend the event was important to him.

I had never heard of Startup Weekend. I think maybe I’ve been under some kind of rock, because there have been hundreds of similar events around the country for a couple of years now. It’s huge. The basic premise is to get a bunch of people in a room for 52 hours and get them to build viable products and possibly start new companies right then and there. I am not sure I beleived it was possible. But trust me, it happens.

If I had never quit my job, I am not sure I could have committed to something like this. I had to make sacrifices. Everyone does. Not only did I sacrifice sleep, comfort, hydration, and my sanity, I had to go three days without seeing Melody but for a few minutes in the morning (and that was because I was ok with being a little late). I am so glad I had plenty of energy saved up was in a position to do this. It was one of the most thrilling, educational, and worthy things I have ever done. I met spectacular people, connected with a bunch more people on Twitter, and even made a new friend I’ll actually hang out with soon.

It’s really too bad I couldn’t have blogged live from the event, but frankly I was too busy. I left each night at close to midnight and my eyes were ready to fall right out of their sockets. I also would have loved to have written a recap yesterday, but I was barely able speak I was so exhausted and Melody wasn’t letting me out of her sight. After Melody went to bed I had several hours of paid work to do (yes, I do that now). Top that off with Melody’s pre-school closing for “snow” (not one bloody flake) today, and we arrive at post bedtime blog writing almost two days later. The good news is that I gave some extensive on camera interviews that hopefully will make it into Kyle’s video of the event – I’m gonna be famous!

What do I have to show for it? Well, there is a landing page for starters. My team was “Hungry, Thirsty, Bored.” Eric Butler pitched a mobile app that allows you to meet up with your friends in the moment, and skip all of desperate broadcasts and the back and forth trying to rally people to go out now. I always find myself in this kind of situation and I sincerely wanted, and still want, to see this tool become a reality. It got built this weekend – mostly. My main contributions were some icons, the logo featuring an ID monster that I drew, and a lot of moral support. The other designer on the team designed the app, and the developers made it work. We were very focused, and there was remarkably little drama, especially compared to other teams.

Unfortunately I think sometimes the drama is the birth pains of true inspiration. It means you are going beyond your comfort zone. It means you are doing something extraordinary, and that can be tremendously stressful. I think as a team we sold ourselves short. Eric came in with a very specific and simple idea (including wireframes) and pushed back whenever we challenged him to add more. Everything but the basics was “out of scope.” This resulted in a team who wasn’t really invested emotionally in the final product because there was very little creativity involved – just execution. Out of the 9 people we started with, at the final presentation was Eric, myself, and someone who just wanted to see the other presentations, but hadn’t spoken a word to us for two hours prior. Eric’s a great person, a talented developer, and more of a designer than he gives himself credit for, but he is not a leader – yet.

The weekend left me contemplating what I could have done differently. If I had pushed back harder (risking drama) would we have turned a corner and bonded? Or would we have completely self destructed like another team did? Would I have had more fun on another team? Or would I have had even less to contribute? The only way for me to find out is to do it again. I can’t believe I am saying it and Tom will probably make me wait at least three months, but I will go back and I will pitch – I already have an idea. It’s possible my idea won’t make it past the first round and I will end up on another team, but at least I will have tried. I want to see what happens when I get a crack at leading a team. If I do I will let them push back on me in return I will inspire them to build something they never in a million years thought they could do, let alone in a weekend.

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