Back in March (2011) I disappeared for a month to UK and while I spent a month there, there are only two significant things I did. The First being a visit to Stone Henge (picture below) and the other being ‘Startup Weekend Cambridge.’
Startup Weekend is this 54 hours madness that brings together business folks, developers, designers and jack of all trades like me to build a startup over a weekend. Ones with an idea pitch it, voting follows and teams are formed organically. These teams have to come back with a product / prototype / demo / whatever by Sunday evening and present to the judging panel. In march, Startup Weekend, which has as of today done over 100 cities and 250 action packed weekends, came to India.
My friend Pankaj Jain was (he still is) passionately spearheading the India leg of SW and I decided to jump in and help organize Delhi and Bangalore. Events were planned, dates final, lots of pre-event work done and then UK happened at the same time as SW Bangalore and Delhi. And right then, Pjain pointed me to Startup Weekend Cambridge and I signed up for it immediately. So as the folks in India were organizing Bangalore, I participated in Cambridge. Left home with a view of seeing startup action in UK, getting a feel of the event, floating around multiple teams and chilling over the weekend.
What happened was crazy. I pitched an idea in UK, got enough votes, failed to make a team. Another interesting fun gaming idea by Fabian got enough votes and I followed Joe to join that team. Before even we got started with the idea on Friday night, the model failed during our discussions and we came up with a new idea: a geo-social network it was. Didn’t go back to London and worked at the awesome St Johns innovation center to make this a reality with a fabulous team. Pitched it on Sunday evening… no we didn’t win. But the madness was an experience of its own.
Fast forward to Hyderabad, September 2011, I am again with Pjain and gang, organizing Startup Weekend Hyderabad. Jumped forward, bought a ticket, participated. Pitched an idea, didn’t get votes, no team. Joined a simple yet determined guy Sundaram for his ideas around Kirana stores and remodeled it to make it a reality. In Cambridge we were 5 geeks sitting on a PC, designing, coding, conceptualizing and making a ppt. In Hyderabad, we were 3 in all, 1 developer and 2 business folks. We spent almost all our time travelling, taking to street vendors, hawkers and trying to understand the ‘grass root’ level of entrepreneurship. Finding easy ways of automating things, understanding how society sustains thousands of these small entrepreneurs everyday.
We made a delicious pitch. Decorated the hall with mosambis, lady fingers and did a live demo of a tool empowering hawkers. Shot a documentary style video and showed it in-between our 5 min pitch. Below is the video, the viability of the project was tough, business model was difficult and not a big surprise that we didn’t win. But yet again I went to a Startup Weekend, expecting to chill-out, sit on the fence and co-ordinate work with my team in Mumbai… well that didn’t happen. Startup Weekend somehow always manages to put me in action, brings the best out of me and I am glad I joined Sundaram and did this with him and Sanghi (our champion dev for the weekend.)
Across Cambridge and Hyderabad, I have met and worked with some amazing folks and at this point it is so very likely that I might not meet a lot of these people every again in my life. Yet they are a part of me, whenever I want a little dose of energy, I just remember the moments spent in Cambridge and Hyderabad. Looking forward to many more such weekends!