Best pitch from BasketTrack during startup Weekend Auckland where teams eat pizza, pivot and walk through 'Mordor' and 'Mt Doom'

Tired, excited, pumped full of non-existent adrenaline. With only 54 hours to take a product from concept to launch, Startup Weekend Auckland sets out to change the world (and teach people some savvy skills along the way), one entrepreneurial team at a time.

The BasketTrack team took out other competitors to clinch first place at Startup Weekend following a frenetic, 54-hour marathon of brainstorming, design, market validation, and presentation which took place at GridAKL.

The team’s business idea is to collect consumer data and track shopping behaviour using a little beacon placed on trolleys and baskets. The group had originally started with a problem in the market instead of a formed product concept.

Sparked by team leader Emma Fitzgerald’s real life job at Heinz-Watties, the group’s original idea was to build a consumer app.

But like every other team, they reached obstacles and had to ‘pivot’. Instead of a consumer-based app, the idea turned into a business-to-business solution.

“We realised there was a lot of work to do get the customer on to the app,” team member Oscar Ellison said. “So we pivoted to having a physical beacon for our product.

“That was a quite a big change of direction, but thankfully we did that early enough on the weekend that we could still work on it and produce a final product,” Ellison said.

Startup pitches are intense. The group didn’t quite know it yet, but they were going to be the winning lot. They and other entrepreneur wannabes were happily consuming pizza by the box-load.

Ten pitches had already gone through including them, before pizza munching commenced, with three more left to go. The judges were ready.

As another leader for the FlashFeeds team begins his pitch, he quips, “[it] feels like going up Mt Doom and walking through Mordor all weekend”.

The whole event was a pressure cooker, specifically designed to clash people and ideas together in an environment where there was no time to stop and no place to go except up. The purpose, as event leader Alan Froggartt says, is to learn tacit skills that isn’t taught in institutions.

“You need discipline for turnover, going from plan to product,” Froggartt says.

Learning about pivots

While BasketTrack successfully managed the change during developmental phase, other teams had gone through validation and hit a brick wall. They ‘pivoted’, and ideas were scrapped to be restarted completely on the drawing board. It’s also completely the wrong understanding of the concept, according to Froggartt.

“People have a misconception about the word pivot,” Froggartt says. “It’s not about ducking the fire wall.”

Instead, Froggartt says, it is being “driven by what you find, not what you fear”.

It was those setbacks that became the highlights for team member Joel Compton, who laughs now having passed the hurdles along the way.

“I can tell you about the lows. Technology decided to fail us and we had to jump back four hours of work and start again. That happened twice,” he giggles, excitedly.

“But we pulled through. Actually, the highs are probably through those gaps,” he adds.

Staying alive, changing course

Mentor Colart Miles says a team’s ability to survive and transform is a key element of success at Startup Weekend.

“We introduce this idea that you don’t have to keep to the course that you’re going,” he says. “You need to gather data, choose with what you’re doing. Or change it.

“Pivot, or persevere.”

Originally started on April 1st, 2011 (they had to reassure people it was most decidedly not an April Fool’s joke), this weekend’s event was the 28th.

The program is run by all volunteers, and as the event director Rowan Yeoman says about the support staff, “it’s a matter of heart”.

Advice given to anyone who wanted to join start up weekend? “Tinder for judges!” (There was an overwhelming use of Tinder’s swipe-right-for-yes model).

But seriously, Yeoman says every single time the feedback has always been “I really hate it, but I really loved it.”

And ultimately, he surmises, it’s only through challenges do we grow and learn. Hence the occasional “I want to kill you” moments team members experience throughout the weekend.