Did you start a business last weekend?

Startup Weekend Auckland: Idealog’s Anita Hayhoe heads off for 54 hours of pressure, exhilaration, and create-your-own-company know-how.

Startup weekends are all the rage these days. From Reykjavik to Rajasthan, Colombia to the Gaza Strip, random wannabe entrepreneurs are gathering in light-filled rooms to choose a business idea, develop a marketing plan and a prototype, and pitch to a panel of judges. All in one stress-filled weekend. Idealog went along to check out the latest Auckland Startup Weekend.

Friday

6.30pm – Here we go again, my second Startup Weekend. I grab the dog end of the taco dinner, and bump into my friend Bailey from Xero. Then into our first exercise. We get given two random words to invent a business out of. My highlight: Exit Jellyfish, a sonar Jellyfish repellent.

8.35. Pitches start, I am 19th in line, and bugger me if guy #11 doesn’t pitch the same idea. Which by the way was an app that connects musicians to new bandmates, practice people, and co-writers. I called it Two Sticks. 

9.25pm. Guy #11 suggests we work together, but I decide to ditch the find-a-band idea and instead join a crew developing an animal adoption app, code-name Adoptr. OK, it’s not very Idealogy as an idea, but I love dogs and hey, I’m not being paid to be here.

The Adoptr team

Getting started

Saturday.

3am. I just went crazeee for two hours after I got home. Figuring out “The Problem” is the biggest part of the whole Startup Weekend. Our problem that not enough people adopt dogs, meaning 27,000 unwanted Kiwi pets get euthanased year, at shelters like the SPCA. WTF.

I made half a Facebook page, and came up with a logo. 

9.25am. Ahh… woke up at 8.18am when the thing starts at 8.  Luckily the Cocopops were still out when I arrived, yes! (Food is a big part of these startup weekends.) My teammates look spent and now our first one-minute update is happening, where they go around each team asking where they are at and what they are looking for. Questions have been asked like “Will we get thrown out of Westfield if we start doing Market Validation there?” Our team split up to test the waters.

11.40am. We unanimously decide our idea has no market and no revenue stream. Adoption is mostly done through friends of friends. Two mentors talk us through the “flogging a dead horse” theory of business – apparently some owner-operators do it for years.

11.55am. We’ve just canned our idea. It burns. We’ve gone through a re-pitching process, resulting in a beer delivery service and granny cam (software for old people). I find this offensive; my grandad uses a smartphone. I’m sad: the reason I joined this group was to find homes for animals. My gut feeling is we’ve thrown away something that could be really great. Did we even ask the right questions?

12.35pm. Adoptr announced our change of plans in the second one-minute update; jaws drop. Rowan (head mentor) reckons canning our idea may be a reaction of fear, but there is still a problem that can be solved, and delving is the interesting part. Does it look like that guy in the green is crying? Yeah, he’s on our team.

2pm. We are going back to our original idea on this rollercoaster. Once again, our problem is “The problem”. I just want to be moving forward; we are wasting time.

3pm. The head mentor gives us some valuable time, bringing our team back together mentally away from the crowds. I’m verbally contributing but tired and trailing off, which is not helpful.

5.12pm Eureka! I had an accidental amazing conversation with Rachael, a mentor from health system integrator Health Link. She is a single dog owner and business leader, who ended up finding a part-time dog parent because of her work demands. Tui, her pup, is a happier dog for it. Could dog sharing be our new idea?

5.55pm. It’s the final one-minute update for the day. I am relieved to hear several teams with similar problems: “We can’t figure out our target market”; “We’ve changed our idea”; and “The newest version of our team name is.” But then I hear about “3D Story” who have created a 3D audiovisual story-telling world for children. They sit next to us and seriously, their dev guy developed a world!

Paella for dinner.

Low times: Still trying to come up with a workable idea after dinner on Saturday

10.46pm. Just ran through our first pitch and I am stoked and surprised that we have both a working prototype app and a website for the judges to play with. Our second online validation survey has 170 responses. The latest version is for Adoptr to provide adoption, foster, and co-ownership services, but the judges tell us we need to narrow that right down.

Sunday

12pm. We’ve focused in on the model of peer-to-peer fostering for dogs, and we are now called Fostr. (Adoptr already existed in the US and my Idealog colleagues reckoned the only prerequisite for a catchy startup name is dropping a vowel). Our niche is offering people a chance to foster pets now to figure out if they are ready for pet-owning commitment in the future. The rest needs to be driven by a passionate social media community. I’ve overdone the coffee. Mexican food for lunch again.

2.40pm. Our greatest accomplishments are coining the phrase “Peer-to-peer pet care”, and the target market DIND – Double Income No Dog. Of which there are 1.44 million in New Zealand.

Fostr app, Sunday afternoon: nearly there…

5.15pm. The pitches have begun, we are 8th. Toybuzz just pitched and I am sure they are going to win, helping kids sell their toys. Our pitch is here. https://youtu.be/QGExcCxxcRg. And this is me pitching…

7.55pm. Holy shit: Twitter is going nuts for Fostr; we are the most tweeted idea #SWAKL.

9.30pm: I’d like to tell you we won but we didn’t. Fashion Ghost won – snapchat for fashion. Team Fostr is, however, hoping to keep working on our idea. I’d like to think this agile sprint came up with an idea that could help a lot of people – and importantly, pets.