Kyle Stewart judges Startup Weekend Chandler
I was very proud to be along side two seasoned entrepreneurs, Troy Busot and Eric Schedeler. If you haven’t heard of Startup Weekend, check out the website (http://startupweekend.org/). Basically you bring an idea, pitch it, form a team and have 54 hours to launch a startup. At the end of the weekend, teams pitch their ideas and three winners are selected by the judges.
While selecting the Top 3, the other two judges and I had some really good conversation, some of which was very interesting and would be quite useful for the teams and other entrepreneurs. It quickly came down to 4-5 strong teams and it became very hard to decide between them.
A quick note about judging: The criteria was broken up into three areas that each team was scored on.
(Notice how IDEA wasn’t among the judging criteria.)
1st Place – CAM EASY
What they are building: CAM (Community Association Management) management for large retail spaces.
Why they won: They were a clear pick for Top 3 because their execution, customer development and presentation were all exceptional. The team also had contacts in their target customer base that would bootstrap their sales process. I had seen some of the members of that team at the recent Tempe Startup Weekend so we were a little concerned why they hadn’t gotten further. However, CAM EASY won 1st place specifically because it was the most likely to succeed based on what the judges saw.
Takeaway for entrepreneurs: Step 1: Find a customer who has a pain point they understand so well that they could hack together a solution in M$ Excel. Step 2: Build a much better solution tailored to their needs. Step 3: Profit!
2nd Place – TO LEARN IS HUMAN
What they are building: An educational game to make learning fun for children and greatly increase educational results
Why they won: To be completely honest, this team was my favorite. Their commitment and passion about the idea was contagious. The power of play in learning is something I hope will soon help revolutionize education. I would have wanted to see them place first but the judging criteria wouldn’t allow it. This three-person team put together a well-executed demo over the weekend and a solid enough presentation, but the other judges and I were concerned about their customer development. Breaking into a market such as education would be a daunting task. Talking with the team afterwards, we learned more about their plans to target the home-schooling market and the App Store. This is a much better idea than trying to go head-to-head with the large players in the education space.
Takeaway for entrepreneurs: Find a purpose behind your startup that’s great enough to keep you going through the insanely hard journey of bringing a new company into the world.
3rd Place – RADIUP
What they are building: A medical image scoring system that incentivizes providers to perform better and ultimately save lives.
Why they won: This is another team that brought a lot of passion to their idea. They scored well on all the criteria and had spent the time talking with target customers with good results. The team also spent time executing on what a product would look like to tie it all together. The team’s leader presented a good case that their idea would revolutionize the medical imaging industry. The idea to increase the effectiveness of medical imaging to provide better results and possibly save lives really could become a solid business, if executed well. The judges and I felt we would be able to help them find a first step that would help manage the riskiest parts of their business model, but sadly they weren’t as receptive to our input as we had hoped.
Takeaway for entrepreneurs: Be flexible with the “what” of your idea while sticking with the “why.” Also, don’t say you are going to disrupt an industry 54 hours into building out the idea. … Too soon.
Thanks to Gangplank, Katie Hurst, Ben Hall, Shon Burton and the other organizers who made Startup Weekend Chandler a success. Phoenix is in dire need of more startup events to bootstrap our community. There are people here who want to make it happen, it’s great to see them together doing it.