A few weeks ago I served as a Coach for the Madison, NJ Startup Weekend at Fairleigh Dickinson University.   Approximately 75 entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs had the opportunity to pitch, gather a team and build a business in 54 hours.  They received coaching and guidance from seasoned entrepreneurs, educators and business people and were able to find out if their startup ideas were viable.  

On Friday night, the weekend was kicked off by a dinner and keynote speaker Garth Holsinger who provided an entertaining look at his career in startups, marketing and media.  Then, the attendees had the opportunity to pitch, in 60 seconds, any business idea.   26 people pitched ideas, and then voted on the top ideas.  12 were chosen, and several teams opted to work on their ideas that were not selected.  During the voting process, participants got to know each other and form teams around ideas and skill sets.

Then they were off!  The teams met around campus and worked on their ideas.  When I came back on Saturday morning, I was amazed at how many of the groups had morphed the original idea into something else.  In the Lean Startup world this is called a Pivot. The first idea might have been either too hard, or was in a field that was too competitive, so the teams tweaked and repositioned.  The personal dynamics within the teams were fascinating.  Some teams were leaderless, and suffered because on one was making the decisions.  Other teams had more than one leader, and went in circles because no one was actually in charge of making a final decision.  Sounds just like “real work”, right?

In the end, the teams developed ideas from e-readers for kids, private chat rooms, to comic book sites.  The variety and creativity was impressive.  While most teams focused on technology and applications, one called themselves “Johnny Fresh” and outlined a high-end porta potty business.  Several teams actually developed a Minimum Viable Product (MVP).  One team was able to develop the actual product, a website plugin, and got it up and running and showed a live demo to the judges on Sunday.

The final groups had 4 minutes to present to a panel of judges, who were mostly from the Venture Capital (VC) and Private Equity (PE) worlds.  According to Startup Weekend organizers, over 36% of Startup Weekend startups are still pushing forward after 3 months.  80% of the participants say they plan on continuing to work on the startup after the weekend is over.

The event was covered by The Star Ledger: