The Boston Globe has an article covering Startup Weekend which took place last week at Axon Labs in Newton. During the 50-some hours Startup Weekend Boston built the first version of deskhappy.com, a service to remind desk jockeys to stretch and provide some healthy yoga-like instruction. This was the latest stop on the international circuit of Startup Weekends.
I only attended for Friday & Saturday, so my perspective is limited on the full experience. I went in viewing it as more of an experiment than a way to start a business. Perhaps that isn’t the right spirit, but I was curious and always like hacking on things. Friday night was a mix of icebreaking and chosing an idea to work on. There was around 50 people, and a much more diverse group than at typical Boston tech events – specifically, more women and non-hackers than usual. Also, a bunch of participants were from Boulder where the organizer Andrew is from. (Thankfully, it was before the Sox vs. Rockies World Series and there were no hostilities.) There were a lot of ideas put on the whiteboard and discussed until Deskhappy (then known as “laptop yoga”) won by a Florida-slim margin. (The runner-up was for a “mobile scavenger hunt”, an idea my friend and I had kicked around to create a location-based game that takes advantage of the fact that everyone has a mobile phone with SMS and a camera. No idea if there is a business model for it, but would be fun to build.)
Saturday felt like a microcosm of a typical development process. Even with an office full of smart people (and I was definitely impressed) it doesn’t simplify reaching a shared vision for what to build and how it should work. In fact, starting with that many people full of ideas might make it more difficult to nail it down. And part of the challenge is determining roles and patterns of effective communication within a group that just met.
By the end of Sunday, the team launched deskhappy. While it is still at an early stage, my congrats to those who hung in there and worked hard to make it live. Overall, I thought it was an interesting experiment designed around a very ambitious goal. Gwen Bell, who has attended several Startup Weekends, wrote a thoughtful post on what could make the experience better that elicited several good responses.