The Startup Weekend Experience

peppermint room
Peppermint, this place here was where we stayed while developing our prototype.

So I was looking for something I could get happily busy with, the mobile applications development team to which I belong was into all this business model canvas thing, and I made it as a goal to get exposed and be active in IT events. And guess what? Startup Weekend Manila 3 was announced. The event started last Friday September 28 and ended yesterday night Sunday September 30.

I really didn’t know what to expect. I have a dream of owning my own startup but I could not say that I am already into making it come true. I got a couple of ideas for a mobile application that could potentially be profitable but it still got holes in it that I did not bother to consider pitching it. So what I planned was to just be there, observe, join a team, learn, and above all, enjoy. And enjoy the whole event I did.

Deciding to join didn’t come that easy though. Being just socially awkward, I had to constantly reassure myself that I will have a good time. And despite of it all, I still ended up posting on the wall of my college friends asking for people who are interested in joining the event and coming there with me. But nobody really gave a reply that I could consider as “Yes, count me in.” Thankfully I got someone who’s pretty geeky herself for a girlfriend and she was willing to join me.

I know what you might be thinking right now and perhaps you’re right. Being both Computer Science graduates and software developers, people who are not into software development might have a hard time catching up with some of our conversations. Well that’s part of our quality time. But I digress.

We came to MINT college Friday afternoon for the kick off, the pitches, and the forming of teams afterwards. Some of the pitches were okay and some were hilarious as was intended I suppose. But we of course got our own say on things so an entertaining pitch did not ensure anybody of a development team. Unless they came there with their own team, which is the case, I think, in some groups. Well that’s pretty natural. If you want funding for your idea, you might also consider bringing in your team for votes. Each person got three chances to vote for an idea. As long as everybody’s decent enough to not keep all three votes for their own idea, things will still remain quite fair for people who just came there with their ideas and nothing more. As for me and my girlfriend, we just came there for the experience and to offer our skills.

There were ideas that looked really great for me but pretty complicated and equally risky to invest on; applications that require quite a long time to develop and another long time to profit unless an organization is already willing to buy it as opposed to solely depending on a marketing team. The rest were a lot simpler but the biggest question was how it will differ from the other applications in the market and that was a tough one to pin down. Even the idea that captured me and my girlfriend’s interest could not give a good answer to that I must say.

After the pitching, my girlfriend approached Luigi and stated our intention to join his team. Only to find out that we would form the team ourselves as although his idea made it to the top 18, no one else approached him to work on the application. The application was named Bahala Na (Come What May) after a phrase very common among Filpinos taking chances. It was basically a randomization and recommendation mobile application which on the outside may not look very different to other applications in the market. Yet we gave it a try.

It would seem ridiculous that I joined in creating it, but the thing is I believed that it would actually sell. The features may not be very unique but it was supposed to be fun and considered the culture of its market among all the applications proposed. It has a high tendency to be addictive to Filipinos capitalizing on the people’s bahala na attitude, love of funny things, and preference to quickly come up with decisions. It could potentially influence people’s choices on where to hang out and many establishments would pay either to be recommended more often or for the information on users’ behavior collectively.

Saturday, my girlfriend, being the mobile applications developer in the team, did most of the work for the prototype of the application while I worked on the backend web service that was supposed to consolidate information on places from different data sources and make it available for the application. We came up with decent prototypes but finally decided to have the application run disconnected from the web service and use built-in test data for ease of demonstration.

Sunday, I don’t know of the judges’ ranking but we placed 5th on people’s ranking without partaking on the anomalies that happened during the casting of votes (a common scenario during Startup Weekends they say and part of the fun to which I agree). Something that I could take as a proof that the application indeed appealed to the people.

The whole experience was fun. I experienced headache once in a while for lack of sleep but I had a great time. It was a great opportunity to meet other people in the IT industry outside one’s office and be surrounded with ideas and learn the things surrounding creating a startup. The atmosphere was light and devoid of any of the seriousness of work; super cool to make it short. The food and the coffee was great and there were a lot of freebies. The event was worth my weekend. If I have any regret, that would be missing that chance to actually just sit and listen to a mentor for I was quite too busy coding. Well we got another Startup Weekend for that. -aB

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