#RVASW: We messed around and made a startup

This weekend I participated in the local edition of Startup Weekend, a 54-hour-long competition where a group of mostly strangers comes together into teams to put together a product, service or business over the course of a weekend.

I wasn't exactly sure what to expect going in, but it turned out to be an excellent experience.

At the kick-off event Friday evening, 10 ideas were selected by participant votes from almost 40 sixty-second pitches. I joined up with a team of mostly strangers (Shahrzad Grami, who pitched the idea of an app to remind you to follow up on instructions from your doctor; Jeremy Weiland, who I've known for several years, but never worked with; Lisa Dance; and Thomas Anderson), and that night we were put through a business planning exercies by our mentor, Chris Busse.

While a couple of the other teams changed their ideas to varying degrees ("a pivot" in startup speak) and one or two even dropped out, we stuck with Shahrzad's basic idea of a productivity app and worked most of the weekend on validating the idea and developing a business model.

The weekend's work included a couple different kinds of research: we spoke to a physician, we sent out a Survey Monkey survey and we gathered data from published reports from NIH and MarketWatch.

We also had to quickly come up with a brand name, which we settled on Saturday afternoon (I don't remember who suggested Doctor's Orders [Update: the name was Shahrzad's suggestion, fittingly.]). Then I designed a logo and chose a color palette with input from the team.

After a lot of discussion about the features and functionality of the app, and explorations of how we could best demonstrate it in the final presentation, I ended up doing a series of mockups in PhotoShop (eight in all).

By Sunday afternoon, we were all working hard to craft and polish our three-minute final pitch, which we'd deliver that night to a panel of five judges.

In all, eight groups presented ideas, from a Xbox-based virtual clothing try-on service to an app to keep you, uh, busy on the can. The judges assigned a grand prize and awards in five categories:

  • Best in Show (for best design)
  • Most Likely to Scale
  • Community Impact
  • MVP (Minimum Viable Product)

The competition was really tough and I thought all the final pitches had merit, so I was really thrilled when the judges chose our project for Best in Show. Then we were all truly stunned when the judges announced that Simplixity, the winner of MVP and the grand prize, was also getting a $10,000 award from one of the judges. (That article says my team was awarded MVP as well, but unless I've completely misremembered, that is not the case.)

The weekend was a great experience and I would recommend the experience to anyone who is at all interested in making things.

Oh, and if you want to keep track of what the team does with Doctor's Orders after this weekend, you can sign up for updates at DoctorsOrdersInc.com.