Startup Weekend Charlotte 2013

Unless tequila is paleo, I (do not) regret to inform you that I fell off the paleo wagon.

My reasons were many and convincing (especially after 54 hours with minimal sleep, more coffee than a human should consume, and zero yoga), and honestly they did not only have to do with the fact that I just really needed a drink straight to the face. And a bowl of chickpeas. And a beet burger with goat cheese.

I will gladly tell you all about them in the near future, but for now let’s recap the weekend. (If you’re dying to hear the anti-paleo, Heather has a clear rundown from her point of view here.)

So I’ve been nursing a Startup Weekend hangover for the last two days, and I assure you it has nothing to do with tequila.

From their website: “Startup Weekend is a global network of passionate leaders and entrepreneurs on a mission to inspire, educate, and empower individuals, teams and communities.”

Each year Startup Weekends are held in cities all over the world where budding entrepreneurs gather to try and launch new businesses in just 54 hours. It is nuts and it’s easily one of the coolest things I’ve ever done.

It works like this: On night one anyone who wants to pitch gets 60 seconds to wow the crowd with their idea. No props. No slides. Nothin’. Everyone in the room votes on their favorites and a handful of ideas move on to the next round. Once finalists are announced, remaining attendees select which project they want to work on, and, thus, teams of random strangers form and they work day and night to turn an idea into a viable business. On Sunday night, each team has 7 minutes to pitch their final product to a team of judges and potential investors. The winner gets cash money to keep moving forward, and some pretty impressive bragging rights.

I pitched my idea for Plate Share, a smartphone application that allows you to round up your restaurant bills to the nearest dollar and donate the change to feed the hungry. (You can read more about it here.)

I felt pretty damn good about my pitch and was thrilled when Plate Share was the first name called to advance to the next round.

And that was when it hit me, “Oh holy shit now we have to start a business in 48 hours and I’m only allowed to eat eggs and vegetables and fruit uggggghhhhh paleoooo.”

I don’t know how it happened, but I’m going to go ahead and call it divine intervention that I somehow landed with the best team a budding business could ever ask for. While the assembly is totally random (people just saunter over to the pitch they liked the best), we somehow ended up with an even divide among the skills we needed: tech, design, marketing, management.

I truly can’t say enough about how incredible these people are. They threw everything they had into an idea that wasn’t even theirs and never once complained or lost interest and slacked off. On Saturday night two of my tech guys were cranking out code at my kitchen counter until 4am. (I was asleep on the couch.)

In just 48 hours, these outrageously talented people pulled together gorgeous mockups of the app, website design, a logo, a sick presentation of the concept, market analysis, business plans, and a whole hell of a lot of backend code (that I don’t understand) to actually execute it all.

In the end, we didn’t win. But we kind of knew we wouldn’t, and we didn’t care. Before our final pitch on Sunday night, almost every person on my team had approached me individually to ask if they could stay on the project after the weekend to see it through to completion. So we went into the final pitch knowing that, win or lose, Plate Share was going to keep moving forward. That was a pretty good feeling to have.

This was hands down one of the most incredible events I’ve ever attended. I still can’t wrap my head around the energy and enthusiasm people put into this work. Or how perfect strangers can work together so well. I think I was most surprised to find such support and camaraderie within teams and even among competing teams. I guess I felt like coming into the cutthroat world of startup business as a woman in a male-dominated field and a yoga teacher with a non-profit pitch that things would be, I don’t know, more aggressive. I found the opposite to be true at Startup Weekend.

And I guess that’s kind of the point of the whole event. To bring together like-minded people with different skill sets and connections and throw it all on the table for everyone to access.

I can’t thank Startup Weekend enough for the opportunity. Special thanks to the Startup Weekend Charlotte crew and to Packard Place for hosting us. What an amazing outlet this is.

As for my team, you are some of the most talented, generous, hilarious people I have ever met. Thank you for turning this idea into a reality.

We learned a lot this weekend–about what works and what doesn’t–and were connected to some really brilliant people in the process. We may not have won, but that’s not the point. Startup Weekend is as much about networking as it is creating your concept. We aren’t stopping the momentum we built up over the weekend; our first official Plate Share meeting in our new office space (weeeee!) is Friday night.

Watch out, world. Here comes Plate Share.

From The Observer: Entrepreneurs Pitch Ideas During Startup Weekend

Congratulations to the winning team, Brush Fairy, a subscription toothbrush delivery service. And to all the other finalists:

MinKnow – 60-second how-to videos

RoomMe – a roommate finder

WhizKidDraft – a college prep/recruiting tool for smart kids (pitched by a 10-year-old kid)

Club Hub – lets you check the scene at venues before you get there

Digiceipts – digital receipts

Begintel – a resource hub for startup businesses

19 thoughts on “Startup Weekend Charlotte 2013

  1. A toothbrush subscription service won!? I already get my toothbrush via subscription service!
    I am so excited for the team that you had working to make your idea come to life! I can’t wait for it to finally come to the public so I can plate share more than any social networking site!

  2. Congrats! Nice work everyone. I really love those kinds of events– we have huge ones here at UM called Hackathons. They combine startup weekend with all weekend- all night coding fests to create something new, usually a new app, invention or business. After all, a lot of coding happens late at night and in groups. We call it ‘hacking with the homies’.

    As far as PS goes, have you guys thought of integrating a social payment app like Venmo to your app? This would allow people with Venmo accounts (free, like paypal but a billion times better) to donate to PS but they wouldn’t have to register credit card info, etc, with you guys. It would take a lot of security issues off of your hands. Just a thought!

    keep on rockin.

  3. Hi, everyone! I’m Jim Van Fleet, part of the organizer team for CSW5. First, thanks to Miss Sweet Tater for such a complimentary writeup. We’re very proud of the event we’ve put together, but we need all of your help to make it grow! Like it on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and/or subscribe to my Charlotte Startup newsletter to stay up to date with startup news on a monthly basis.

    Thanks so much for participating and reading about us, and telling your friends!

  4. I don’t want to suggest this isn’t your original idea, this is just an honest question—I had dinner at Yard House last night (a chain here in Cali) and I was presented with an option to round up for charity on my bill. So I was wondering, are there several of this same idea floating around at the moment? It wasn’t an iPhone app but the same idea—really, just curious. Congratulations on the weekend!

    • Yep, there are certainly several manifestations of the round up concept. My thought (which I don’t think exists) was to move one level above individual restaurants and put the functionality into the hands of the user so that no matter where you are (whether you’re in a participating restaurant or not) you can always donate.

  5. Pingback: The Only Appropriate Response | Sweet Tater Blog

  6. Your idea is really fantastic. I love the app and would definitely participate and donate change often. I’m surprised a subscription toothbrush service won. That doesn’t sound that innovative to me. Oh well! Congrats on advancing and coming up with such a neat and giving idea.

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