Experiencing Startup Weekend Des Moines Firsthand

If there was any question about if the startup scene in Des Moines was still active, startup weekend should settle that. This past weekend, I got the opportunity to experience Startup Weekend Des Moines. As an employee of a growing technology company, I appreciate the opportunity to network and experience the creative ideas of other entrepreneurs in the community. 

This year there were 31 pitches, 37 participants, 7 teams, and a two way tie for first. It was hosted at Startup City in downtown Des Moines. The weekend was a flurry of activity starting with pitches; individuals came with ideas, any idea they thought would make for a good startup. These ideas covered a significant range of topics from a hardware solution to putting your local businesses open/closed status on the internet, to a company that delivers local food from the region you long for. Ideas also included a site to rate the awesomeness of beards and a site to track your wedding guest list.

After initial pitches, teams formed around the top ideas. Teams needed to think about more than just the website. They needed to think about the business plan, a functional website with a great user experience, market validation and a presentation to sell the final product to the judges. With all of this in mind teams needed to start as soon as possible. One weekend to create a functional startup is still extreme. Where to start? How do you keep organized? How will this idea make money? What is the most efficient caffeine delivery method to stay up all weekend? These are all very valid questions when you are in a time crunch.

The next day was all about working with in teams to produce a working product. Coaches came in to help the teams focus and refine their ideas.  Teams worked as long as they could; the entire day was really focused on building the startup.

The weekend finally wrapped up with brief presentations from each of the teams; each team was given 5 minutes to present their final product  Most teams had a site that provided all the basic functionality and some were much further along than others, but the level of completeness across all the teams was remarkable. The top three were all notable:

BeardorNot.co - Prove the awesomeness of your beard.  Enough said.

Brikkit - Upload your own images to create a lego mosaic; includes direct links to order complete kits to build your custom mosaic.

TheWeddinglist.co - Manage a guest list for your wedding, integrated with Facebook to help gather contact information, and the ability to manage the multitude of events around the wedding.

The environment created during this event is one you have to experience firsthand. I came out of the weekend with a renewed sense of enthusiasm for the startup scene in Des Moines. It was fun to interact with such innovatie individuals and I would highly recommend attending next year. The event is held yearly and is something that anyone can participate in. You might think it is only for coders, but many different roles and skill levels are needed. The final judging is about more than just the technology, it includes the market validation, future monetization as well and the overall user experience.

About Startup Weekend

Startup Weekend is a global competition where individuals come with an idea, and try to build a functional startup in approximately 54 hours.  Teams self identify around ideas brought that weekend and do everything they can to make it happen.

For more information visit http://dsm.startupweekend.org/

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