Dublin Startup Weekend: The Art of the Possible in 54 Hours

The second Dublin Startup Weekend (#swdub) took place last weekend at The Digital Hub. At the previous event in May 2010 four of the eight ideas that were worked on over the 54 hours are running as companies now launching real-life products.

Startup Weekend began three years ago in the U.S. and has now turned into a worldwide phenomenon. At the same time as the Dublin event Startup Weekends were taking place in Tunis, Copenhagen and Texas.

The format is straightforward. Participants gather on the Friday evening and listen to pitches from those who have a project or an idea they want developed. People decide which project interests them most and they form themselves into teams. In Dublin 70 people showed up out of which 8 teams were created.

The teams focused on a variety of projects; a restaurant booking system, an accountability system for political representatives, web texting for Facebook, a habit monitoring system, and a virtual exhibition hall for art galleries to name just five of the eight.

Clément Cazalot, a French entrepreneur who will be launching docTrackr his own anti-Wikileaks startup soon, was the facilitator for the event.

He says, “We are aiming to allow people to create their startup in only one weekend. This is a big challenge because when you speak to people, I don’t know, for instance, your mum, she will say, ‘this is impossible to build a company in only one weekend.’

“But we prove this idea to be constantly false because in one weekend you can quickly create your product and test your product or at least test your idea to a specified market.

Startup Weekends are not exclusive to technical folk as Clément points out, “When you create a startup you need to be balanced. You need to have half business guys and half tech guys who are able to mix their different backgrounds.

“It is necessary to challenge technical aspects with business insight and to challenge business insight with technical aspects. When you launch a startup you need a balanced team.”

Corinna Hardgrave, who lists being a food writer for the Irish Tatler amongst her many activities came along with an idea for a restaurant booking system, “I would never have got started on my idea if it wasn’t for an event like this. This is such a brilliant idea, people coming together from all different backgrounds all in the one space.

“Everybody wants to achieve something. People who turn up at events like this are very motivated anyway.

“It’s a nice atmosphere because people are sharing. No one is getting precious about ideas and things like that. It’s great from a networking point of view but beyond the networking it is just a great learning curve.”

Reza Seljewk managed to enrol a number of people to work on his netocracy idea. He explains what he is trying to do, “The idea behind Netoocracy is that communities come together in a virtual environment to track if there is real [civic] progress, at their local, regional or national level and that the policies that are being implemented by those in authority are following the interests of those people.

“Dublin Startup Weekend brings key people together to make real teams very quickly. It is a real catalyst in being able to make a jump start on something that could take you months to do.

In contrast, Qamir Hussain, Founder of aveclabs, thought he would just come along for a couple of hours and maybe have a bit of a laugh but what he found was, “Different people with different mindsets, bringing different things to the table and just lots of really cool ideas coming up.

“It’s real – it’s real coders and real developers doing real stuff. You’ve got such a short time frame so you are forced into being focused.”

The event itself was sponsored by the NDRC and Seán Murphy was one of the organizers, “We started the ball rolling on this a year and a half ago in Dublin by putting a call out to see if people would be interested in engaging with a weekend such as this and I got a pretty positive response.

“Once we had a couple of hundred people signed up we concluded that there was enough energy and interest to give it a go in Dublin.”

“The time is a little bit constrained over the weekend. We kind of feel that this number is a good balance between having enough momentum, enough energy to make it an interesting and fun event but not being overcrowded and people getting too little time.

“The sort of people who come to these events are absolutely fantastic. They are people who are positive. They want to give something a go. They are full of energy, enthusiasm and ideas. There is a really great vibe, a really great, fun atmosphere here at the event.”

Seán and his colleagues will take a little time after the event to gauge feedback from the participants and determine what could be done better next time before deciding on the date for the next event.

If you are interested in coming along then that is an announcement that will be worth your while to watch out for as this last event was 20% over-subscribed.

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