The following is a detailed account of the Athens Startup Weekend experience.
- Discussing ideas as people flock in the Microsoft Innovation Center. Familiar faces, new faces.
- Andrew Hyde, the originator of the SUW meme, presents the idea in greater formalism. Out of several slides, I keep a single point that rings familiar: Fix it ! If you have a problem, don’t whine about it, go out and find a solution.
- People are a little bit frozen when Andrew asks them to step up and pitch their ideas.
- When the 3rd idea is heard, there’s a bit of a tipping point. The people watching, have had just enough time to cook up some ideas. They’re all pretty vague, but they’re plenty. The list just keeps growing, and growing and growing. This is fantastic !
- It’s worth noting that, at this point, the people with tech ideas are openly mocking the people with non-tech ideas. Now we know we’re bound to see something interesting emerge out of this. This is so fun !
- After listing all the ideas, a magic thing happens. People are split in functioning groups. What essentially just happened, is that when someone liked another person’s idea they approached them and asked to join. The amazing thing about this, is that there’s no arguing, no asking for CVs, no mistrusting, no nothing ! It’s rare to see such selfless self-organizing groups in Greece.
- Once interest groups have formed, we’re out to discuss the details. Find out what the real problem is, rethink the way our business models work etc. The nice thing about the space is that we’re provided immediately with working spaces. There are round tables on all floors, extra monitors for those who can use them (Dell), and a free coffee vending machine (Loumidis). Above all, there are 3 separate WIFI networks courtesy of Wind. It’d be nice if they were more reliable though. We all experienced plenty of disconnections.
- There’s also free food ! (Domino’s)
- After several hours of brainstorming and solving common problems we call it a night. I think I speak for many others when I say I didn’t really sleep that night. More of twisting in my bed, thinking out the problem at hand.
- It’s early morning in Greek weekend time, which is to say it’s 10:30 am by the time most people start working again.
- We’re all into coding frenzy. Problems that we couldn’t notice before start becoming obvious. We’re all in need of precious resources such as developers, designers and business developers that can write solid business plans.
- The coffee machine is out of order. Hordes of sleepy-eyed, caffeine-deprived people cause a stampede as the news bleed out of the mess hall. This happens a bit too often, to the point that the hosts learn how to fix it. Ugh ! Thankfully there was an abundance of caffeinated soft drinks, chocolates of all kinds and potato chips. A perfectly balanced diet for any developer.
- We have people floating around us. Guests include MBAs, Business Developers and Public Relations. We’re being offered free advice ! How nice is that ?
- Things get much better when the lunch arrives. Plenty of pizzas (certainly more than we could eat), salads (just for looks) and some. People gather around food and keep debating on their products.
- Friendly spying goes on with more or less obvious ways. People either come smiling and ask ‘What are you people working on and what’s your progress ?’ or eat suspiciously close to us. For the record, the straightforward approach gave us and the others the best results. In the future, just come and ask.
- As the day ends, we all realize that it was much less productive than we had anticipated. We all set our goals to optimistic, and didn’t prepare for a fallback plan. A lot of work remains for day 3, while some of us decide on what to cut off immediately.
- By now most people have decided on their site structure (yes we are all web based) , aesthetics and so on.
- Andrew calls it a day, gathers us up and makes some final suggestions. Among them is to take up the names of our services in every online outlet that we can.
- Everyone comes back from the meeting thinking that they can still work. The truth is that we’re exhausted though. We all just finalize our work, check our emails and go home.
- Everyone is early this morning. There is an obvious anxiety in the air. Everyone is finalizing the details of their product. Whether it’s code deliverables or pure business plans everyone is trying to put the final pieces together.
- Some groups are almost over with their work. In their wisdom, they actually picked projects that could actually be delivered in the given timeframe. Two groups are even accused of having brought over their half finished projects to make an impression. The Open Coffee intelligence services though can actually verify that this couldn’t be more detached from the truth.
- Lunch time. People agree that the buffalo sauce chicken wings look suspicious. Evidence suggests that those who could stomach them were actually robots !
- Back to work. Everyone is in a frenzy to finish the last bits of work. A magic thing happens though. People are seeking and getting help. Our team was benefited twice and offered as much help. Especially since we were blessed with a designer.
- Guests are again floating around. Venture capitalists that are previewing the running projects before the final judgment. Also lawyers which actually provided resolve in two groups that had doubts about their work. The event is really well organized.
- Everything is in final order. We are ready for the presentations. Some of them are quite good, some or them plain bad. A single one is outright offensive. Every single one of the presentations though are spirited and delivered with their creators’ love.
- VCs and rest of the judges leave for the top floor. Whispers are heard and phones ring.
- It’s time to announce the winner.
Pettycards is a system and logical device for making micropayments by using prepaid cards that are attached to your cellphone. A really great idea, and one of those that in our humble opinion stood out of the rest from the first moments.
There is ofcourse a bittersweet feeling. Every contestant would feel that their baby is prettier than those of the others. Still the pettycards project won fair and square.
Advice to the rest: Don’t be dissapointed. Your idea just didn’t fit the profile of the VCs. Keep working on it, add more value, and you will either have a successful product on it’s own, or justify an investment.
The experience overall was just great. Everything in the hosting department except for WIND’s wifi was very finely tuned. Congratulations are in order Andrew Hyde for delivering the idea, and Alexandros Pagidas for bringing Andrew here. For the hosts, I’ll quote Pagidas, who said that the reception in part of the Innovation Center changed his perception of Microsoft, later explaining that he expected at least some rules about incorporating Microsoft’s software in the startups being built. I think that’s true for many of us. Congrats are also in order for Patrick and Lydia for really providing assistance and catering to our needs. Finally a congrats are in order for the GIVE foundation. The promise of a 20.000 € investment, which was after all a significant drive for the competition and excellence of the projects.
You can also see the viewpoints of others that attended the event, such as John Nousis’, Dimitris Athanasiadis, Alex Georgiadis, George Tziralis, Stavros Messinis . Please leave a comment if you were there, we’re still trying to backlink as many of you as possible.