The new face you see at The Grove over the next few weeks may be one of the winners of the Startup Weekend New Haven competition that The Grove and Yale University organized and hosted on November 13 – 15. Opening welcoming presentations, initial pitches and formation of competing teams, and final pitches and awards presentations were held at Yale’s School of Management, Evans Hall, but the hard work was accomplished here at The Grove. Christina Kane and Tambira Armmand led the Grove’s organizing effort and Oneyka Obiocha cofounder of the Happiness Lab, and Grover Elinor Slomba of Arts Interstices served as coaches to the various teams. The Happiness Lab also stayed open for the complete 54 hour cycle to provide caffeine to those in need.
Startup Weekend New Haven was one of a global network of Startup Weekends happening that weekend. https://startupweekend.org/ http://www.up.co/communities/usa/conecticut
As attendees filed into Rm 2100 at Evans hall to kick off the 54 hour marathon session, the Eurthymics Sweet Dreams (“Sweet Dreams are made of this. Who am I to disagree?”) played overhead. Krishna Sampath, who many of you may know from The Grove as the Program Director of Apprentice100, Independent Software, gave the Welcome address. The energy in the room was palpable as he laid out the format for the weekend, introduced the criteria
competitors would need to meet, and doled out sage advice. Although individuals would be pitching their unique ideas for a service or product, every idea that was chosen to go forward had to be represented by a team created from attendees Sampath stressed the importance of teams in developing an idea and as a way to inspire other people and grow communities and advised participants to create their teams with diverse skills and to be agile in their decision process when they ran into problems. “Generally, if you can’t solve something in 15 minutes, it’s better to make a decision and move on,” he counseled. Among the criteria the teams were required to meet was getting out and talking to potential customers. “You’re not here just to pitch an idea but to take action,” Sampath reminded them.
Sampath’s address was followed by seventeen potential entrepreneurs, a number from out of state and all with dreams and varying states of jitters, giving 60-second pitches to the assembled crowd. Once all the pitches were given, the first cut was made as attendees voted on their favorite pitches. Eight of the pitches survived the cut and teams were created. Although there must have been some very disappointed individuals, the mood remained festive and many of those eliminated in the first round lent their support by joining teams.
Sampath stressed that because an idea was not chosen to proceed, it did not mean the idea was a bad one; only that it was a good match for this particular audience.
Once teams were chosen and the energy settled down a bit, Kyle Jensen, associate Dean Yale and Shanna and Eric Bass ’05 Director of Entrepreneurship & Lecturer in Entrepreneurship gave a presentation on the Lean Startup http://theleanstartup.com, an approach Jensen defined as “evidence-based entrepreneurship.” This approach, discussed in The Lean Startup: The Movement that is Transforming How New Products are Built and Launched, by Eric Ries, runs contrary to the traditional business school model //www.inc.com/magazine/201110/eric-ries-usability-testing-product-development.html and is the one competitors would be following throughout the weekend. Teams started working together right after Jensen’s presentation.
Saturday morning the teams met at The Grove for breakfast and to resume work.
Team members crowded into conference rooms, papered the walls with large post-its, wrote on white boards, typed on laptops, spoke on cell phones and gorged on the incredible amount of food and beverages available till mandatory check-in in the Clubhouse where each team reported on their progress and sought out whatever help they needed.
The high spirits of the previous evening before were being replaced by an intense focus evident in a muted noise level and the occasional solitary figure hold up with a laptop. The optional happy hour at the Trinity Bar and Restaurant was well attended but ended early as people went back to The Grove for another long night of work.
Sunday was wrap-up day with all team members assembling at Evans Hall for tech checks in late afternoon. As each group came forward to give their presentation it was obvious that the nervousness of the original pitches had been replaced by confidence (and maybe a bit of exhaustion?) not only in the project, but in the team’s ability to manifest the original idea into an actual entity.
Winners were selected by a panel of judges, all with impressive entrepreneurial, academic and publishing backgrounds in business. The audience was also invited to choose one team as their favorite.
The winners were:
• First prize: Consensus an app to increase efficiency in project management and avoid projects running over budget
• Second Prize: Looper: an app to match caddies with golfers
• Third Prize: Green Fuel: a method convert dry trash into fuel pellets with less pollution than any existing methods
• Audience choice: Green Fuel
As part of their prize each winning company received a membership to the Grove for varying lengths of time, so you can expect to see some new entrepreneurs here. When you do, be sure to say hello.