Entrepreneurism, Uncategorized 4 comments on Philly Startup Weekend

Philly Startup Weekend

The ink has barely dried on the weekend that was Philly Startup Weekend, but I felt the need to just jot down the experience before I lost it in the chaos of getting back to the grind.

I need to just start by saying that it was for me simply an awesome experience.

If you don’t know what the Startup Weekend phenomenon is, then I’d suggest scurrying on over to startupweekend.org and getting a quick gist. For the overly lazy, you get 58 hours to build a prototype to then show off to a panel of judges at the end of the weekend. Friday night, folks pitch ideas that range from insane to awe-inspiring, and in between it all you hope to find someone to work.

The event this weekend in Philly happened at the University of Arts (where the art is dope, btw). There were some presentations on Friday night, including yours truly showing off OpenTok. Folks shared close to 35 ideas, and then the whole crowd voted on their favorites to get it down to 20. In the end, 16 groups presented Sunday evening (and are probably still presenting as I write this at 30,000′ over the Midwest).

So, given the background info, why was it awesome?

  • Inspiring Folks
    • Let’s be honest. Most of the time when dealing with the world of startups, people with ideas, folks pitching, we all immediately glaze over or think to ourselves about how often we’ve heard that someone thinks they can beat Google at text ads. There’s a malaise to hearing people tell you how great their next big thing is.

      Now, that said, there’s something to a room filled with people who think that in some small way they’re going to do the impossible. Build a minimum viable product in 50+ hours, create buzz around it through their own social networks, Hacker News and TechCrunch, and then buy an island in the Caribbean. I made the last one up, but the crowd-sourced energy has an infectious buzz to it that some of the meet and greet, idea kick around sessions seem to lack. There’s a real bravado to the “I don’t give a damn about telling you my idea because I’m going to do it better than you”. I LOVED it.

  • Good energy
    • I already mentioned this in the previous bullet, but it has to be said again. The people were amazing. Nothing but good energy in the room for 3 days, and that just makes everything better. Enough said.
  • Fun ideas
    • There was a real quirkiness to the ideas that I really enjoyed. One guy through out the idea of building a dating site where it was only people who were rated an “8” or better. The collective thought in the room was definitely how do you build a product you can’t use.

      There was this amazing iPhone art application built by a grad student at RIT who wanted some help with taking it to the next level.

      Someone wanted to solve the ever-unsolvable guarantee a parking spot problem.

      Jewelry rental, clothing measurement management, relationship analysis by text message aggregation, the list goes on and on. I ended up working with a group who hope to bridge the teacher-to-student divide amongst high schoolers by having Facebook be a critical part of how information is shared (but more details on that in another post).

      The whole gambit of ideas was really impressive.

  • Opportunity
    • I would say the weekend started with an interesting split of 50/40/10 to engineers/business folks/other. That really surprised me. If you’re a developer, and you’re bored, then build an OpenTok app. But if you don’t want to build an OpenTok app, then find some of these business folks at your local graduate school, and start building things. Business folks are desperate to see cool ideas turned into applications, and I feel as if good developers have an angst to work on something that they believe is fun.

      If this weekend taught me anything it’s that if you don’t love your job the opportunity to find something you love doing is 56 hours away.

I want to thank the organizers of the Philly Startup Weekend for a really great event, and I’m really looking forward to going to more of these in the future. Let’s hope they all live up to the hype.

    New Year Resolutions, Uncategorized 3 comments on What a year, 2010

    What a year, 2010

    The roller coaster which was 2010 has come to a close. It was pretty awesome. I got married, Micky is pregnant. I changed jobs (still at TokBox though). I’m ready for 2011. I’m going to become a father, and I’m also pretty psyched about the new doors that have opened in front of me. With all of that said, here’s an overview of how successful I was in 2010 as measured by completing my resolutions.


    • Lose 25 pounds by June 1st

    This didn’t happen unfortunately. I had, by August 15th, lost the weight, but between Ramadan and then not playing soccer I gained it all back and more. Fortunately, as I write this post, I’m down below 200 pounds, but getting back to 185 is going to take a dedicated effort.

    • Play a round of golf in the 80s

    Skip. This was one part ridiculous, one part awesome. Awesome because I found a new sport that I love, and I’m learning to appreciate it more and more. Ridiculous because thinking I could get that good that fast is just disrespectful to the game. This year though I’m pretty sure I’ll get my handicap below maximum.

    • Increase my personal savings by one-third

    I did pull this off, but almost exclusively through the stock market and my retirement accounts. It was a pretty awesome wedding and honeymoon, but it sure didn’t help with this resolution.

    • Finish the initial BFBP product

    I just launched about my dive which is the first product I’ve done under the BFBP banner. Look for more in 2011!

    • Blog five times per month

    Maybe didn’t pull this off every month, but I think the spirit of the resolution was achieved. In the process, I really learned a lot about WordPress, writing and communicating my thoughts. I’ll continue in this vein further this year, but I’ll tell you how in my 2011 resolutions post.

    • Visit one new country, and three new places

    Fiji was the new country. The three new places were London (I’d never visited it properly before), Asheville (again, I’d never visited Asheville properly before, just driven through it) and Guerneville. I’ll keep this resolution in 2011, but it’s going to be a bit harder with the baby coming down the pipe.

    • Run a half-marathon

    Epic fail on this point. This is something Micky and I were going to do together, but I feel like we both failed magically on this point. However, we did run a team marathon back in April. Micky took a bit of a break in the middle of her leg, but otherwise we had a great time, and both had very successful runs.

    • Learn to Tango

    Just didn’t happen. There just wasn’t time. I’ll probably punt on this guy this year as I think soccer, golf and diving are going to be my sports of choice.

    • Support Micky in helping her stop biting her nails

    I’m so close on this one that I’m going to give it to myself. Micky is much better about it than she was a year ago, and she’s really close to kicking it completely.

    • Support Micky in helping her finish her sailing qualifications

    Nope, failed at this one too. Micky passed her junior navigator, but it was in a horrible weather weekend. It was the weekend that the Chilean earthquake led to a tsunami warning across the entire Pacific Rim. After that wedding planning got in the way of Micky being able to take a weekend off and do her navigator, much less her captaining course.

    And so I got a 50% clip rate. It isn’t good by any stretch of the imagination, but given all of the other things that happened this year I’d say not bad either.

    Onward to 2011!