through sewell's eyes

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Startup Weekend Project Selection Advise

I thinking about why Startup Weekend NYC wasn't able to launch the product into beta by Sunday. Everyone on Sunday was going full steam trying get it done, but alas it didn't happen. I think it was due to selecting a project that was a bit ambitious. The concept was a great one, but once you got beyond that, the functional and tech specs started to become a complex beast. [more in another posting -- wanted to get this out before the next Startup Weekend]

Advise when considering choosing a project:

Functional Specs: You should be able to list out all in 3 to 4 sentences OR even less.

Design Specs: If it takes more than about 6 sentences, you are in trouble.

People Skills: Ask who is actually coming back for Saturday and Sunday and their skills set and level.

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  • At Wednesday, September 26, 2007 8:45:00 AM, Blogger Ryan said…

    Ha... I completely agree. The problem is that when you're pitching ideas, people don't really take that into consideration. Sewell, it was a pleasure working with you at Startup Weekend NYC.

  • At Wednesday, September 26, 2007 12:43:00 PM, Blogger jbarmash said…

    I don't think our project was too ambitious. IMO, looking back on it, we didn't narrow it down to a simple enough set of requirements. We should have allowed people to enter the restaurants themselves, instead of focusing so much energy on getting data, should have ignored the word spelling algorithms, should have ignored the AJAX stuff. At least until we got something simple working.

    When thinking back to the weekend, two things come to mind:

    1. We should have placed more emphasis on integration from the very start. I think we had the right idea of creating something very simple, but it should have been even simpler. We should have created a trivial Facebook app (i.e. brochureware) first, then added a simple page that collected some data, even without writing to the database. Then we could have iterated to add features.

    2. Server Infrastructure. I think having a server pre-setup at the beginning would have been very helpful. With two days to work, you want to remove any dependency on infrastructure. Googlecode was great for this, I am glad somebody (Ryan?) suggested it. If the organizers of StartupWeekend make one of the old EC2 images available for reuse somehow, or even get an intance up at the beginning of the weekend, this would allow developers to be productive sooner.

    Ryan and Sewell, it was great to meet both of you guys.


  • At Thursday, September 27, 2007 3:49:00 PM, Blogger curtis said…

    This post has been removed by the author.

  • At Thursday, September 27, 2007 3:51:00 PM, Blogger curtis said…

    @ sewell...

    I just shared your comments with our organizing team. Waiting with baited breath for the 'rest of the story' (or least, the rest of your thoughts)

    @ jbarmash...

    I love your idea about the pre-setup of the server. We will incorporate that into the Birmingham weekend.

  • At Saturday, September 29, 2007 1:58:00 AM, Blogger Brill Pappin said…

    Interesting thoughts.

    In Toronto we realized beforehand that it can often take days to set up a reasonable host and attempted to prepare for it before the event.

    In the end we simply deployed the main application to a founders host and the facebook app to another founders host and saved the real "launch" host for after weekend when we had more time (we only had one guy on systems and he was going crazy keeping us up and preparing the hosts).

    Having done a facebook app for part of our product, I'm not surprised you guys had a hard time. It's very time consuming. We had to be careful about not allowing too much scope-creep or we'd have never launched a thing.

    Do you think that a non-facebook hosted app would have been launched if you had gone that route?

  • At Thursday, November 01, 2007 7:31:00 AM, Blogger Curtis said…

    have you given further thought to the selection advise?

  • At Wednesday, November 14, 2007 10:59:00 AM, Blogger sewell said…


    I think most of my thoughts are there. I might have left one or two minor ones out there, bit I think it covers most of the major challenges SWNYC faced. Based on what the other cities were able to complete by the end of the weekend, I think that as along as everyone got along it is possible to launch something. Good with Birmingham.


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