Aspiring and current entrepreneurs alike connected in Brisbane July 10-12th for the Queensland capital’s latest (and largest ever) leg of Startup Weekend. Pete Lock speaks on his experiences founding media app and Best Validation winner iWrite, and pitching his idea to Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
As promised, #SWBNE15 proved to be 54 hours of no talk, all action. Coders, designers and marketers pitched, hacked and hustled from Friday to Sunday night, spreading the word of technology and startups.
For someone with limited startup experience and little expectation going into Friday, I left Sunday having accomplished more than what I thought could be possible between four strangers in such a tight timeframe.
The Friday night pitch was the most daunting part of the weekend, but after somewhat fumbling through a 60 second spiel I connected with three like-minded individuals, all keen to get the most out of tackling problems and working in new environments.
Our task at hand; research, validate, market and execute a startup idea into a business-model and solution in two days. This brought us to iWrite.
The idea behind iWrite was to create a platform that connects freelancers and publishers in the media industry, which was spawned from a personal desire to find more writing opportunities around subjects I am passionate about. There was a strong response from the event mentors and organisers, enough so that we were asked to present to Australia’s Prime Minister, Tony Abbott.
As an ex-journalist, Mr Abbott provided insight into the early days of his career as an aspiring business writer. He helped with step one in our validation process – that the problem of limited demand for media jobs and oversupply of graduates was still a significant issue. The rise of digital media has made this a growing concern.
As rare an opportunity is it to present a business idea to a world leader, it is much rarer to receive constructive feedback and the promise of introductions and assistance down the track.
Staying true to his word on the day, the Prime Minister has since been in contact with a major news groups regarding iWrite as a follow up to Startup Weekend, providing us the opportunity to gain more feedback from industry professionals.
Our actual validation process proved to be a success, and helped provide the group with confidence that we were on the right track. The next two days leading into the Sunday pitch were spent speaking to freelancers, writers and publishers, with our aim to have developed a business model and basic solution that was able to impress the esteemed judging panel.
Proving to be both a cause and solution to our original problem, social media was ultimately our greatest asset in this process. Twitter especially proved useful, as its the go-to tool for a majority of media professionals looking to promote, publish and communicate.
Our online response demonstrated that there was indeed a problem, and that if we could develop a marketplace that helps journalists promote their own work and also connect with writing opportunities, then iWrite could be a platform that acted as a powerful solution.
With the Sunday night pitch featuring a judging panel of business leaders and successful entrepreneurs including Steve Baxter of River City Labs and Shark Tank fame; Ian Gardiner from Amazon Web Services; co-founder of Slingshot Investments Craig Lambert; and Sue Coulter – General Manager of Business and Technology at CUA, the spirit of competition went to a new level.
Five minutes to present your problem, solution, business model and product, with two minutes of questions and answers from the judging panel.
With the iWrite team consisting mainly of marketing and business minds, our aim was more so focused on developing a validated business model as opposed to building a platform.
Of course other teams brimming full of talented coders and developers nailed their product and were able to acquire customers within the short time frame, but perhaps fell away by not establishing a need or want for their idea existing.
While some pitches were given somewhat harsh feedback by the critical panel, others were greeted with gasps of wonder at the level of work that had been achieved in the short space of time.
Some of the highlights included Mum’s Cooking – an Airbnb style online community that connects home chefs with hungry strangers; and MeVu – an e-sports betting platform.
Winner of Startup Weekend went to cloud-based call-centre Power Dialer, who despite receiving a rather scathing pitch review, proved enough with their product demonstration that their sophisticated technology would be a viable solution for many businesses in this space.
As for iWrite, our reward for qualifying our business by speaking to many professionals in the media industry was awarded Best Validation – a prize which more than validated the two and a half days spent brainstorming, profiling and building.
Next step for iWrite, follow up the amazing contacts made at Startup Weekend Brisbane and put our $4k business package from sponsors Hanrick Curran into play.
The main lesson from learnt from Startup Weekend – ideas are easy; executing into sustainable business solutions is challenging. If you can get it right, well, it’s extremely rewarding. Onward and upward in changing the world!