London Startup Weekend has begun and it’s very lively affair. The first event held at Google’s fresh new campus in the capital and about 130 people were nervously chatting in the basement.
Ahead of this mixed group of keen participants is 54 hours of hard work, networking like crazy, making new friends and if they do it right, the opportunity to be nurtured in an incubator.
What stood in front of them immediately though is possibly the largest stack of boxed pizza I have ever seen.
Many people gathered at the event came straight from their day job. There was a queue outside the Google Campus when I arrived and much chatter along the lines of introduction and swapping business cards. There were two questions in the air, “Are you going to pitch?” to which there was a mixed response. The other was on the tip of each tongue but is naturally verboten, “What sort of thing are you going to pitch?”. That information is classified.
After mixing a little and a few beers, everyone was ushered upstairs into the presentation space. Some nervously shuffled papers and read notes, others browsed documents on tablets, each focused on the minute-long pitch they were about to make.
The organisers had a better idea. Groups of unrelated people (i.e. Not the person you were sitting with) were arranged and a short task set. Pick two words representing values of the group, think of a product around those words and work up a quick strap-line and elevator pitch.
It sounds a bit frantic but it’s actually very clever. Strengths and weaknesses in groups were easily spotted, people got to know each other who might not naturally come together. It also started the process of getting strong minded people into gear for team work.
As part of the opening presentation, it was revealed that the number of people in the most successful groups to go through the Startup Weekend process is seven. So that put pay to three being the magic number and made everyone mindful of working well together.
The teams pitched their light hearted ideas, from inflatable mermaids and beer in your neighbourhood to games for charity and um, panda sex. It was a fun way to loosen up. By the end of the exercise, people were laughing, wise-cracks were made and not only were people much more comfortable, they were raring to pitch.
“How many people are pitching tonight?” asked one of the organisers. Fifty people put their hands in the air. It’s a great sign that there is so much creativity and enthusiasm in the room.
The pitching started in earnest. One minute each. I left the process here as I will be coming back at the end to take part in the judging process. But the initial ideas I heard on my way out were intriguing, smart and well presented.Whittling this talent down to the final projects will not be easy, I know I will be faced with a tough call between some outstanding ideas.
Look out for the winners and a round up of how the weekend went on Sunday.