Monday, November 7, 2011

Going From Zero to Revenue During Startup Weekend

This last weekend was filled with the first Startup Weekend Wellington. Well, it was for some competitors, for me it was a few hours getting a minimum viable product up and running, and then wandering around chatting to interesting people. I decided I liked sleeping.

I started the weekend at a bit of a low ebb on energy after a busy week so I decided to join whatever team popped up with the easiest idea to implement. This ended up being "Space Lotto" an idea whose time had clearly come as it collected the most sticker votes in the initial round of sticker voting to pick ideas.

Our initial concern was legal issues. The first lawyer we spoke to said we would probably just need one of those simple sweepstakes questions so we added a requirement that entrants tell us why they wanted to go to space. This lead to one of the highlights of the weekend for me - receiving the following dream:
"Human expansion into space is both an aspirational goal that will inspire and enable innovation, and a necessary step in our evolution as a species. My dream is that we conquer the currently insurmountable distances in the same way we conquered those of the oceans. That this quest unifies the human race in common endeavour, beyond nation state, race and religious distinctions."
For the site to run the competition I went with the lightweight "embed a paypal(not mine) taking Wufoo form into a basic Blogger template" approach. This took less than an hour with the majority of the time being doing a little fiddling with the layout. The same approach would have worked well for a number of other teams to get to revenue in the weekend, I somewhat regret not just wandering around and setting it up for some of them.

With the site "done" early in the weekend I went back to talking to people and watching the money flow in. We managed to get a little over $200 in the bank by the end of the 52 hours and were, as far as I know, the only team to have any revenue inside of the weekend.

Unfortunately, by the time judging rolled around another lawerly type had opined that the space dream question wasn't enough for NZ law. So when a Judge asked, "Where is this legal?" our answer had become something like "We may need to move to Antigua".

Getting something from nothing to revenue in a couple of days was an entertaining experience and really drove home how little you need to do to get people to give you their credit card details. It was also a slightly addictive feeling as I got a little burst of pleasure whenever I got an email from someone with a new sale and their dreams about space. This is probably why dashboards are so good at motivating sales types.

The event itself was well run and gathered lots of great energy. The only issue being that there were other great events happening around the city at the same time. There were some particularly impressive showings  coming out of the more serious teams such as winner's, who put together a comparatively polished photo sharing app, and Auti who created a toy for autistic children that I really hope succeeds.