What is Startup Weekend Louisville, Part 2

09/11/2017 | By Paul Blakeley

This post originally appeared on blog.up.co


It's time again for Startup Weekend Louisville! Our 11th consecutive event is coming up this October, and we're so excited to be bringing this 54 hour frenzy of fun, innovation, networking, and entrepreneurship back again!

Check out the recap of Startup Weekend Louisville #10, held at the Kentucky Science Center and LouieLab in April 2017.

[arve url="https://player.vimeo.com/video/229661359" /]

Since this will be our eleventh event, we've learned a great deal about what Startup Weekend actually is, but many people that haven't been still don't know. One of the most common questions we get is "What is Startup Weekend?" We want to answer that with the words of the people that have been there.

Welcome back to "What is Startup Weekend Louisville?"

In this ongoing series, we'll present what past attendees have to say about their time at Startup Weekend Louisville. We hope it will give you a better picture of how and why we do Startup Weekend in Louisville. We'll be posting accounts, results, and stories from past attendees as we get closer to Startup Weekend Louisville #11 on October 13-15, 2017.

Take a look at what David Bannister, Jr., a member of the Hello Political team had to say about Startup Weekend Louisville #10 in April 2017. David's thoughts were originally posted on his blog here.

So this past weekend I attended Startup Weekend Louisville #10!

It was an incredibly educational and exhausting weekend, but I have to say it was entirely worth it! Me and my employee (Jonah) went as part of our team’s goals for us to do fun non-work related professional development. So I just wanted to review a little bit of the weekend and the things I learned.

Friday Night

Friday night was a blur. We arrived around 7pm for dinner and wasn’t really sure what to expect. Mayor Greg Fischer kicked it off and welcomed us. Friday night was when all of the pitches would be made, votes to pick a number of pitches to work on, and forming project groups.

There were somewhere around 30 pitches made. During the pitches, I was inspired to get up and present something I saw as a business problem. I made a pitch explaining my frustration with digital calendar apps and how I wish they were more intuitive, helpful, and easier to use than paper planners (which I do on the regular since my concussion). It didn’t get picked, but I DID get several votes and had some great conversations talking and telling some folks about what I wish I had in a digital calendar app.

Out of all the pitches picked, there was one that interested Jonah and I both. It was a political oriented idea that was about helping both candidates and voters connect over specific issues. We ran up to that team quickly and got accepted into the group. Hooray!

Saturday

Saturday seemed to drag on quite a long while. It was the longest and most exhausting of the days. We arrived promptly around 9AM to start working on the project. We were given a great presentation from one of the organizers about how to do customer research. There were some great principles that I know I will be taking away to help me do some empathy exploration for future interviews. As a group, we did some interviews of different types of customers… we called and talked to politicians, people who ran previously, campaign managers, and of course several voters. These gave us a lot of valuable feedback that allowed us to struggle for several hours about our problem statement and vision for what it was we were creating.

Saturday night came and we started to get a working prototype of what we were hoping to achieve. We had significant technology issues with the network and web spaces we were trying to access. This is when Jonah recommended that we work on this in GitHub. We tried to think about doing everything in wordpress, but the challenges of customizing a template seemed more difficult than starting from scratch in the time frame we had. So between me, Jonah, and our third technical guy Rob were able to pull together a working mock-up that was written using HTML, CSS, Javascript, and JSON (for our sample data).

We left that night feeling a little worried and anxious that we might not have enough time. Probably the lowest point for many of us.

Sunday

Sunday rolled around and we got back to work right at 9AM again. We worked on the look and feel and getting the data to load properly into the page. I left for a few hours to go to church (Palm Sunday) and when I arrived back everything had basically taken shape! You can see what we were able to achieve by going to http://hellopolitical.com.

We spent the afternoon doing some small edits here and there trying to get the point across of what we were trying to develop. By the end of it, the team was feeling pretty confident with the work we had done, and business minded folks of the group were polishing our final pitch for the Sunday night judging.

Sunday night’s judging came around and we were at the mercy of the judges. We felt like we got our point across, met all the criteria to put us ahead of the other groups, but sadly we didn’t win anything. I was disappointed, but it was out of our hands. We still see the incredible opportunity with the project and I’m hopeful that many of us will continue to work on it as we go forward and see if this has the potential that we think it does.

Conclusion

I made some contacts I would have never made. I learned a lot about GitHub (never used it before). Learned some valuable UX techniques on interviewing. I got to flex some programming muscles that I hadn’t used in a long time. I was engaged the entire weekend in something outside of both my comfort zone and expertise. Lastly, I learned how people can get sucked into the startup mindset and how intoxicating it can be. The people present were all passionate, energized, and exceptional in the skills they had to offer.

Overall, it was a great experience and I can see myself participating again AND encouraging others to attend.


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