Tuesday, March 11, 2014
We're four hours into Startup Weekend's second day – everyone's grabbing lunch and bringing it back to eat in front of their computers. I've just checked in with three more teams:
The Crash Pad team is one of the smaller groups here – just four people – but when I eavesdropped on them at 12:30 one of them was already prototyping code, and a cluster of coaches was hanging around their table to offer advice.
The "Crash Pad" team collaborating on Saturday, March 23, 2013 for Startup Weekend at Peloton Labs. Clockwise from left: Paul Rees, coach Gigi Guyton, team leader Steve Fortune, Alan Fitzgerald, and Four Hewes.
Max Bass, a social media expert from New York City's Vayner Media, was chatting with team members Steve Fortune, Paul Rees and Four Hewes while Alan Fitzgerald tapped out code on his laptop. The Crash Pad concept is a Web platform to connect summer interns with available housing in college communities while other students are out of town for summer break. They're also talking about a related second concept, a "Trust Platform," which would vet the trustworthiness of potential tenants and landlords based on other Crash Pad interactions (kind of like the seller rating system on eBay).
There seems to be an agreement that social media is going to be an important way for them to attract a critical mass of users among college students. Team member Paul Rees asked Bass about registering two separate social media accounts to promote Crash Pad and the "Trust Platform" to campus communities.
"Managing two social media handles is difficult, and lots of extra work," answered Bass. "You can use one voice even if you're talking about different things."
Left: some of the research materials from the composting porta-potties team.
Unlike some of the teams working on Web-based apps, this group isn't aiming to produce a physical prototype over the weekend. Kendall Hinkley, the owner of the pitch, instead aims for "a solid mission and vision to pitch to funders, partners, collaborators, and potential customers."
Her team is split up into two subgroups. Downstairs, Emily Straubel and Eli Carter are working on the concept's branding. They've been spending the morning creating moodboards that they'll use to come up with a name, logo, tagline, and general look and feel for their product.
Upstairs, the rest of the team is discussing business models. A team member had jotted down the following notes on a piece of butcher paper on the wall:
Chemical toilets: $60-$100 / toilet / day
Common Ground Fair: 70 toilets 3 days --- ~$10K
Burning Man: 1500 toilets 9 days --- $1 million
I listened in while they discussed the logistics of toilets in event planning. They're aiming to show that they can provide a better product at a similar price point as their chemical toilet competitors.
MediaShifter (formerly known as Docs Online)
This group has been hard at work, which has made it difficult to corner them for questions, but I got my chance while they took a quick break for lunch. This is the team that's working on a new publishing and distribution platform for documentaries. In the first few hours of Saturday morning they rebranded themselves as "MediaShifter."
"Our goals are, one, to win, but also to build a prototype, secure a domain name and nail down a business model, and polish off a presentation [by the end of the weekend]," said team member Brian Sites, a marketer. "We're working on a database structure now, and generating some sample content and management tools." He also told me that their team leader, Emily Bernhard, has a relationship with Time, Inc., which is another potential source of content (and, perhaps, a potential customer as well).
I'll be live-blogging from Startup Weekend through Sunday, so stay tuned. You can also follow along on Twitter by following the hashtag #swportlandmaine.
Previous posts on Startup Weekend:
Commercial Confidential tracks Maine's business leaders and economic indicators.
I'm an economics wonk and an online content producer for the Portland Press Herald.
"On the Move": Submit items of interest regarding new employees, promotions and professional honors — with photos and LinkedIn URLs — to business [at] pressherald.com.