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An Amazing Experience

Without question, Startup Weekend was one of the best experiences of my life.  I learned so much about myself, business, and the power of a team.  And I met some great people… some really great people.

I arrived at Germanna for Startup Weekend both excited and apprehensive.  I’m not very comfortable meeting new people, and pretty much everyone there would be new to me.  While I was excited to find an idea and a team to join, I was not confident that I had anything really to offer.  However, several people introduced themselves to me, and I approached a few as well.

Several people explained to me the ideas they wanted to pitch.  One stood out as something I could understand and relate to.  A small business owner named Christa had a problem that needed solving.  She explained how there was no central resource to discover quality events like Expo’s, Trade Shows, and local events like an Open House, where her business could set up as a vendor.  While we haven’t set up a Websites For Anything booth at any such events yet, I know it’s in our future.  As a fellow business owner, I was sympathetic to her cause.

Making a Decision

The first 10by10 team meeting

The first 10by10 team meeting

[pullquote3]I followed my heart and my passion[/pullquote3]

Then came Pitch-Fire, where 18 different ideas were presented.  Each pitch was strictly limited to 60 seconds and at the end I felt a bit dazed and confused.  Given three votes, I decided on 6 different concepts that I was interested in.  After talking with each of those leaders, I placed my vote on the three I found most interesting or valid.  After everyone had kind of milled around and placed their votes, it was time to form teams.  I’m so glad for what I did next.  I followed my heart and my passion for small business and joined Christa’s team.  Her product would be a website and that was an area I was sure I could help.

The rest of our team formed, including my friend and our programmer Sam Jones, Christa’s amazing sister Liz Colon, and our brilliant marketer, graphic designer, and our connection to the event industry Chris Muldrow.  Then the insanity began.

The Hard Work

This is the part I was most curious about going in.  And even having lived through it, this is still the hardest to explain.  Despite its duration, the actual working part of Startup Weekend goes by in such a whirlwind.  We worked on our concept from about eight until midnight on Friday.  We debated a name, discussed researching the market and getting validation, and started working on that.  Ben got some help from the Coaches and they came back with the (great) name 10by10.  We bought a domain, set up hosting on the Websites For Anything server and then I really don’t know.

[pullquote3]Physically exhausted and mentally drained[/pullquote3]

So filled with excitement and ideas, I barely slept that night.  Back at 7:30 for breakfast and work, Sam & I got cranking on the website.  About three in the afternoon, something on the website broke.  Physically exhausted and mentally drained I had a really hard time with that.  We switched to a new design that avoided the issue, and I went out and laid down in the car for a break.  When I came back in about 45 minutes later, I was re-energized and refocused.  It was the best thing I could have done.  We continued our work until midnight and had our Minimally Viable Product (MVP) almost ready.

Sunday morning we got back to breakfast and work a bit before 8.  It was time to make final adjustments and focus on the pitch.  Like everything else that weekend, the team really just worked well together.  At 5 o’clock, we were ready, and we were pumped.  We had a minimally viable product, we had proof that people wanted it, and we had a plan for how the business would start, grow, and make money.

Our Team Was Amazing

Christa Huntley, Founder of 10by10.com

Christa Huntley, Founder of 10by10.com

I have to stop here and say something about our team.  I don’t know what the other teams were like, but our was amazing.  There was no animosity, no laziness, and not a wasted minute.  There was amazing candor.  Almost offensive.  We were so very, very direct with each other.  And I think that made a big difference.  In any other environment, we would probably have been considered rude.  At Startup Weekend, there just isn’t time to waste and it’s extremely intense every minute of every hour, all day long.  If someone had a good idea but was missing a piece or was wrong, there was no tip-toeing around it.  Not with us.  It was just “No, you’re wrong, because….”  And that person might argue their point, but they never got hurt, and they never got mad.  Not once.  It was amazing.  We just clicked.

I also have to give credit to our leader, Christa Huntley.  Christa did an amazing job of explaining her vision.  She articulated the problem and proposed a truly valid solution.  She had a survey all ready for collecting data.  And then, she led by listening.  Christa listened to our critique.  She changed anything we thought needed changing.  I’ve never seen a leader so confident in their vision, yet so willing to learn.  We made many, many changes to the business model and even the product.  Sometimes we told her “that feature has to wait, that’s not MVP.”  She always listened.  She never wasted our time.

[pullquote3]And then Christa did the most difficult thing[/pullquote3]

And then Christa did the most difficult thing for any entrepreneur.  Despite her passion for her baby, her dream, she acknowledged the strengths of her teammate, and she let it go.  She let Ben do the presentation.  And he knocked it out of the park.  Ben’s confidence, speaking voice, professionalism, knowledge of the industry, and understanding of our product floored the judges.

Ben Muldrow pitching 10by10 to the judges

Ben Muldrow pitching 10by10 to the judges

We won FIRST PLACE!!!

The 10by10 Team (Copyright, Robert A. Martin)

The 10by10 Team (Copyright, Robert A. Martin)

Without question, Startup Weekend was one of the best experiences of my life.  I learned so much about myself, business, and the power of a team.  And I met some great people… some really great people.  It was an incredible exhilirating experience.  I can’t wait to see how far we can take 10by10.

If you are looking for events that are the right fit for you.  If you are tired of hearing about them to late, or attending events that are poorly run, create an account at www.10by10.com and fill out your Growfile.   Get notified early about potential events, read reviews from past attendees, and register easily online.  Join up now and help us change the Event and Trade Show industry for the better by connecting vendors & venues.