Go MEGA or go home.
This weekend in the Microsoft offices of Mountain View, CA, the good folks at Startup Weekend are hosting Mega Startup Weekend, a 54-hour event bringing together teams of hungry developers and designers in hopes of building the next big web or mobile app. Yesterday marked the event’s kickoff. Below are some of the day’s top events.
Matt Thompson of Microsoft gave the first talk, introducing the event, prizes, speakers, and sponsors (including of course their favorite media partner). We were also given a sneak peak into the Windows 8 platform and app store. Editor’s note: it’s impressive – look for more in an upcoming post.
Next on stage was Scott Case, Startup America Partnership CEO and former CTO of Priceline. Case gave a brief introduction about Startup America, noting that all startups should be taking advantage of the $1.5 billion in resources that the program offers. Case also urged all members of the audience to build as many connections over the next 54 hours as possible.
“What makes a startup successful is the quality of network development. Make this weekend about building and curating relationships.”
Case conlcuded his talk with the announcement of a contest. All attendees were invited to challenge Ryan Case, Scott’s 9-year-old son, in a Call of Duty: Black Ops game-off. Those who were able to take Ryan down would have their name entered into a drawing to win an XBOX 360. All participants were warned, however, that “Ryan will kick your butt.”
Writer, actor, and director John Cabrera gave a talk on the transition that’s currently happening in the entertainment industry, dubbed the Hollywood Disruption. Cabrera opened with some of his lessons learned in the process of building a theater company. Cabrera decided to take an untraditional approach by including painters, musicians, and engineers into the fold, and by doing so, was able to tap into a diverse set of communities. ”We were able to pull a younger demographic – including hipsters – into theater. At the time, this was unheard of,” Cabrera added.
The future of long-form video was Cabrera’s next subject, as he introduced us to his latest project, H+, a future-based, science fiction web series about the blending of technology into the human nervous system. Cabrera discussed the challenges of monetizing online video, the evolving perceptions of consuming long-form video online, and the future of video on mobile devices. In short, look for the growth of high production web series in the years, if not months, to come.
(photo courtesy: @swbay)
KISSmetrics and Crazy Egg founder Hiten Shah was next on stage to talk about customer development. Shah went into great depth about the importance of building a hypothesis in the process of problem solving (i.e. creating a product or service). He urges all startups to write their hypothesis out using the following framework.
Our hypothesis is that (certain type of person – i.e. product managers) has a problem doing (certain type of task - i.e. collecting user feedback).
Shah also discussed an important and often overlooked aspect of designing and implementing customer surveys – asking for permission to contact the surveyor. ”The real value lies in pulling potential customers into the process. A more purposeful dialog will help to discover the real problems,” added Shah. He also suggested that startups take a look at KISSinsights, an easy, effective, and free surveying tool created by his team.
The talks were closed out with a very animated and profanity laden presentation by 500 Startups‘ Dave McClure. Paraphrasing Dave McClure is one of life’s great injustices, so I will instead include a few his highlight quotes:
“People start building shit before they know what problem or desire they know to address.”
“I will probably offend you. Fucking deal with it.”
“Be the hero. Be the villain. Just don’t be fucking boring.”
“Take risks. Take risks. Take risks. Fucking take risks.”
“Embrace the hate.”
You get the idea.
McClure then lead the crowd through an interesting and unique exercise of teaching the audience to take comfort in the process of offending others. Below is the result:
(2nd photo courtest @demo)
The night ended with the attendees breaking into their specific tracks, mobile, gaming, and robotics, to form teams and refine their project concepts. Says Nicholas Grenié, Mega Startup Weekend volunteer, “The event ended at midnight, but no one was going to leave on their own power – we had to kick them out.” Gotta love the hustle.