A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about Startup Weekend, where you come up with an idea and build a prototype over the course of a weekend.

I’m biased as an organizer, but this year’s SUW only reinforced for me as to why I love it so much: there are few other networking situations where you’re thrown together in ad hoc teams and forced to really connect in order to focus and work together toward solutions.

This year’s event, held at Tech Nexus, started with a pep talk by  Matt Moog and  GiveForward’s co-founder Ethan Austin who gave us some inspiring advice on to how make the most of opportunities before us. Then it was down to work.

“We pitched ideas and formed groups throughout the rest of the night. There were (70) pitches, and by the end of the night everyone consolidated into 14 teams. Fast forward to Sunday, each team had a kickass presentation/demo, ” wrote a participant, San Francisco-based Songzme in a blog post for Tokbox .

Here’s a breakdown of the SWU by numbers:
54 hours of labor
45 developers
18 designers
47 non-techies (marketers, project managers, data analysts)
70 ideas pitched
3 votes per attendee
14 top-voted ideas with teams built around them
In the words of one participant, Ben Knowles: “Most of the day was spent brainstorming. In all of our excitement we could not stop coming up with new directions to take our project, and we were quickly digging ourselves a hole. Although we came up with a lot of features that were “fluff”, we still had a strong core idea and were able to get the market analysis done and prove that people actually would want to buy our product.”



Jimmy Odom blogged that his team for RatingsKick  “ended up with one PhD in Electrical Engineering, another in the fourth year of his pursuit for his PhD in Computer Science, through the program at the University of Chicago, three developers with myself being the fourth, two advertisers, a stellar designer, a MBA student, and a developer Greg Krumm who turned out to be our Swiss Army knife. I wish that I could say that I was intentional in hand picking this team, and construct this story to sound as if this was all part of some brilliant Bobby Fisher style master plan in composing a team, but that’s just not the case. We all came together because we were drawn together and united by passion. Each heard the pitch and approached me desiring to work diligently in order to make RatingsKick a reality. I was humbled by the support and grateful that we ended up with the people and skills that we did.”


I was hyped even  before the night began when we retrieved 20 lbs. of free coffee from Intelligentsia and Topics, which probably saved us over the intense weekend. A few hours and 25 pizzas later ( Thanks, Ramon De Leone!),  everyone was fired up and running. Much of Saturday and Sunday consisted of compressed intervals of working and eating (Thanks also to Solstice Consulting, GiveForward, LevelUp, Review Trackers, and Wow Bao for feeding us).

Come Sunday evening, each team had 5 minutes to present their products and show the  audience of over 130 people, what they spent all weekend working on. Three minutes of Q&A from our tough panel of judges, (Kevin WIller, Jason Weingarten, Brandon Passley, and Jeff Carter) can seem like a long time when you’re up there.








The winners were:

1st – CareContent:  A reserve of web content for hospital websites and e-newsletters, helping hospitals tell real stories of the human body.

2nd – Exer-Social: Mobile app that enables users to create custom races and compete with friends and family from anywhere in the world.

3rd – AllRoverTown: Recommendations for dog friendly businesses around your city with one easy search.

Honorable Mention – Blist: A platform to share goals and discover activities you want to accomplish with anyone.

Best Presentation – Belated: Facebook serving app when forgetting others’ birthdays or significant events.

Performics Award – RatingsKick: Advertising research tool that aggregates consumer’s social engagement with broadcast content, using a proprietary algorithm to assign a Kick Value that quantifies those engagements.

Should Pivot Award – LearnLive: A place where anyone can learn or teach anything, anywhere, anytime. Changing the way people learn on the web through live video.

Early to Rise Award – DebtBeet: Debt collection service that eliminates awkward IOU situations among friends through an animated character.


Trina Chiasson of DebtBeet, wrote: ” We won the “Early to Rise” award. We didn’t know what that meant (I think most of us arrived late on both days), so we’re just calling it 5th Place. Then we realized that we won all of the leftover breakfast items, including toasters.  Yes, I won a box of Froot Loops at Startup Weekend. And for that, it was all worth it. I also walked away with a five pound bag ofIntelligentsia beans, so I should be quite caffeinated for the rest of the summer.”

The complete list, along with judges and coaches, can be found on our home page: Startup Weekend returns to Chicago in October. What else do you have to gain in 54 hours?