Guest post by James Wroblewski:
James is one of the five co-founders of Startup Weekend Houston Fall 2012 winner PermitMe and is responsible for social media, systems and data. He is a Marine, IT professional and carries the entrepreneurial spirit! James would love to connect with you on Facebook, LinkedIn, G+ or follow @JamesSki.
Minimally Viable: A Minimum Viable Product has just those features that allow the product to be deployed, and no more. (1)
Startup Weekend’s motto is “No talk, All action”. One of the main principles of the Lean methodology is the creation of the Minimally Viable Product, or basically a rough but working demo of your idea. Having never participated in a Startup Weekend before we didn’t know if this was actually what happened or just a catch phrase. Well, for the PermitMe team we really took the motto and Lean methodology to heart in everything we did over the weekend.
Following the excellent pitches, and the excitement of voting for the ideas, our future team members one by one came together and started sharing our thoughts and strengths. We quickly realized that we were of a similar mind for what would become PermitMe and had very different but compilable skill-sets and we were only lacking a designer. With a rock star developer, marketing/sales people and a general IT professional we decided to work together and leverage our strengths to compensate for our weakness in graphic design.
After the team had formed Friday evening following the pitches, we went upstairs to the 2nd floor of HTC and after setting up our workspace immediately started executing on our idea which was very exciting of us. Within a few minutes, we had come up with a catchy and easily remembered name, PermitMe (Minimally Viable Name!) that the group quickly approved of. Following that we created a Gmail address for the group including more importantly a Google Drive for our team to use! Using the whiteboard we had, we wrote the login information there for everyone to see so that way we wouldn’t have to worry about losing it or someone not being able to find a slip of paper or electronic version. Then, we quickly made a very Minimally Viable Logo using an online logo creator that was apparently a terrible color and font (Thanks for helping fix our lack of design skill, Gira and Will (Aleberry)!) Our last accomplishment on Friday evening was to quickly spin up a micro-instance on Amazon Web Services and register a domain (PermitMe.co, thank you .CO for the assistance!), we then established a very alpha website without logo and name (Minimally Viable Website). This really put us ahead of our competition and close to starting validation, market research and building our demo website.
Saturday we were able to come in the morning and hit the ground running on our website, customer validation and market research. We quickly realized that we were onto a “big idea” that had a large market and a ton of validation from the end-users (all business owners). Once we grasped the enormity of what we had come up with, we became very excited about the possibility that not only could we do this, but we could maybe change the entire process of starting a business. Wow, what a great feeling to know that this idea that had been pitched only a evening before could be so revolutionary. By the end of the day Saturday, we had got the demo of our website up, customer surveys collected and were pretty much ready to begin working on our final presentation.
On Sunday, we continued working our final research and presentation while making several minor adjustments to our website. Our drive to continued improvement lead us through Sunday until 3pm when our slide deck was due and presentations began. We were selected to present last which we felt was either a good or bad thing depending on how the other presentations went. Our fearless leader, Bruce knocked the presentation out of the park, at least in our opinion and we sat down to await the results. Finding out we won was such a awesome feeling, and validation of our idea, and PermitMe as a whole. Everyone involved with Startup Weekend Houston was so fantastic and supportive, we really couldn’t have done it without you.
The biggest advice we can provide to future Startup Weekend participants or even future startups is to create everything as minimally viable as possible and then iterate as fast and to the best of your ability as possible. During Startup Weekend you do not have the time to worry about the little things that are not part of the product, validation or presentation. This forces your team to execute quickly, fail quicker and refine what you’ve created to be competitive during the presentations. Which after all isn’t the creation of the idea and startup along with the lessons learned really the point of participating in events like Startup Weekend? Thanks for reading and I wish you success in your future ventures!
Be sure to vote for PermitMe in the Global Startup Battle from November 21-27 by going here: http://bit.ly/RWjdxM