Startup Weekend 2018

It was 3 years ago when I went out on a limb and signed up for this crazy event I heard about called Startup Weekend. I wasn’t experience in this world at all. I remember that whole week I was practicing my 60 second pitch every morning on my way to work and every evening on my way home. I was so nervous. Then it was pitch time. I got up there in front of a room of over 100 strangers and threw my idea out there. I thought I had the perfect idea. One that would change the world. My idea was to have people deliver groceries for people unable to go and get them themselves. This could be because they are just busy people or are just physically unable to do so. I thought it was perfect. I saw it as a way for stay at home moms, college kids and just anyone to make a buck.  I even had ideas on how to “video game-ize” the enter process and initially called it Shop Quest.

So, I threw my idea out there went and stood by my little poster with my idea written on it and it was like a flashback to elementary school Valentine’s Day when no one gave me any Valentine’s Day cards. No one picked my idea. Not one person voted for it. People actually came up to me and told me it was a bad idea that no one would want to pay for. “Have you thought about how this would work in this scenario? What if this?” All I could say is no… I don’t even know how to make this idea a reality really.

Flash forward 3 years and Shipt grocery delivery service is out in full force in the area and a lot of people I know have worked for them in some fashion. I don’t want to be the guy, “hey I had that idea once” because its not about ideas, its about execution. Past Chris was just so beat down by that rejection that I killed the idea. I wasn’t meant to make my millions off that idea (although that would have been nice 🙂 ). I had a great time being apart of the “Spectator App” team back in 2015 and I learned a lot and connected with many people. Our app was designed to be something that “spectators” would use to track runners with their phones. It would give people the best chance at seeing their runner(s) at various checkpoints. This actually exists now and I’m not sure if it was from the same duo that had the idea at Startup Weekend.

I think it really says something about your character to give up your weekend to an event like this. The event is full of people that desire for more. Sure, we all mostly have day jobs and some even were still in high school, but for a weekend we’re deep in the startup, entrepreneurial lifestyle.

Being a gluten for punishment I did the weekend again. I now run the Lakeshore Fab Lab and we want a robust solution for equipment lockout if you’re not qualified to run it. So I pitched that and some people were nice enough to vote for me. I pitched it and went back to wait by my little poster. When people started voting for mine I honestly panicked. Part of me was hoping to lose and just be able to join a team where I could be a more passive role. Well, that didn’t happen and I was panicked that now, I was going to have to lead people I did not know! Out of 40 ideas pitched, 10 were chosen as the top, including mine. I was lucky enough to get some amazing software developers to join my hardware expert team!

We all went into the project thinking we were going to develop a solution to lockout equipment for shops like makerspaces, fab labs and tech centers. The idea quickly changed and honestly ended up in a better place. I was open to how the team wanted to go. We are only as strong as the people involved so everyone needed to be on board with whatever problem we wanted to solve. Saturday was big into the product validation as some of us hit the streets talking to everyone downtown that we could. Several of us went to some retail stores to talk to different markets as well. While we were doing this we had the software and hardware gurus hard at work putting rough framework together.

I was so nervous the entire weekend of letting the team down. I felt kind of useless and never felt like I was doing enough. I can’t develop software (maybe I could some day but not with 2 days). I am not very comfortable with circuitry (I know enough to solder stuff together but that is it). The team ended up coming together and everyone had their own purpose. Somehow our rag tag team of nerds ended up winning the weekend (well tying with Phantom). We had a working prototype which was badass but I honestly thought the judges would want to see more of a concrete business plan. What is your marketing strategy? What is your ROI? IDK…. we’re just nerds making nerd things 🙂 Needless to say, we were a little light on the business aspect of things.

We ended up winning a book on Google’s startup method, Sprint and a 3 month membership to Start Garden. Some of us in the area could use that space but many of us were not from Grand Rapids.  I know the team wants to stick together and keep working on the project. If it ends up being something, great. If it falls through, we all learned important things I am sure.

The Power Buddy team:

  • Chris Kaminsky
  • Mark Farver
  • Jeff Demaagd
  • Derek Nelson
  • Mike Jeffery
  • DJ Martin
  • Randi Huckins
  • Wheaten Mather
  • Richard Neinhuis

Stay tuned to for any future developments.