Startup Weekend DC: What I Gained From That Experience

DC Startup weekend 2015 Collage
I worked with PhotoRight who was the winning team for DC Startup Weekend (Media Edition) 2015.

From July 31, 2015 through August 2, 2015, I spent 54 hours with a group of entrepreneurs on a business prototype that would accelerate the advancement of technology in the way users can comprehend the legalities behind images they find online. Within that three day weekend time frame, I helped pitch ideas, form a team, validate the concept,  be a parting of building the product, get valuable insight from mentors, and present the final product to a panel of notable judges. Startup Weekend, which is also an international movement, gives participants not only real world experience on creating a business but the confidence to make an idea into a reality.

Startup Weekend (Media Edition) took place at The Washington Post, and it was such a great experience. I interacted with  several writers, editors, and new media shakers from Discovery Communications, The Washington Post, NPR, National Geographic, and other notable publications. Plus, I learned about new technological trends with mobile apps, what the podcast movement is all about, and on how publications access interpret legalities for images they use online.

I also walked away with fun swag (mugs, lunch bag, books, pens, stickers) and ate top-notch food (District Taco, Peets Coffee, Buca di Beppo) that weekend too but that’s beside the point.

What I Gained From That Experience:

  • In order for a potential investor to take your business seriously, your company needs to identify a problem, target how your business solution can solve it, and on how your solution can turn profit.
  • Investors want pitches to be realistic and it’s up to the entrepreneur to cover as many gaps as possible. The best pitch sums up the business plan, details your market, why you will succeed, value proposition, and make sure your presentation gets to the point. Investors don’t have time to dawdle.
  • Being able to work successfully in a team means to have the openness to collaborate, and to respect what your team mate’s viewpoints are. It’s not the easiest skill to have but with effort upfront, it will lead you to life long success. Moreover, successful teams often have a leader, a team player, the researcher, the creative, and the communicator.
  • Valuation is important. If investors can gather market information straight from the target demographic on how their product can help solve a problem, you will be able to sway an investor on your side. Consider using survey monkey, Quora, or face to face interviews to gather that information.
  • Journalists, media giants, think tanks, and all others who need free content to add value to their articles must be wary of ramifications. If an image is used without permission from the photographer who takes it, punitive damages between $500- $2,000 will ensue. Make sure you have a lawyer handy if you want to walk down that cumbersome route.
  • The Podcast Movement is for real. All professional and amateur podcasters meet once a year to turn their creative ideas into podcast realities. There are sessions that teach users how to perform technical setups, how to improve their foundation, and on what the best  trends are.
  • It’s not always about Millenials. Often times, public relations firms, content marketing companies, and journalists streamline their content for this age range; however, I learned from an app guru who works for a nation-wide publication that Generation X (who is now entering retirement) that they are heavy app users. They have time and extra money on their hands thanks to retirement so why not cater to them?
  • My new favorite apps are Periscope and Blab. Both apps are free, and you can interact with users in real time. Download it today and let me know what you think. I assure you will not be disappointed.

I am so grateful to DC Media Makers Meetup group for this experience. If it wasn’t for their weekly e-mails, I never would have known about this fun movement.

My Team Experience

Anyways, I gained all of these experiences by working on PhotoRight’s team. Our concept which was to help bloggers and journalists with finding images online for free that are legally sound really struck a chord with me. After I heard our team leader’s passionate pitch, I knew this was the right team for me. As a blogger, I have had online writer’s take my images without my permission and it always unnerved me.  It was a fruitful experience to work on a dynamic team consisting of a clever entertainment lawyer, a renown  travel writer, and three erudite developers. Each person had an important role and I was also proud of my own contributions. I was assigned to help shape business development, and to gather valuation for the team.

I interviewed 30 participants and employed outreach efforts online to get online users to fill out our survey monkey questionnaire. The information gathered helped finesse our presentation and strengthen how our product solves a growing need.

On Sunday, our team leader and lead developer presented our idea to a panel of powerful media giants. Our presentation was succinct, colorful, and presented well enough to win. Over 77 participants, PhotoRight took the grand prize of:

  • An hour meet and greet from a top executive from Discovery Communications (he makes Shark Week awe-inspiring)
  • $100 towards General Assembly classes
  • 1 month free Cove Membership

Just so you know, I recently cashed in the prize. I had a wonderful conversation with the  executive on how to save mad cash when you travel (stay at a friend’s abode), took two General Assembly workshops for fun (Intermediate SEO/Intro to Python), and checked out the Cove by Dupont Circle for a meeting.

All in all, I highly recommend you should check out startup weekend. Not only do you gain business experience, but you also meet some creative folks who can help shape or change your life–forever.

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