Startup Weekend Lexington

22 November 2011 04:24 PM CST


This past weekend I traveled to Lexington, Kentucky to participate in Startup Weekend.  I've never participated in a Startup Weekend before and was very excited.  I originally signed up for the Nashville session but, unfortunately, it was cancelled due to a lack of registered participants.  So, I checked the website in search of an event in a nearby city.  The two closest to Nashville were Lexington, KY and Bloomington, IN.  Lucky for me, my sister's future inlaws live in Lexington.  So, I thought, awesome - I've got a place to stay!  Quick shout out to Mary and Larry Potter - thanks for hosting me this past weekend!

Crossing the TN-KY Border

Startup Weekend Lexington was hosted at a company called Awesome, Inc.  Quick shout-out to the Awesome, Inc. team ... you guys are ... awesome!  There really is no better way of putting it :)  Amazingly, I had met a few people from Awesome Inc. before.  Last year at a conference in Nashville called Mobile X (for the mobile phone industry) I met a few of the Awesome Inc. founders.

The point of Startup Weekend is to launch a company in 54 hours.  The event started at 6PM on Friday.  The first couple hours were spent discussing Startup Weekend, meeting other attendees, and discussing logistics.  Then, attendees were encouraged to give 60 second pitches for companies they'd like to launch.  At the Lexington event (to be referred to as SWLEX from this point forward) there were 18 pitches.  Everything pitched was a good idea.  I was surprised by the number of pitches for games.  I've always known the gaming industry is huge, but was still surprised by how many people wanted to build a game.  And, not everything was internet-tech-centric.  One woman pitched the idea of building inexpensive hot tubs for distribution at places like Walmart.  If you've ever been in the market for a hot tub you know that they're quite expensive.  A cheap substitute would be awesome.  I was shocked at how much nerve it took to actually give a pitch.  I'm usually pretty comfortable in front of an audience, but at SWLEX, not really knowing anyone, I found myself quite nervous but found the experience invigorating.

In the end, teams were developed for seven business ideas.  I found myself torn between two teams.  Having a deep interest in information, data visualization, and the quantified self I was drawn to a company called Toppedin.  Toppedin's initial idea was to mine your Twitter activity for popular topics.  In a nutshell, they wanted to take the concept of trends and bring the focus to the individual Twitter user (not Twitter as a whole).  I was also drawn to a company called Aunt Flo.  The goal of Aunt Flo was to develop a mobile app and accompanying website that would allow women to order feminine hygiene products on a subscription basis.  The app would include cycle tracking and would ship products on a timely basis.  In the end, I joined Aunt Flo.  Why, you might ask?  Well, here's the deal.  Shipping and selling physical goods means revenue for the company with just one subscriber.  Diapers.com, wag.com, zappos.com ... perhaps you've heard of those companies?  Each of those companies targeted a highly specific retail niche and then focused on customer service and execution.  I figured the same could probably be done with something as niche as feminine hygiene.  Plus, the team felt a large portion of the target market would prefer having products shipped rather than having to buy them at a store.

The team for Aunt Flo consisted of the following people:

  • Lamar Wilson (@bigmarh) - Lamar pitched the idea for Aunt Flo.  He's a software developer in Lexington and an all around great guy.  His son, an awesome little fella, spent a huge portion of the weekend with us.
  • Jim Wombles (@jimwombles) - Jim was responsible for generating a big portion of the business plan.  He fearlessly tackled the Business Plan Canvas.
  • Ryan Copple - Ryan helped a bunch with developing the concept as well as the tech.
  • John Cullum - John helped with a tremendous amount of research on the market, concept, and idea.
  • Mike Loffredo - Mike was responsible for PR and market research.
  • Roshnee - at only 15 years old, Roshnee was our CEL (Chief Executive Lady).  She proved to be an invaluable resource with regards to branding, development, and marketing.
  • Me (@cityofthedes) - As usual, I flipped into research mode pretty early on Saturday.  I ended up responsible for market research, analysis of the competitive landscape, and overall business development.

Here's a pic of our team:

Aunt Flo

Here are a few things that surprised me over the course of the weekend.

  1. 80% of the women we interviewed use a cycle tracking app on their smartphone.  This floored us.  Upon further investigation, there are over 50 cycle tracking apps in the Apple App Store.  And, none of them offer subscription based commerce.  Granted, this was a tech-centric startup event, so most of the women we spoke with were very tech savvy.
  2. There are very few internet companies in this space.  I did manage to find a few companies trying to do the same thing as Aunt Flo.  However, none of them have a mobile app.
  3. We asked a bunch of women if they would be interested in a service like this and many of them said yes.  The surprising element was how broad the age range was of the interested women.  Women in high school, women in college, and older women all expressed an interest in something like this.
  4. The importance of branding.  It took us awhile to figure this out, but the concept will live or die via branding.

By Sunday evening we had ironed out our business plan and had a clear vision for the future of the company.  At the end of SWLEX every team had to give a five minute presentation on their concept, vision, development, and plan.  There was a panel of judges from the investment and tech scene in Lexington to choose a winner for SWLEX.  In the end, Aunt Flo came in third place.  Toppedin.com came in first place, Bike Parker (a mobile app to help you find a safe and secure place to lock up your bike) came in second.

I had a fantastic time at SWLEX.  The startup and tech scene in Lexington is awesome.  Everyone I met was super friendly, helpful, enthusiastic, and excited about doing something.  I wish all of the teams continued success with their businesses.  And, everyone, keep an eye out for Aunt Flo.

Here's a look at the program bulletin for Startup Weekend Lexington:

Here's a map of my adventure:

The Adventure to Startup Weekend Lexington

Here's a blog post about Startup Weekend from the fine folks at Awesome, Inc.

Here's a collection of photos I took over the course of the weekend:

Lamar Talking Shop

I also took a few panoramic shots with my iPhone, you can check those out here and here.

Finally, last but certainly not least, the Awesome, Inc. crew put together this video of the Startup Weekend Lexington experience.  Cheers!