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What a fantastic experience and hands-on intensive education Startup Weekend Wellington was.

The Nov. 4-6 event was well organised, tightly run (kept within its promised time-frames), and best of all a wonderful learning environment. It is as close to real world as you can be, without (at this stage) the casualty of losing actual money.

The crucial importance of customer validation to prove/ascertain that a market exists for the suggested product or service was perhaps the most important single lesson. (Having ‘failed’ in a business venture precisely because I didn’t do this bit properly, this part was very apt).

In theory customer validation is really what the judging criteria was primarily based on; though there was a hint that the cheek and flamboyance of presentation to a panel of judges (and the rest of the Startup attendees) counted for lot as well at the end of the process early on Sunday evening.

sticK’s first up idea pitches (‘21 Questions’ — app-based bite-sized philosophy Q & A’s, and ‘NamePlaces’ — new definitions/witticisms based on placenames) failed to garner any votes from the 86 attendees as a follow-up business investigation.

But 14 out of about 40 one minute ideas/pitches got enough votes, and teams formed around these conceptual ideas. See the ideas here.

The next two and a half days (Friday night 4.30pm — 1am Friday night, Saturday 7am — 1am, and Sunday 7am — 8pm) were exercises in attempting to clearly state what the product/service was, who wants it, how big the market is — and the rest of a host of questions to be answered before embarking on a business.

The groundfacts.com team, (yep, already has a website, Twitter and Facebook accounts) were looking to make a business around obtaining useful information from the Tweets that come thick and fast during a crisis. In fact, Twitter is THE first and main producer of disaster-based data; and during the Christchurch earthquake(s) for example, was the primary means of engaging with survivors — particularly those able to help.

groundfacts.com wants to make it easy for disaster relief agencies, and the media (as the target at this stage) to have sorted Twitter information almost instantly up and going as crisis unfolds.

groundfacts.com was one of the few business to business based ideas in the competition, but we failed to excite the judges. I was a member of the team, for an idea that’s still rough around the edges, but with a fair degree of back-end development already built into it

I believe the idea and semi-formed solution has potential though, and as one of the organisers, WebFund’s Dave Moskovitz says, ‘what’s more important is you’ve got to realise the competition is in the marketplace.’

We’ll have to see if we can give it legs.

As will many of the other participants’ ideas and neo-businesses. Which is the primary desired outcome of the weekend.

sticK can’t rate it highly enough. It’s a great boost of enthusiasm and can-do, an opportunity to meet a bunch of like-minded individuals all looking for opportunities (to add wealth to themselves, the city and country, and/or to do good for others), and learning fun. That said, it is quite exhausting, but we were all well fed.

Though it had a heavy internet/computer/mobile phone bent, the lessons Startup Weekend provides are invaluable. The before-mentioned Moskovitz asked how many would be interested in a similar event repeated in six months time. The vast majority of attendees put up their hands.

At the same time, Startup mentor Alison Holt of Longitude 174 said, it would also be good to have a Startup Weekend for other types of businesses (i.e. manufacturing, biological).

As one of dozens floating around the BizDojo in the weekend, that idea’s a good one too.