Recap & Learnings from Startup Weekend Amsterdam

This weekend I attended my first Startup Weekend — not  in the United States where I’m from, but in Amsterdam. Since I was in Amsterdam anyway, timing worked out great for me.

Before I go into my personal learnings from the weekend, a quick recap of our business & team.

  • Name: 5Live
  • Tag line: Learn anything, anywhere – from anyone. For $5 or less…
  • Concept: Collaborative discussions with experts on any topic using video chat (Google Hangouts). Sessions are either $5 or zero (we took the pricing simplicity that Fiverr uses successfully).
  • Largest customer segments: Travel – looking to find someone interested in kite surfing who lives in Cape Town to tell you where to go? Higher education – looking to ask questions from someone that has gone through the Stanford MBA program? Entrepreneurship – looking to speak with someone who has recently faced similar challenges as yourself?
  • Proof is in the pudding: We sold marketing advice from yours truly 7 times over.
  • Currently viewable at: http://fivelive.herokuapp.com/
  • Pitch deck can be downloaded here.
  • Final placement: 3rd (out of 20)

Lastly, here’s our brief demo video:

YouTube Preview Image

Of course, this wouldn’t have happened were it not for the kick ass team we had. Left to right in the photo: Matt Fiegel, Peter Halliday, Justin Alvey, Tim van de Rijdt, Kees van der Meeren (our main stage presenter), and Drew Meyers (aka ME). Not pictured: Wouter Kneepkens, Mike van Drongelen.

What did I learn over the course of the weekend? A few things…

  • I miss the fast paced dynamics of the technology startup scene even more than I thought. It re-affirmed my decision to embark on my first real entrepreneurial endeavor risking significants amounts of my own money (Oh Hey World).
  • How absolutely critical the vision is to motivation at an early stage when there are no paychecks on the table. Our team went through a number of “pivots” and disagreements over which way to pivot — and actually lost one team member halfway through as a result.
  • Someone has got to take the lead. Partly due to the differing visions on what we wanted to create (we started with the idea of “Quora + video chats”), no one felt strongly enough to lead the team forward based on their vision. We didn’t decide who was going to present the idea until about 2 1/2 hours prior to the pitch. In a perfect world, one leader should have emerged sometime on Saturday and driven the idea home with the support of everyone.
  • Working with a team of 7, all from varying backgrounds & none of whom have worked with each other before, was an awesome team building experience.

Truly, the event was everything I hoped for — and more. If you have a chance to attend one, go do it. It may change your life, it may not. But I certainly guarantee you’ll be better poised for the entrepreneurial journey after the experience.

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