Startup Weekend Missoula
This past weekend, I got to spend a few hours as a marketing coach at Startup Weekend Missoula, a crazy entrepreneurial adventure where teams generate, develop and pitch sophisticated business ideas (many of them tech-based) over the course of a weekend. And by develop, I mean much more than what ifs and napkin sketches.
Teams come up with names, design logos, create functioning websites. They shoot videos and launch social media elements. They conduct target research, generate business plans and build strategies for making the business real. Some even have customers by Sunday afternoon.
At the end of the weekend, the teams have five minutes to present their ideas before a panel of judges. Winners walk away with free consulting services, office space opportunities and a pile of new contacts in their phones. You might think that kind of hyperactive evolution can’t yield something with legs. You’d be wrong.
One team built an app called TwizzardApp. It’s pretty much what it sounds like, a wizard for Twitter that aims to make it easier for Twitter users to pull what’s important to them from the tsunami of tweets being pushed out every second of every day on Twitter. Over time, TwizzardApp even learns the user’s preferences. Monetization happens through advertising and the ability to deliver up specific ads related to tweets of interest.
Another team created an online community called ContractorSherpa where people looking to build or remodel a home connect with contractors in their area. What I love about this concept is that it’s largely based on setting expectations between contractor and client. People post projects — pulling in photos from Pinterest then adding budgets, timelines and skill requests — and alert contractors whose work and price range match their projects. Contractors then bid on the jobs. Right up front, everyone can literally see the expectations, reducing time and miscommunication, and likely leading to a happier result.
My favorite idea, though, is Tampout. It’s a kind of Dollar Shave Club with a social conscience. Women buy one-time or recurring orders of tampons or pads online through Tampout, and for every box purchased, Tampout supplies free feminine hygiene products to girls in third world countries through NGOs already working there.
Why is that important?
In many cultures girls aren’t allowed to go to school when showing signs of menstruation. The result is they miss many more days of school than boys and fall behind in their studies, even dropout. Free, culturally sensitive feminine hygiene products help address that problem. For the consumer, Tampout is a real convenience. It ships free to their house and the cost is only about 10 percent more per box than buying at the local drug store. The genius in this idea is that it creates social good from something most people think of as bad. I mean who would think you could make people feel good about buying tampons?
For me, Startup Weekend Missoula is compelling because it’s a look inside the black box of entrepreneurship. In a few hours, I got to see how people think through new ideas and models, how they work together to quickly evolve those ideas, and what that ultimately leads to in terms of a living, breathing business.
At the end of the weekend, teams gave their five-minute presentations. Cheeso, a company that provides Internet-linked drone cameras for events and parties took third. My fave, Tampout took second. And ContractorSherpa took the top prize. But if you ask me, with all the energy, passion and ideas whizzing about, the real winner was Missoula.
For more on Missoula Startup Weekend and upcoming event dates, check out missoula.startupweekend.org.