Weekends are for warriors in the startup ecosystem. The weekend that went by saw approximately 80 to 120 such daredevils gathering at Singapore Startup Weekend 2014 (swsg2014) for their final pitching session. Tripbook, PetsCentral and YQ? emerged winners out of a total of 13 passionate teams, all with out-of-the-box ideas at the event.
Founded by Andrew Hyde in 2007, the global event with more than a hundred charters all over the world, follows a model wherein budding entrepreneurs at the ideation stage of their journey team up with strangers and pitch their ideas to a group of investors in about 54 hours, obviously, without a wink of sleep.
Ideas that won
First place was swept by Tripbook, an itinerary planner that will generate revenue through referral of promotions. The concept is to save time for holiday planners so that they can find the best destinations to be at, without having to search for each of them manually. Additionally, there is also a mapping system that helps to direct people to the location with instructions. The user interface design mock-ups and the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) were well-developed in comparison with other teams.
PetsCentral, a service that matches dog sitters with dog owners who want professionals to take care of their pets, came in second and won the first runner-up prize at Startup Weekend.
Lastly, the YQ? team bagged second runner-up prize. This startup allows people to save time from not queuing up at food establishments, and opting for self-collection instead. While consumers might not enjoy queuing up to order their food, one judge did make a valid point: restaurants enjoy long queues, since it gives the impression of great demand.
What made them win?
So what was it that made their ideas stand out? The winners cited different reasons for their success. PetsCentral and YQ? claimed that there was a clear demand for their business, and that was why they won. Interestingly, PetsCentral claimed that two of the members of their team already had the idea in their minds before they came for the competition, and met because they were sharing the same concept. TripBook attributed its first prize win to the quality of the team members. The composition of the teams was random, and no one had planned to group up in advance. However, there is a degree of luck involved as competent technical and design people are hard to find.
Judges and mentors
The judges for the business pitches were Jeffrey Paine, Founding Partner, Golden Gate Ventures; Nishit Majmudar, CEO, Aviva Singapore, which is also a sponsor for Startup Weekend; Dr Alex Lin, Head of Infocomm Investments; Saemin Ahn, Managing Partner, Rakuten Ventures; and Murli Ravi, Ex-Head of South Asia, JAFCO.
The other startups at swsg2014 whose ideas were put to test:
1. Buzz Me: This startup does an alarm application that reminds the user of destination stops so that they avoid missing it if they are glued to their phone screen or even asleep. It will trace the user’s bus or train journey and buzz them when their stop is near. Its Founders asserted during the pitch that accuracy in trains will not be compromised.
2. Diverific: Like to dive? This startup is a service that will match diving enthusiasts with diving businesses. Think Agoda and TripAdvisor for diving. The judges also highlighted that there is a huge market in China for information about diving businesses.
3. Monster Run: This startup is working on a solution for companies to help their employees achieve goals. For example, if a corporation wants its staff to engage in healthy activities, like running, it can allow departments to join a leaderboard with a cute monster avatar and compete for the top spot.
4. Food Mommy: This is a platform that matches people who want to eat home-cooked food with people who sell such goods. It is primarily for consumers who would like home-cooked takeout. There are, of course, legal implications the team should take note of, like licensing of these independent food businesses. They also claim to be able to deliver food to your doorstep or office space, which may be a better value proposition to some busy individuals.
5. Studyfund: This platform is a Kickstarter for sponsoring education costs. However, it will do more than just facilitate the sponsorship of tuition, lodging and book costs; the team emphasised that they will work with schools to bring a more well-rounded experience. Apparently, it’s similar to goennounce and CrowdFundEDU.
6. Troll Team: Founded by a group of students, this mini-game ‘Troll Quest’ allows both, multi-player gaming on smartphones, and using the phone as a controller to play games on the PC. Impressive is the fact that the youngest team at Startup Weekend was able to code a Unity game application demonstration that actually worked, within the 54 hours. The pitch also had strong audience engagement.
7. SGfootball: This is a booking platform for pitch owners. According to the team, most pitch owners face problems like cancellations of bookings and not being able to utilise fields during downtime.
8. Stylo Milo: This platform allows people to ask for feedback regarding sartorial looks. Think Hot or Not or Tinder for fashion styles! The team has also noted that they will be making money via partnerships with brands and fashion companies. However, the ability to continue to retain users is up to debate. Even though the app is simple and intuitive, other functions are needed to add more value to the consumer.
9. Eventmetrics: This service helps consumers to get on the guest list for Zouk, basically advance booking for the nightlife scene. It also serves event businesses by being able to come up with demographics for its customer base. Its pricing model is US$10 for 100 attendees, but it is free for small events. There were comments that it is similar to Opentable, an American company that offers online real-time restaurant-reservation service, except for events.
10. Notehow: This startup aims to change publishing for education by integrating QR codes into textbook materials. So if you have a question you can’t answer, the user can scan to collaborate together with other learners to get the correct solution. The team claims that there is a revenue loss by publishers due to second hand books and piracy, and also they do not have the time to provide the answers.
A great experience
The winning teams held the view that it was an energising experience being in the startup community; they were happy to be able to bounce off ideas with the people gathered and work together on pitches. According to the organisers, most teams did manage to complete their MVP, however, the degree of the execution varied.
When asked what they would do in the future, the teams said they had several options: take the NUS Enterprise incubation offer of hot desk space, take up Jeffrey Paine’s standing offer for the Founder’s Institute, or enter an accelerator programme like JFDI.
As is its history, the 54-hour frenzy again culminated into a win-win situation for both, the empowered entrepreneurs and the investors.