Sunday, April 12, 2009

My Startup Weekend Detroit Experience

I recently had the opportunity to participate in the very first Startup Weekend Detroit at Compuware's headquarters in Detroit. The concept of Startup Weekend is very simple: A group of highly-motivated creative types (ranging from Web developers and entrepreneurs to graphics artists and marketing/PR professionals like myself) get together for a weekend to launch businesses. Andrew Hyde founded the idea of Startup Weekend in 2007. Learn more about Startup Weekend at its Web site.

I have to give a HUGE shout out to Shannon Paul and Jeremy Tanner for all they did to bring Startup Weekend to Detroit and to keep everything running smoothly those three days!

I'm not at the point in my life where I'm interested in starting a business, but I figured those who are need help with branding and marketing their business. That's why I decided to check out Startup Weekend and help out where I could from a PR and marketing perspective. 

After devouring coney dogs, fries and salad from American Coney Island Friday night, many attendees got up in front of the crowd to pitch their business ideas. We voted on the ones we thought were the most interesting and then divided into teams to see how far we could get in the business development stage come Sunday. It was hard to pick a team because many initial business pitches were really interesting, but I ended up working with 
Brandon Chesnutt and Hajj Flemings to help develop their idea - Pitchlab. 

Essentially, Pitchlab is a social networking site that allows people to perfect their elevator pitch (the short, concise pitch you give to sell yourself or your business). It combines elements of LinkedIn and YouTube, so people can upload videos of their elevator pitch and viewers can rate and comment on the pitch. 

We made tremendous progress by the end of the weekend. Our group was really dynamic because our members had a wide range of skills, so we were all able to work on different aspects of developing the business. Here's a list of my Pitchlab team members and their Twitter names:

Hajj Flemings - @hajjflemings 
Brandon Chesnutt - @bchesnutt
Billy Strawter - @3sixteenweb
Brandon Joerges - @brandonwj
Henry Balanon - @balanon
Jason Raznick - @jasonraznick
Keun Lee - @keunlee
David Damore - @admore
Todd List - @tjlist
Dave Benjamin - @davebenjamin

Here's a quick video that Curve Detroit's Charlie Wollborg shot of Brandon and I talking about our business idea (this is back when we were going to call it Rate My Pitch).

Also check out our group's Twitter page and YouTube channel. If you REALLY want to get a glimpse of Startup Weekend Detroit, take a look at all the tweets

I learned a lot and had a great time, but above all I met some AMAZING people and continued building relationships with people I previously met. Yes it was a long weekend and yes I was exhausted on Sunday, but it was absolutely worth it. We use social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter to network and establish relationships, but I've learned those relationships are truly solidified once you meet in person. 

I wish Brandon and Hajj the best of luck with getting Pitchlab up and running! 


Shannon Paul said...

Nikki, I'm so glad you had a great experience! In a perfect world, wouldn't it be great if PR were considered from the very beginning of a business?! Ahh well, you definitely had a rocking team with some great talent and I'm happy this experience brought you all together.

metrogal84 said...

Nikki, you are so adorable on this vid!