Coding geeks ignore the sun, launch 15 projects in 54 hours at Seattle Startup Weekend

Team CrowdSort.me celebrates at Seattle Startup Weekend, one of 15 teams competing (Annie Laurie Malarkey photos)

It was a glorious weekend in Seattle. The sun glistened off the slopes of Mount Rainier. Sailboats cruised across the waters of Elliott Bay. And, in a downtown Seattle office building, eighty geeks huddled around laptop computers trying to create new Internet businesses.

Welcome to Startup Weekend, the 54-hour coding marathon which tosses random developers together to see what they can create in a weekend. Think of it as an accelerated startup process on speed.

The nice weather in Seattle wasn’t lost on some of the attendees, many of whom forfeited their weekends in order to code with friends, learn a new technical skill or test out a business concept. But others were so focused on the task at hand that they didn’t even notice what they were missing outside.

“I didn’t even look out the window until we walked outside, and I said: ‘damn, we missed a nice day,” said Sam Grossberg, a 25-year-old former Microsoft developer who led Panda Task.

Others were just pumped to get into the event, which was capped at 80 people due to space constraints at host firm Madrona Venture Group.

John Morefield celebrates at Seattle Startup Weekend

Seattle architect John Morefield secured an invite at the last minute after another entrepreneur dropped out. Morefield showed up Friday excited to pitch an idea that he’d been incubating for two years.

The goal? Create a Q&A site called Askitecture where professional architects could engage with potential customers, sharing drawings and other tips about home remodels or other architecture questions.

“What I have been doing in the past two years has been eclipsed in 48 hours by six amazing guys,” said Morefield at Sunday night’s final pitch competition. “This company went from a one-man show to a viable product … in one weekend.”

It’s actually pretty amazing what can be built when developers focus on a singular task. Morefield said the weekend is all about “momentum.”

“The speed and availability of everything has just been mind-boggling,” he said. “I wouldn’t give this up for the world.”

The whole crew at Startup Weekend

Like Morefield, CityMatch founder Grant Goodale also was a newbie to Startup Weekend.  He too was impressed by how much each of the teams accomplished in such a short time.

Grant Goodale, left, of City Match

“I’ve done programming competitions before, but layering the business aspect on top of it has been incredibly useful and really surprising watching people pivot really dramatically over the weekend. It has been amazing,” said Goodale, who described City Match as “eHarmony for where to live.”

Goodale attracted five developers on Friday night for the idea, noting that it was tough to do so given all of the other compelling ideas.

“Most of it was convincing them that you could actually produce something of reasonable quality in a weekend. It seems like a boil the ocean kind of problem,” he said. “I answered a lot of questions on why this isn’t ridiculously out of scope.”

Perhaps the most ambitious project of the weekend was shubz.tv, an online video chat service inspired by Greg Gottesman’s 11-year-old son. At various points, as many as half of the attendees worked on the concept.

Scott Porad, David Aronchick and Greg Gottesman of shubz.tv

“We were interested in seeing what we could do around live video,” said Madrona’s Gottesman. “There’s Justin.TV, which is the closest competitor, but they do text. This is real-time video chat.”

Gottesman added that the idea would have been perfect for the Royal Wedding.

“The biggest surprise was how much you can get accomplished if you get a group of talented technical folks together in a day or two,” he said. “It is absolutely staggering. You can’t perfect it, but you can get so far.”

Madrona hosted the event, and Gottesman noted that it was among the best events in the venture firm’s history. He promised to host it again as long as the “offices aren’t too destroyed.”

Other ideas weren’t quite as ambitious. A fun one offered an online twist on the classic game Rock, Paper Scissors — including a whole new cast of characters like the sponge and wolf. And another hilarious pitch came from FanPong, which meshed online polls and basic games into the world’s “first and best massively-multiplayer online ping pong game.”

Matt Shobe presents TuneField

TuneField, led by Matt Shobe of Big Door, came up with a novel way of allowing individuals to broadcast music playlists to as many as eight friends in running, hiking or cycling groups. The mobile application allows individuals to set up an instant music hot spot, working where mobile networks may not be available.

Perhaps the most practical offering, at least for the audience represented at Startup Weekend, was a site called Can They Code which allowed potential employers to host online tests of developers’ coding skills. (It finished third in the voting).

I served as a judge for the festivities, having a ball listening to the creative brainpower behind the 15 presentations. Here’s the winning pitch from CrowdSort.me, a team that consisted of Harold Hing, Joseph Sunga, Matt Hallett, Evan Jacobs and Scott Windsor.


The second place award went to shubz.tv, a team consisting of Ludo Antonov; David Aronchick; Donnie Dinch; Nick Huzar; Roy Leban; Adam Philipp; Scott Porad; David Rosenthal; Julian Tescher; Umesh Unnikrishnan; and Thomas Yip. Full pitch here:


We were able to get a first look at the CrowdSort.me application, which you can try out below by choosing your favorite projects from Seattle Startup Weekend.

Reminds us a bit of the CubeDuel service from Seattle developers Tony Wright and Adam Doppelt, which allows users to pick current and former employees they’d most like to work with. Let us know what you think of CrowdSort.me and maybe we’ll add to more posts in the future.


Startup Weekend photos by Annie Laurie MalarkeyJohn Cook is co-founder of GeekWire. Follow on Twitter: @geekwirenews and Facebook.

 

  • Guest

    Congratulations to all the enterprising men who toiled endlessly to produce these great ideas!

  • http://blog.sentientmonkey.com Scott Windsor

    It was a long weekend, lots of coding, and little sleep, but worth it! I think we all had a blast. By having such a compressed timeline it really forces you to cut your product the the bone, build the bare minimum you need, then iterate and refine. Same goes for the pitch process. I have a new-found respect hearing pitches now I that see everything that goes into a very quick 5 minutes. Go team Crowdsortme!

    • http://www.nosnivelling.com daveschappell

      It makes me think we should have some all-weekend TeachStreet coding sessions… hmmm…

      • http://blog.sentientmonkey.com Scott Windsor

        I think I remember at least a few of those ;-)

      • http://haroldhing.com Harold Hing

        Will these all-weekend TeachStreet coding sessions be mandatory? :)

        • http://www.nosnivelling.com daveschappell

          Harold ‘on his way to Amazon’ Hing is dead to me now. I don’t even see your comment. How do I block people on Disqus? Anyone know???

  • http://joesunga.com joesunga

    This was my first startup weekend experience and it was one of the most fun startup events here in Seattle. Being able to have an idea, and strip that sucker down in order to have it done in that short time frame both on the technical / business side of things was pretty exciting. Thanks for the writeup — woohoo for Team Crowdsort.me!

    • http://twitter.com/ggoodale Grant Goodale

      Congrats to you and your team! You definitely aced the customer validation. Great traction after only 24 hours!

      • http://joesunga.com joesunga

        Thanks, it was awesome to see it live in the wild and get a good amount of data.

      • http://joesunga.com joesunga

        Thanks, it was awesome to see it live in the wild and get a good amount of data.

    • http://www.facebook.com/kevie Kevin Leneway

      Congrats Joe! You guys killed it, very nicely done. Don’t forget to remind John about featuring the Crowdsort.me widget on GeekWire. ;)

      • http://twitter.com/matthallett Matt Hallett

        Couldn’t agree more! :-)

      • http://joesunga.com joesunga

        We’re currently working on that right now. :)

        • http://www.puzzazz.com Roy Leban

          Cool to see the widget, but you left out shubz.tv!

          • http://joesunga.com joesunga

            Good catch — I knew we missed one. We didn’t have a photo for some reason when we were going around taking photos. :(

    • http://twitter.com/evanjacobs Evan Jacobs

      I had a great time too and was fortunate to be on a team full of ninjas.

      • http://joesunga.com joesunga

        indeed a team full of ninjas. love it!

  • http://www.facebook.com/donalddesantis Donald DeSantis

    Awesome event! Thanks again to Madrona and the Startup Weekend team for putting together one of the most fun (and certainly the swankiest!) Startup Weekend I’ve been to.

  • Franck

    Nice to see the Seattle Community kicking ass during this WE :) It’s just the beginning, I’m so impressed by what you guys achieved! Congrats

  • guest

    Looks like the fine people at crowdsort.me forgot to add shubz.tv to their list…

    • http://joesunga.com joesunga

      Yeah, Roy Leban just pointed it out. We just added them on. :)

  • http://twitter.com/nickhuzar Nick

    Loved this weekend! Really a great time and I enjoyed connecting with as many of you as possible. Can’t wait to do it again. @nickhuzar