As a mechanical engineer at Boeing, Anne Marie Ketola is accustomed to working on products that may not come to market for years, even decades. And that’s one of the reasons why the Columbia University grad was so intrigued with Startup Weekend, the 54-hour coding marathon where projects are hatched and developed in the course of a weekend.
“I actually wasn’t even sure I was qualified to come to this because I only know how to code Fortran,” said Ketola, referring to the programming language used in high performance computing at her Boeing job.
It’s a good thing she showed up, encouraged to do so by friend and fellow teammate Danielle Fague. Ketola’s idea, a mobile app called Up Early, took home top honors Sunday night at Startup Weekend Women’s Edition.
Ketola has been kicking around the idea for Up Early since moving to Seattle about a year ago. Described as a smart alarm, Up Early allows users to configure the alarm only if certain conditions are met, say it’s 65 degrees and sunny or if six inches of snow fell on the pass.
The idea could go even further, say an alarm if a stock fell below a certain price. Up Early still has some development work to do before submitting the app to the Apple app store.
A free app, Ketola said they plan to make money by helping users make purchases related to their activities, say a lift ticket at a ski slope or tackle at the bait shop.
Initially, Up Early plans to focus on runners, skiers and snowboarders, possibly expanding to other activities like kayaking or sailing that are dependent on the weather.
At this point, Ketola said that they are going to keep working on the idea, buoyed by the enthusiasm of the other participants.
“We are going to get together for a happy hour, and figure out what the next step is. Because that is where you should make decisions: at happy hour,” she said.
Ketola said she loved participating in the event, and was most intrigued with the speed at which ideas could be transformed into something tangible.
“Designing spacecraft or airplanes is a very long-term thing — years of planning and four or five years of designing,” she said. “And here it’s just a weekend, and just how fast everything is.”
Startup Weekend Women’s Edition marked the first time that a female-oriented hackathon was held in Seattle. Of the 90 participants, 75 percent were women.
Most of the women said that they were inspired by the event, saying that they would participate at future Startup Weekends.
Adriana Moscatelli, a user experience designer who led the gaming upstart Pink Matrix Labs, said she made some fantastic connections during the event.
“In our daily work, we spend all day around guys,” said Moscatelli. “It was such a unique opportunity to spend time around so many smart, engaging and geeky women.”
You can check out an overview of all of the teams here.