Seattle Startup Weekend participants. Photos: Kyle Kesterson

Seattle venture capitalist Greg Gottesman better watch out, or he might just turn himself into a full-fledged entrepreneur. For the second time in seven months, the managing director at Madrona Venture Group has led a team to victory at Startup Weekend.

Greg Gottesman at Startup Weekend: Kyle Kesterson photo

Back in June, you may recall, Gottesman led the team behind the online pet sitting service A Place for Rover. The idea has since turned into an actual company by the name of with backing from Madrona.

This past weekend, Gottesman and his team of more than a dozen geeks also came out on top, winning in the business plan category of Seattle Startup Weekend. Like, Gottesman’s Iron Blanket concept emerged from personal experience around the home.

“The original idea/pitch for Iron Blanket came from an experience I had after moving into our new house,” Gottesman tells GeekWire. “The insurance company said it wanted us to have the alarm system monitored, so we checked out several options. We could not believe the length of contract proposed (three years) and how much it cost versus what is actually provided.”

Iron Blanket actually was born on Friday night after Gottesman merged his idea with the pitch of another presenter, Zach Simmons, who also touted a cloud-based security concept.

“He had some great security hardware that we put to use and had done a lot of research on the security space,” said Gottesman.

Iron Blanket uses webcams to alert home owners (and other members of a call list) of a potential intrusion. The owner can access the feed via their phone and call the police. (If unavailable, the system goes to the next person on the list).

Seattle Startup Weekend, a 54-hour coding marathon, hosted the most recent event at the Hub in Pioneer Square. Fifty four pitches were heard on Friday night, with 15 teams formed for the weekend competition.  Here’s a look at some of the other winners, with notes from GeekWire’s Rebecca Lovell who served as a judge for the event:

Street Code, Best Market Validation. This team was led by another ringer, Mike Koss (slated to be a judge but too attached to this idea not to participate- so he recused himself from the judging panel). The mission is scan-give-love, and part of the goal is to smash stereotypes about homeless people. By scanning QR codes, passers-by could see the individual’s profile, view their wish list, and click to donate. Donations could be redeemed at a local shelter or mission, where clients could work towards gift cards, from Subway sandwiches to socks, or an interview outfit. Really powerful. And it’s being used today in Pioneer Square!

Chicken Check-In,  Best Presentation. These bot-based devices (all organic critters, like chickens or orangutans)  allow grandkids to check-in on their grandparents in their homes or assisted living facilities, no matter where they live in the world.

Surprize, Best User Experience.  Surprize is developing a text-based easter egg hunt of sorts.  This engaging app notifies your friends via text that they have a gift awaiting; as they approach the location they can “unwrap” their gift, creating an almost tactile experience for the user.  Delightful!

WhichBus,  Best Design (honorable mention).  WhichBus hopes to pick up where OneBusAway left off, providing a richer user experience around public transit. Asking “where you goin, yo?”  it would recommend the best route based on your location and destination. Notifying users of wait time, the company would monetize through ads for area businesses (as users waited for said bus).

GeekWire’s Rebecca Lovell, who contributed to this report, served as a judge at Seattle Startup Weekend.


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  • Dave Parker

    were happy to have Surpr!se and CheckInChicken as Scholarship winners to this Semester’s Founder Institute Seattle. To apply for the semester go to

  • Greg Gottesman


    Thanks for the post!  We had a great team working on the project over the weekend.  The full-timers included Ethan Anderson, Torsten Bittner, Ben Dehghan, David Dehghan, Chris Fryer, Matt Hwang, Dave Lynam, Michelle Pewitt, David Rosenthal, and Zach Simmons.  We also were fortunate to get some killer part-time help from Kyle Kesterson (did the cool logo and design templates), Phil Kimmey, and Kav Latiolais.

    Special kudos to David Dehghan who went to SeaTac on Sunday morning and begged to get his flight to SFO changed so he could be with us building product through Sunday night!  

    Startup Weekend is an incredible, intense, addicting experience.  For those who haven’t tried one yet, you should sign up for the next one.



  • Eric Brooke

    Did not Iron Curtain win the best business model? The most value of prizes went to Street Code!

  • Eric Brooke

    I thought that Iron Curtain won the best Business Model prize? The greatest value of awards went to Street Code.  You can see here for yourself at at 01:29

    • Anonymous

      Hi Eric-
      This was indeed a great crop of companies, and the vibe of this competition was really special- maybe the bonding from being snow-bound was the secret sauce, but judging was a blast. Apologies if the way we presented the awards wasn’t as clear as some may have liked, but we did them in reverse order from honorable mention to first, Dave Letterman style. We did feel they *were* all winners, and each unique, so called out particular elements of our stated judging criteria that each particular team just nailed.
      In terms of the dollar value of the prices, it would be tough to put a price tag on them- and frankly that wasn’t the main driver of our allocation. We did our best, in conjunction with the event organizers, to determine which prize would most benefit (and most likely be used by) any given team.

      • Eric Brooke

        Hey thanks for taking the time and giving clarity.. and after the weekend I was tired so I was not sure.

        I liked how you awarded teams for what they are best at, its helpful in the learning process and it allows specialists within teams to get some credit. In a future events we have to work out how to give developers some real credit!

        Again I think you showed real smartness with how you gave the prizes :)

        • Anonymous

          Awesome– thanks Eric!  Should have mentioned it was also great fun to work with fellow judges @helveticagirl:twitter  (Jenny Lam)  @scottrutherford:twitter (of UserVoice) and @mypatents:twitter   (Adam Philipp, our very own Simon Cowell). Not to mention kudos to the sleep-deprived masses of devs, designers, and startuppers (and seriously, @surprize_me:twitter  I wish your app were up and running so I could gift lattes to each and every one of you!) 

  • Michael ‘Luni’ Libes

    Nice job to all the winners!  The top four called out as winners were all good work, much too close to choose just one.

    Greg, great idea.  I hope you make this one real.

    My favorite line of the event: “We’re not solving a problem.”  Spoken by the creator of Surprize, my favorite idea of the 54 ideas pitched on Friday.  Finally, a counter-example to the  standard Problem/Solution/Customer… pitch deck.

    • Anonymous

      You have to say the whole thing! “We’re not solving a problem…. we’re providing a human experience.” :)

      • Eric Brooke

        Awesome. I loved Surprises QA, he was fun :)

  • shanereiser

    Congrats to the official winners above and also to all the non-official winners. By that I mean everyone who came – I think every team walked away with a great experience. And who knows who will win in the long term – often the teams that “win” aren’t the teams that move forward after the weekend. Only time will tell.

    I keep being impressed with the Seattle startup scene. As @Lovelletters:disqus told me on Sunday, every event here in Seattle seems to gets better and better.Thanks, btw, to all the judges, mentors, speakers and volunteers for spending your Sunday evenings with us. 

    Suprize and Defenderz – let me know when you launch your apps so I can start using them.

  • Rashmir

    It was an amazing event, with great energy. Exciting to see the Seattle start up scene taking off, and with start ups focused on creating surprise/joy and/or social impact. 

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