14 March, 2011

Cambridge Startup Weekend


I attended the Cambridge Startup Weekend over the past weekend.
Startup Weekend is an intense 54 hour event which focuses on building a web or mobile application which could form the basis of a credible business over the course of a weekend.

There was a huge amount of enthusiasm and excitement at the event for building products and businesses. Here’s the format:
  1. 150 people registered to attend
  2. On Friday evening, 45 (yes, forty five!) people pitched their idea in 90 seconds or less
  3. Each attendee is given three votes to choose the concepts that they like
  4. The top dozen ideas or so re-pitch to the audience
  5. Each person in the audience then joins a team of their choice and starts
  6. Mentors and grey beards are on hand to provide guidance
There were a couple of ideas that I liked – interestingly enough, two of these ideas received virtually no votes. Of the ideas that won through to the second round, I couldn’t see any that would really have any commercial viability. (I admit that I didn’t contribute any ideas of my own.)

What WAS really apparent was:
  • All the companies need to start by concentrating on their business strategy first, before writing a line of code. From the judges’ questions, it was clear that this is what they were interested in.
  • The intersection of technology and markets is the heart of Product Management’s role. This event would have been more commercially successful if there were more PMs knocking around. However, their presence would have deflated the enthusiasm of the budding entrepreneurs which is the exact opposite of the required outcome!
  • Although, I arrived late at the adjudication ceremony and I didn’t get to see all the final presentations, it was interesting to see how the businesses morphed over the weekend.
In the end, I teamed up with a couple of PhDs doing digital identity from the University of Newcastle. See their announcement of Identity Deployment of the Year (IDDY) 2011 Award from Kantara. It was great because they brought me up to date on progress on DiD in the last 6 years that I haven’t been paying attention. I shared some knowledge with them about the early days of DiD.

Interestingly, not much has changed – the big problems in identity haven’t been solved. Many of the participants have changed their business model though. The industry body, Kantara, has taken over the mantle from Project Liberty - not quite sure why Liberty died.

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