Jan 30 2011

Start Atlanta Wrap Up

This weekend I went to StartAtlanta 2011 and participated in starting a new company. The premise is that you join a team and start a company Friday night and hopefully have something to launch and demo by Sunday night. Since Rocket Whale is already building my idea for a startup that you can feasibly launch in a weekend (Use the List), I went with the intention of participating on another team. And participate I did!

Our team was centered around the idea of one-question surveys. Everyone hates getting a link to a 10+ question survey. But send them one question with a choice of answers and they’ll likely answer. Overall I think our team did a pretty good job. I was a bit disappointed that we didn’t get further and actually have a usable application up and running for the demo, but we got very close and I’m confident that the crew will have something working within a week or two. I did the design and HTML/CSS for the app and “threw it over the wall” to the developer guys to code up. You can see my design and sign up to be notified when the site goes live at the web site: http://ask1question.com. I look forward to seeing where it all goes!

Here’s a rundown of some of my favorite ideas (most of these have completely different designs that I imagine will be unveiled on their live sites soon):

  • TripLingo was the crowd favorite of all of the participants. They had a slick site design and got very far along, including a web app and a mobile app. Cool idea whose value was much more evident once the app was demoed.
  • Connect Me is a facebook dating/matchmaking app that has the same fun feel of hotornot.com. The app shows you pictures of 2 friends and you decide whether or not you think they’d be a good match. If you do, the app sends them both some type of introduction. I’m looking forward to seeing it live!
  • Reach Me Later is a fantastic idea that I found myself wanting during my drive home. Right now, it’s targeted towards teens and parents as it was inspired by the death of a teen who was texting while driving. It’s a mobile app that basically shuts your phone’s texting off and auto-replies with a message that says, “I’m driving, I’ll respond later.” Parents get a text when their kid turns the service on and there are analytics built in so parents can see if their kids are using it and if they’re texting while driving. If I had a bunch of money I would try to invest in them now!
  • Minglle had some technical difficulties during their demo and it didn’t really work, but the idea was interesting. Plus it was presented by a live, human version of Bill Gates’ mug shot. It’s a mobile app where you can say where you are and who you want to meet. If there are any matches at your location, the service sends you both a message to see if you actually want to meet. If you do, you can chat over their service to actually meet up. Sounds creepy for social events but would be a great app for networking.
  • Last, I want to give a shout-out to Karol’s team: Mark it 8 Dude. They were making a bowling app where you can take a picture of your score with your phone and it automatically tracks your scores (and how well you do vs. how many beers you’ve had). Karol got a big reaction from the crowd when he demoed his OCR (Optical Character Recognition) so congratulations to him!

I want to say thanks to the team at StartAtlanta for organizing everything. The food selection was awesome and the entire event was run very smoothly. I honestly can’t think of any big issues, so kudos to Jason Ardell and the rest of the StartAtlanta team. And also to ATDC for hosting it!

I think my only real disappointment was that it took so long for our developers to get on the same page and environment so that they could actually start writing code (Saturday evening). I think it was a factor of us having a larger team with guys from all different backgrounds (asp.net, django/python, ruby/rails, windows/mac/linux, etc.). Our team was probably too big and we would’ve done much better with 2-3 developers all in sync rather than the 6-7 that we had. We were also too ambitious with our use of HAML/SCSS, as not everyone knew it and it made the conversion of my static HTML/CSS to dynamic content even more intensive. Maybe next year the StartAtlanta organizers can figure out a way for team leaders to choose their technologies and for developers to be organized by similar skills.

Even with the difficulties, I’m proud of what we accomplished (and what I accomplished) and I know that given another couple hours to tighten things up, we would’ve been in contention for the crowd favorite!

Final thanks go to the One Question team, especially Jon for the One Question idea and to Sean for his plethora of design help!

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