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SpringUp: Launching Five Startups in 28 Hours

Still a long way to go on the chalk progress bar just after the start of SpringUp – our 28-hour non-stop startup challengeHopefully it’s not big-headed to say that we’re chuffed with the outcome of our very first open event last weekend. One of our founding members Matt Campbell brought in a 28-hour non-stop startup hackathon called SpringUp and, to put it simply, five new web businesses were launched overnight. It’s nice when you say it like that.

Congratulations to the competition winners, Alrg, who have created an online recommendation service that lists eateries for people with special dietary needs. They rocked the judges with not only a nicely made site, but also some kick-ass market stats and potential revenue streams. It sounds niche but, in short, WAY more people have food allergies than you think.

But judgement was tough. Although there were only five teams, the quality of projects was humbling. Online arbitrage, car sales, personal finance support, and an app management tool, all built by teams of two to five people in one sitting. Well almost one sitting. Everyone bailed for brief sleep eventually, except one – massive props to Arie for coding all night. I think we can ignore his ten-minute power snooze on Sunday afternoon.

We had no idea if the event was going to come together, and at times it felt like it really wouldn’t. But some of our industry friends stepped up and recovered our faith that the tech community is a supportive place to be. Our neighbours at Anaeko bought enough sandwiches and burritos to sink an aircraft carrier – oh yes, Boojum said it was one of their biggest orders, a true cause for pride. Rumble Labs dropped the grand prize of 500 filthy quids. Github and Heroku gave out subscription credits, and we put up some free memberships of our humble abode.

A few personal take-outs from our long, hard, geek-gang-bang… Anaeko’s CTO Colm Hayden, in a troop-rousing talk, told the teams that these are “boom times”, and while some people want job stability and a narrow career route, we will never be like them. He also promoted new development models, saying it’s “lean all the way”. Quite.

Simon Hamilton (@hamstarr), chief of Rumble Labs, got down to the dirty details of working methodology, discouraging small talk and pushing for more productivity. He promoted wireframes and paper-prototypes for efficiency, and added the classic advice of “don’t open any Adobe products”.

I was interested to see that what I thought were the strongest pitches got the biggest hammering from the judges, who were there to assume the role of potential investors. It then transpired that those teams scored highest. I guess the judges were biting on what they saw as a good thing. If they had stayed quiet, it would have been a troubling sign for the pitching team.

So what would we do differently next time? Well the biggest criticism was from a couple of the developers, who felt that their efforts went unrecognised because the event was focused on making an investment pitch, not presenting the tech work. They worked like troopers all weekend and deserved more credit.

…and will there be a next time? Oh yes. Even just after the two-day slog of SpringUp, people were keen for more of the same. So we will be hosting the provisionally entitled FlackNight, for 24 hours starting at 16:00 on Saturday 19th May. It’ll be a pared-down process with a more tech and code focus. No sponsors, no prizes, just the reward of peer-critique from likeminded people. Oh, and the Craic, of course.

More on FlackNight coming soon…

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