We’re just a few days out from the inaugural Startup Weekend Ames, organized by a team with quite a bit of experience with past Startup Weekends and other entrepreneurial things. This is a quick summary of how my first Startup Weekend went…
It was spring 2011, the end of my third year of college. I was working at the Iowa DOT at the time as a student programmer. I managed to find out about Startup Weekend Des Moines through something I saw on Twitter, and I decided to find myself a student discount and see what happened.
I met a friend of mine there, Adam Reineke. Beyond him, I didn’t know anyone else there, and I had the strange feeling that everyone was older than I was. I was a little shy and unsure of myself at that point, but I still managed to introduce myself to a few people. Pitching time rolled around, and I figured I might as well pitch something since everyone else was! My idea didn’t take hold, but that didn’t matter. I eventually settled into a team with four great people.
We started a company called Fundle, and we worked tirelessly (almost) throughout the weekend to get a functional prototype running. We did exactly that, and although we didn’t place in the top three, we were recognized for “Best Pitch”. By the time I left on Sunday, I was so tired that I couldn’t figure out how to get out of the parking ramp, but it was so worth it! Although there were a few bumps along the way, we kept up with the project for quite a while after the weekend, but eventually, team members started losing interest. I am now the sole owner of Fundle, LLC, and I still hope to make it into something great when I get the chance!
But that’s not the end of the story
Fundle and Startup Weekend Des Moines was just the beginning. It was through SWDSM that I first encountered Christian Renaud and Ben Milne. Ben Milne is co-founder of Dwolla, an Iowa startup that has gained a lot of attention since its inception. Christian Renaud is one of those people who seems to know everyone. I looked through his LinkedIn once and realized he’s been senior vice president of something longer than I’ve been alive.
I met quite a few other great people and, perhaps because of my own eccentricity, found myself continuing to be involved with the startup community of Des Moines. I got a preview of Startup City Des Moines before it opened (and got to drive a Porsche…). I found a job at 8/7 Central which allowed me to quit the Iowa DOT. I met my current employer at ThincIowa (now Big Des Moines) that year. I participated in Startup Weekend Des Moines again in 2012. My team didn’t place, but a couple of us had a lot of fun randomly concocting an iPhone app at 4 in the morning. I participated in OpenIowa with several of the other organizers of Startup Weekend Ames and my team took second place. I even managed to file a patent application with someone I met at the first Startup Weekend Des Moines.
The Bottom Line
Startup Weekend was just the beginning of my involvement with the Ames-Des Moines entrepreneurial community. I’ve met a lot of great people and found a lot of great opportunities because of it. My experiences thus far have helped me realize that, someday, I might just be able to start a successful business of my own.
Startup Weekend Ames will be the same thing for you if you participate: just the beginning.