Confessions Of A Tech Barn Raiser (Tech Thursday)

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. My experience with Birmingham Startup over this past weekend (11/2 – 11/4) was awesome and awful all at the same time.

The startup concept is to create a web based business in a really short time. In the case of Birmingham Startup that’s over two weekends. The first weekend is to refine several business ideas and pick the best one. The second weekend is to build that idea and have a beta version ready before the close of the weekend.

I arrived on Friday already a bit sleep deprived because I was too excited to sleep well the night before. They had said in the blog that no more than 10 ideas would be selected. That night I found out that 9 teams had been selected but only 6 had made it. So I figured my odds were pretty good. I made my “elevator” pitch and felt it went well. It was really cool to be around so many skilled and motivated people.

Friday night I got the group average amount of sleep (4 hours) as I worked on refining my idea. One of the participants only got 1 hour. With coaching from the organizers, I refined my idea throughout the day and presented it twice. About that time, my energy was getting really low. Looking at the schedule, I decided I would go home after supper and get some sleep. What I didn’t know is that we were supposed to present one more time: I laid an egg. It was really bad. I was so tired that I forgot the name of my company and had to look down at my notes to remember.

But something magical happened that night. I went home, had a “come apart” but then went to bed. I woke up about 3 AM and things just seemed crystal clear. I began to work the numbers of my business plan and I even started to believe them. I was on such a roll that when I discovered some new direct competitor, it didn’t ever bother me. By the time I left the house at 11:15 AM, I was feeling pretty good again.

We heard an excellent speaker and then had leftovers for lunch. Then the waiting began. I practiced my pitch as much as I could stand and then listened to a podcast while I waited. It was over an hour until my turn came. Then I made my pitch and felt really good about it (even though I left out a major point). Then more waiting.

After about 20 minutes, I see one of the organizers coming up to my second floor conference room. By this time, only 5 teams remained and the top 3 were to be picked to move on to the next round. When I saw him coming up the stairs, I thought it was odd but I figured he was coming to tell me I had made it to the next round. Well . . . he says “I hate to tell you this, but I’ve got to ask you to leave”. My heart sunk. I thought he meant I hadn’t made it to the next round. When he saw the look on my face he said, “Oh no, that’s not what I meant, we just need this conference room”.

About a half hour later, I was picked as one of the three teams to move on. I was elated!

As soon as I could, I rushed over to the Wachovia building. Out hosts from Burr & Forman were just great and had put on quite a spread for the event. The 34th floor conference room was beautiful. I worked with their technician to make sure my laptop would work. In the test, it worked without a problem.

The first group did their presentation and they were so passionate and had such a great pitch I wanted to vote for their idea. Then I got up to present. I hooked my laptop up and it wouldn’t work. The projector screen and my laptop screen were reversed. I nor the tech could get it to work. Thankfully, I had my presentation on a jump drive and we just used another laptop. After what seemed like an hour but was probably only about 5 minutes, I was ready. I did my presentation and it was the best I had done. I thought it went really well. The judges asked some hard questions but I thought I handled them okay.

The third presenter did his pitch but I was too exhausted to pay too much attention. The vote was taken and the first group one. I was disappointed but I knew they deserved the win and I was excited that they were going to see their dream fulfilled.

Thanks to all the people who made Birmingham Startup a reality. You did a wonderful job.

Would I do it again? Absolutely . . . just not next weekend. I need to get some rest.

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