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Startup Weekend Beijing: Joy, Pain, and Dropouts – Get a taste of startup life

Disclaimer: GWC is a marketing partner of Startup Weekend Beijing

I’m here volunteering for the 3rd edition of Startup Weekend Beijing, organized by Red Pagoda Resources, and sponsored by TechCrunch and China Startup Republic–  two big sponsors for this edition, with TechCrunch providing the winner with an exhibitor’s package at their upcoming TechCrunch Disrupt Beijing startup conference, and CSR potentially providing investment of at least USD $25,000 for the winning startup.

This is my frist time checking out an entire Startup Weekend event, from idea pitches to final product demos, and despite my previous qualms about the whole ‘co-founder dating’ model (I’ll expound in a future post), I’m impressed with the lessons that entrepreneurs and would-be entrepreneurs can learn through participating in this event.

Disclaimer #2: I’ve never done my own startup-  so I fall into the ‘would-be entrepreneurs’ bucket.  I know there will be seasoned entrepreneurs who will just tell people to take their Startup Weekend ‘entrepreneur diapers’ off and just jump into the thick of things.


What is Startup Weekend?

For those who are not acquainted with the Startup Weekend idea, it’s a 54 hour startup event that gives entrepreneurs a place to network and scout talent (co-founder dating, if you may), and a way for would-be entrepreneurs to get a crash-course taste of what it’s like to pitch an idea, manage a team, refine a business plan, and make the mistakes of creating a startup in a ‘friendly’ environment supported by VC’s providing coaching and feedback.  Basically, bringing a project from idea to launch over a weekend.

Starting on Friday night, participants get 90 seconds to pitch an idea if they have one, ideas are voted on by the group, and teams are formed around the participants whose ideas are selected.  Over the proceeding two days, the teams discuss, refine, create, and hack out their idea into a working demo or presentation deck to pitch a room of investors and a judging panel on that Sunday night.

Although the Startup Weekend organization itself has been alive since 2007, the Beijing chapter was only started last year.  Despite the short amount of time that Startup Weekend Beijing has been running, it’s seen some very interesting projects graduate from the program.  One of these is Meibao (美包), winner of Startup Weekend Beijing in June 2011, whose idea follows the luxury rental model, but for luxury handbags and purses.  A very interesting idea, especially in China’s luxury hungry market.  China is expected to take over Japan as the top luxury goods consumer in the world, a market that is driven by the Chinese society’s need to purchase status symbols to ‘show off’ to one’s peers.  Meibao caught DCM’s Ruby Lu’s attention, and was invited in for a second pitch, though in the end there was a lack of fit regarding the team, and the founder has put the project on hold while she finishes her business school degree.  tukeQ (途客圈) is another Startup Weekend Beijing project that received interest from investors, and was eventually accepted into Innovation Work’s incubation program.


No Sugar Coating

Despite the ‘training wheels’ concept of Startup Weekend, it’s no walk in the park.  There were about 35 people in attendance on Friday’s idea pitching night, and 5 ideas were selected from the 14 that were pitched.  There are now 28 participants and only 4 teams left who are still ploughing through the weekend with their ideas.

As real startup life goes, there are some people and projects who just don’t make it.  Some participants packed up and left when they received the result that their idea wasn’t chosen as one of the final projects, and a whole team (a team of two: founder and co-founder) dropped out after receiving a double blow of not being able to recruit other participants into their team, and also after being told bluntly by one of the VC coaches that their idea just didn’t cut it, and was probably the reason why no one joined their team-  tough love!


Sneak Peek at the Teams

The teams are wrapping up their presentation decks and ironing out their pitches for the culminating Demo and Pitch evening, with the hope of taking away the free TechCrunch Disrupt exhibition package and a chance to receive USD $25,000 investment from CSR.  To give a quick peek into the ideas that will be pitched this evening, here are the teams and their ideas:

SinoSlam! (Mobile Language Learning Game)

SinoSlam is a simple and engaging social game for chinese enthusiasts, to come together and compete to learn the world’s hardest language.

“We take away the pain of learning 汉字!”

LianShang 恋尚 (Love Fashion)

LianShang is an ‘online fashion stylist’ social network and platform, aiming to utilize what people already have in their wardrobes to help create new looks and styles.

“Users can put their clothes online into a virtual closet, so that our staff and user stylists can style their fashion.”

Hupeng 呼朋 (Group Dating)

Hupeng removes the awkwardness of online dating, by having fun activities with two of your friends.

“Your friends meet my friends.”

Apricot Forest 杏树林 (Doctor’s SNS)

Apricot Forest helps doctors to get the most relevant medical information, while providing a platform to socialize with peers.

“A doctor’s Twitter and SNS; a Facebook for doctors.”

(About the name: 杏树林 (xìngshù lín) is a Chinese story about a doctor who wouldn’t accept money from his patients, but instead, asked them to plant apricot trees.)

Grocery Store E-Commerce Platform [Dropped Out]

I didn’t get a chance to talk to this team as they left right after lunch on the first day, but their idea was along the lines of creating an e-commerce platform to help small mom-and-pop grocery stores sell and deliver groceries online.


Startup Weekend Beijing Pictures

Pictures taken by Duncan Leung.

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