NJ Startup Weekend – A Hackathon for Entrepreneurs

by Peter Hogan-De Paul

New Jersey Startup Weekend

While HackPrinceton was going on at the Princeton University campus, New Jersey hosted another large meetup for developing great ideas, the NJ Startup Weekend.

What Is Startup Weekend?

Part of a series powered by Google for Entrepreneurs, Startup Weekend focuses on entrepreneurs, developers and designers hacking together concepts for new products in under 72 hours! The goal is to come up with a complete proof of concept, with a simple working model for the product.

Startup Weekend

Last weekend’s event took place at the co-working space JuiceTank in Somerset, NJ, the perfect location for a large collaborative gathering like Startup Weekend. Open work areas, breakout rooms and personal workspaces abounded.

JuiceTank1

Everyone gathered Friday evening for an introduction and a couple of icebreakers, followed by the entrepreneurs presenting pitches for ideas to the group. Participants then voted on the concepts presented, and working teams formed around the different ideas.

Twenty teams were originally formed, but several merged due to lack of specific skills needed to get a concept off the ground. When the dust finally settled, the real fun began. Teams worked until JuiceTank closed both nights of the event, and many continued to work through the night outside of the venue.

JuiceTank2

Innovation Under Pressure 

A number of fantastic product ideas were pitched at Startup Weekend. Kwick was an application that used SMS messaging to facilitate financial transactions among users, similar to Venmo, but without the need for a smartphone application.

Plenty of Cats took a novel approach to helping animal shelters save cats by gamifying the process with their game “Meow or Hiss”, similar to Hot or Not. Using the Petfinder API, this group gained a lot of traction on Facebook over the weekend.

Winner! Winner!

The winners of the event, however, were clear favorites among everyone at the event!

The first spot went to Waddle, an app that integrates with social platforms, displaying a map of where the subscriber has traveled, based on posts to FourSquare, Facebook, Twitter and the like. By using date filtering to figure out when these events occur, the app lets users recall events by location, as opposed to having to sift through a timeline.

The second winner was Shop Smart, a tablet platform that can be mounted on shopping carts, providing consumers with their shopping lists as they travel through a store. Users can add items to their shopping lists before entering the store, and the same shopping list appears when they log in on the shopping-cart tablets. Location services in the store notify shoppers when they approach items they need and check the item off their lists by scanning the item using a barcode scanner attached to the device. In addition, the app could give users reminders about items they purchased before and may need to pick up, suggestions for recipes, and notifications of special promotions. This product really could revolutionize how consumers shop in supermarkets!

As winners, Waddle and Shop Smart will receive free co-working space at JuiceTank and were also made semi-finalists in the technology accelerator group TechLaunch. Both apps certainly promise to become much more with support from their teams and the generous support of sponsors.

Charging Station

Phone.com Supports Startup Weekend!

As a sponsor of the event, Phone.com offered both advice and support. Our popular device-charging station provided power for participants’ phones while they focused on honing their  concepts. I also threw my hat into the ring as a mentor for teams, to help with any unified communication questions or other technical questions team members may have had.

I strongly encourage anyone who has a  Startup Weekend going on in their area to participate and be inspired. Whether your team wins or loses, the relationships, ideas, skills and camaraderie built is well worth your time, sweat, and money. I’m looking forward to the next Startup Weekend myself, if only so that I can participate!

I’d also like to give a shout out to everyone who was involved in the sponsorship and organization of last weekend’s event, especially JuiceTank members Charlie Patel, Mason Carter, and Zion Kim. They and their team really delivered an excellent event in a wonderful space. Kudos to all!

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About Peter Hogan-De Paul

I am the Developer Evangelist for Phone.com and a technology enthusiast. RIght now I am helping to get the word out about Phone.com's new RESTful API. I am very passionate about scientific discovery and technological developments and love to find out more about the universe every day. On the side, I love to play and watch reviews of video games, work on electronics and robotics, and improving my set of knowledge about the world. For those interested, I'm a Scorpio-Sagittarius cusp. ;)

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