Review of Brisbane StartUp Weekend and CityHack

It’s been 3 weeks since my last blog upload, so it’s time for another article. Over my last two weekends, I’ve attended two of my favourite events so far, so in this blog, it’s only fair that I share the the things that went down at both of the events and the things that I learned from both of them. Please forgive me for the stylish headings (trying something new and still unsure if it’s a good or a bad idea).

— — — — — — — — — — Catering — — — — — — — — — —

I wanted to start with catering because I’m pretty sure that you get your value back from the event in catering alone. I paid $50 for Brisbane Start Up Weekend and $30 for CityHack and both events gave phenomenal catering. Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner was served at both events over the 54 hours (with unlimited seconds and refills in most cases). Pizza, Burritos, Burgers, Chicken, Alcoholic Beverages, Soft Drink, Chiseled Chocolate were some of the things that I got to enjoy over the two weekends.

Some of the food during Start Up Weekend and CityHack. Should have been there :P was tasty.

— — — — — — — — Event Structure — — — — — — — —

Both of the events went for 54 hours (starting on a Friday and finishing on a Sunday) and both were challenging. Typically, the first day begins as an introduction from the event organisers and they tell us everything that’s about to happen over the next few days. Then after the introduction, a few people give their 1 minute pitch to the crowd. At both events there were so many great ideas pitched. Start Up weekend had a fair few more people pitch, mainly because there were people that came to the event exclusively to pitch their ideas.

Day 2 is where all of the grind happens. It’s the day your team puts a lot of effort into validation and into developing a prototype. During Start Up Weekend, we receieved mentoring from a variety of mentors to help us validate our project.

On Day 3 your prototype should be finished and your group should be ready to present. If you haven’t finished your prototype by day 3, you better. If you’ve really taken advantage of the event, you’ll find that you would have made some connections with some really cool people throughout the event.

— — — — — — — — What did I do — — — — — — — —

Start Up Weekend

Taiste — A recommendation system that recommends clothing based on latent properties of the clothing.

The team I was in was composed of 3 hackers and 1 hustler. As a team of developers we just wanted to develop the weekend away and play around with some Machine Learning. So we’d decided to make a mockup web application that recommends you a dress based how visually similar it is to the dress currently clicked (e.g. recommending dresses based on latent aesthetic qualities such as floral patterns). I’d also never done much web development in the past, so it was a good opportunity start to build those skills. I mucked around in both Flask and Django for the first time during the event which was a good experience.

City Hack

Brisbane Green Space Project —Provide solutions for population growth and sustainability for Brisbane city.

This idea was one that I actually pitched on the opening night for CityHack and an idea that had been running through my head for a while. I’m a pretty big environmental person and I really think more people should be caring and trying to help solve the environment (we only have one chance). All I saw this hack-a-thon was as an opportunity to positively influence a leading town planning company for Brisbane (not to win). After the pitch I had two awesome people approach me who wanted to build upon the solution throughout the week (one person being a 3rd year town planning student, and the other being a Business student). The ideas take a bit of explaining, but I’ll try.

The long term solution that was pitched was to get Brisbane moving away from individual residential houses towards residential appartments. These residential appartments would be equipped with vertical gardens and be powered with sustainable energy. They would also have community spaces that would encourage more community engagement (there is almost none in existing neighbourhoods). Because people would now be living in the residential buildings instead of homes, you’ve suddenly created this area (from the houses previously being there) to create more Green Space in Brisbane.

The short term solution that was pitched to AECOM was to get them to start implementing Green walls on their existing buildings/infrastructure. Green Walls already exist and they can be implemented immediately (the only issue was maintenance and cost). This idea is actually being taken further, and we’re now working on tech to automate the maintenance of Green Walls so that they can become more cost effective and implementable in major cities.

Our powerpoint slide for Green Wall ideas

We exerted a fair amount of effort into validation with our project, and it was worth it because we found some pretty interesting things. Majority of our validation came from posting our survey on our personal Facebook and twitter posts. We also hit Brisbane streets and got a few people to take our survey. All up we got 100 people to take the survey and these were results that we achieved:

  • 70% of people agreed with the following statement: Brisbane is currently not a sustainable city, and is in need for more green space.
  • 74% of people believed that adding more greenery to the sides of buildings would make buildings in the city more green. 80% of people also believed that more rooftop gardens would do the same.
  • 98% of people agreed that seeing more trees in the cities made them happier
  • 60% of people also responded with a yes to the following question: Would you throw yourself into debt (that most likely wouldn’t last forever) if it would save the environment?

To me I believe the environment is so important to us all right now, and money is now just a tool that will help to achieve these things necessary to fix the environment. Also cool quote from Jobs, I like it because anyone really can change the world if they believe they can:

“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones that do” — Steve Jobs

— — — — — — — — Lessons Learnt — — — — —— — —

  • Validation is key. You want to send out your teams’ surveys as soon as possible. You could have the coolest product in the world, but if it’s not validated and people don’t want to use it or see a need for it, it won’t be successful. Get validation back quickly so that you can take in the feedback and make those major pivots earlier rather than later. Don’t be afraid of asking real people on the streets for their opinions either (you’ll constantly hear them say “get outside of the building”).
  • Really get to know who your target market is. You should have a good idea by the start, but through validation you should become more specific to who it is that you’re targeting.
  • You don’t lose as much sleep as you think. For a 54 hour event, you’d think it’d drag out and you’d be burning the candle at both ends. It all comes down to what the end goal that you want to achieve and how much effort you believe it will take in order to execute that goal. Plan your time wisely and prioritise tasks.
  • For the competitions like Brisbane StartUp weekend, if you go to these competitions with the mindset of starting a company and making sales you’re going to do well. To win, they want to come up with a successful business model that is implementable. If you’ve made sales during the competition you’ve just proven that.

— — — — — — — — — — Prizes — — — — — — — — — —

Prizes at the events were crazy. CityHack16 gave out a first prize of $10,000 and a second Prize of $5000… wow! There was also an Amazon Echo that was given away for the most memorable pitch at CityHack16 (that I somehow managed to win).

StartUp Weekend did a really good job the winners and place-getters got 3 months of access to RiverCityLabs in Brisbane, Uber Credits, and so many things that I actually can’t remember. There was also an Xbox One casually given away to the person who displayed the Brisbane Start Up spirit throughout the whole weekend.

Even if you didn’t win there were things like AWS (Amazon Web Services) credits given out to all competitors that you could utilise during the competition. There were so many prizes and given out at these competitions that I literally cannot remember them all off the top of my head.

Results

I’m not going to lie, I finished this article a week ago and have only been procrastinating because I forgotten the results of the competitions. I thought that this would be an important section of the blog and should be included, so I’ve put in the effort to find the results out. That was my apology and here are the results:

Brisbane Start Up Weekend

  1. Teerah — Task Management for system for chores in share houses
  2. HaiBOX — Cheap home automation device for the everyday person
  3. BloodPact — Donate blood to get cheaper insurance premiums

CityHack16

  1. The Hub — Smart Electronic Billboard system for City Information

2. The Dugong Protection Society — Flashing Street lamps that uses Computer Vision to lead people the correct way during times of disaster.

3. Eventify — Easier way to organise events and with government approval.

Encouragement Award: Brisbane Green Space Project

Summary

Events like these are definitely worth going to. You don’t lose as much sleep as you think and they’re a great opportunity for networking. I learnt that validation of your business model is very important. There’s a crazy concoction of ideas delivered in the pitches that are so interesting to listen to. Forming a group and developing team work skills with new people is a great skill to have and I’m glad that I was able to develop those. Pitching yourself is a great opportunity to increase your public speaking abilities as well.

I’ll try upload a blog a fortnight. To make up for this late one, I’ll upload one next week. The next one that I upload will most likely be the things I’ve done, read and learnt during 2016.

If you didn’t mind reading this article and believe others could benefit from reading it, hit the recommend button ❤ Thank-you it means a lot.