Last weekend, I had an opportunity to attend the first ever 1871 Start-up weekend at the 1871 Start-up Incubator in downtown Chicago. 1871 is a collaborative space where Chicago’s brightest digital designers, engineers, and entrepreneurs are shaping the technical landscape. They provide a community, education, mentorship, and networks to digital start-ups to get their start in Chicago. They decided to host a weekend where students from the best schools in Illinois would come together and form start-ups of their own in a single weekend.
Over 80 students met at 1871 for a weekend-long event to build their own startups and participate in Startup 101 crash courses, keynote speakers, mentorship, pitches, and a grand prize for the winning team.
Mike Huffstetler, VP at 1871 summarizes the event perfectly. “1871 CEO, Howard Tullman, kicked off the night with a fast-paced, eye opening keynote: “So, You Want to Be an Entrepreneur?”. Howard shared his ideas about why businesses and technologies fail or succeed, and spelled out the keys to entrepreneurial success through the lens of his 40+ years of experience.“
Over 53 people pitched their ideas. Students voted on the top ideas and eventually self-selected into 9 teams ranging in size from 6-8 people. Saturday was packed full with startup courses and mentors engaging with teams to identify their core problem and validate their ideas in the community. The day kicked off with ADMCi’s workshop about customer validation. Students were taught how to ask the right kinds of questions to to properly validate an idea and fulfill a need in the market place. Using complementary Divvy passes (thanks Divvy!), students explored the city to find and interview potential customers. Upon return, they now had the insights required to synthesize their findings. This led to several thoughtful pivots, and then to ADMCi’s design and prototyping course.
One of the highlights of the weekend’s was Eric Lunt’s Saturday keynote: “A Code to Code By”. Some of Eric’s key lessons included:
- Code quality is more important than code quantity.
- Code must be peer-reviewed before it is committed.
- If the code isn’t tested, it isn’t finished.
- Make short iterations, and communicate frequently.
- No territories! No code belongs to one, single person.
- Set code formatting standards.
- Use free, open-source offerings to supplement creation and deployment (you don’t need to pay!).
- Design for scale at the very beginning.
- Any network, i/o can, and will, fail.
- Development environment should mirror production environment: at least two of everything.
Sunday afternoon arrived in a blink of an eye and after a massive amount of late night Lou Malnati’s deep dish pizza delivery on Saturday night (courtesy of SingleHop who also provided free hosting for teams throughout the weekend!), teams added the finishing touches to their presentations. Mentors arrived in the morning to help refine each team’s pitches.
Sunday was game day, and Fizz was born!