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Launch48 - a startup camp overview

By Guest Author on Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

Written by Irina Belsky Atlassian office

If you’re thinking of launching your own startup but aren’t sure of how to take the first plunge you should consider taking part in Launch48.

Launch 48 is weekend startup camp where teams of entrepreneur hopefuls had 48 hours to create and launch their online business.

Just think StartupWeekend and BootUpCamp.

The latest Launch48, which I attended, was on from Friday 28th October until Sunday 30th October at the Atlassian office on Sussex street, Sydney.

I’ve never been to a startup camp so I wasn’t sure what to expect (or whether I was even qualified to be there). But I went anyway and I’m glad I did.

It was an amazing learning experience so I thought I’d give you an overview of how it went down and what I learnt in the process.

Brief recap of the weekend

Friday 6 p.m. - 10 p.m

The evening began with a brief introductions and a quick speeches from guest speakers, who included: Bart Jallema, Andrew Laurie and Jean-Michael Lemieux.

Every person who registered their idea, gave a sixty second pitch with the best ideas decided by votes. The four ideas we decided on were:

  • GiveTeams: an online group gift giving service
  • SittingSocial: an online service matching pet owners and amateur pet minders
  • Locongo: a service providing local experiences for tourists
  • Happy Tribe: an online platform to help you participate in socially responsible and charitable activities

People then chose the idea they wanted to work on most and broke up into teams. I wandered over to join the SittingSocial team because I love animals and I’d never heard of a similar service. After having brief team meetings we finished the evening with casual (drinks) networking at a a nearby bar.

Saturday 9 a.m.- 9 p.m:

Each team began planning and developing their idea with support from mentors who floated around the office to give their advice.

Mentors included: David Ansley, Domenic Carosa, Stephen Burke, Soren Harner, Venessa Paech, Rebekah Tucker, Tim Batten and Grant Downie.

During two formal board meetings with all the mentors we had the opportunity to:

  • explain our idea more thoroughly
  • gain a better understanding of the business building process
  • ask questions and discuss any bumps on the road

Sunday 9 a.m.- 9 p.m

The goal of the final day was to have a ready product to show by 5 p.m., during the final pitches. More mentors came to visit the office and were able to provide fresh perspectives and advice on each idea.

Additional mentors included: Enjel Phoon, Nathan Mattock, Ryan Bigg, Martin Kemka

During two additional board meetings we:

  • talked to the mentors about our progress
  • discussed the content of the final presentation
  • dealt with last minute problems

The pitches wrapped up at 6 p.m. which concluded the formal part of the event, leaving everyone with time to catch up and get to know members of other teams during dinner and casual networking.

What I got out of it

Networking

Never underestimate the power of community.

I met some amazing people at Launch 48, people that taught me a lot about legal considerations, business models, PR, marketing, monetisation strategies, pitching, business development, funding opportunities, events, useful organisations and much, much more.

The experience and achievements of these people were also inspiring to hear. The story that was most relevant for us as participants was probably Marty’s (Martin Kemka). He took part in Melbourne’s Launch 48 in April and continued working on his idea WeTeachMe to successfully launch and develop it as a viable business.

Knowledge is obviously power and when your time is precious it’s logical to find the best  and quickest way to get the information that will help you set up your business. Tapping into the entrepreneur scene is one of the most valuable things you can do if you plan on starting your own business or if your business is in its seed stages.

Monetisation and Marketing - Learn It

We were asked about our business model and customer acquisition strategy again and again. I’m sure every team was asked similar questions but our additional challenge was having a service with a two sided market. This made coming up with a business model that satisfied the needs of both target markets was particularly difficult.

What we learnt (from Dominic Carosa): is that generating revenue from website advertising is probably not the best way making a profit.

Marketing and promoting a new service is always crucial, especially when it’s something that hasn’t been done before. When the success of a service depends on the number of people using it getting a crucial mass of consumers is a necessity.

What we learnt: with a new service, the best way to reach the target market is to approach them directly. This means finding where communities of potential consumers are, informing them about the service and giving them an incentive to use it (free trial for example).

The Importance of the Pitch

The problem I saw again and again during the initial sixty second pitches was that people were unable to concisely communicate their idea and this affected how many votes they received. Some of the time the idea itself was faulty but for the most part people simply didn’t know how to ’sell’ their ideas.

You may never be in a situation where you only have sixty seconds to pitch but I think it’s really worth practicing a sixty second pitch. Record yourself, see how it sounds. If you were someone else, would you understand and like the idea?

Legal considerations

Assume that every consumer can sue you and will, if they have the opportunity. Eliminate that opportunity. For an online business terms and conditions and a privacy statement are the first step. You don’t have to go to a lawyer to create either one, just see what other online businesses include in theirs and customise them to fit your own business.

Useful tools

These are some of the tools used by other members of my team to contribute to the project during the weekend.

To Sum Up

The intensity of that experience and being in a 48 hour lockdown bred amazing creativity and forced people to be as productive as possible, because there was so little time to put everything together.

I was very impressed with Atlassian for lending us their office. They let us raid their free vending machines, use their conference rooms, play table tennis and drink their beer, all for a good cause of course.

What I loved most about the weekend was the support and encouragement that the mentors and organisers gave us. There was no negative judgement passed down only advice, guidance and an overload of useful information.

Last words: Launch48 is the place to meet amazing people, learn bucket loads and get that extra push to put your idea into action.

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