#LessonsLearned @SWChi

It’s kind of like speed-dating. You’ve got this little window of 10-20 seconds in which you must capture your audience’s attention and engender the ineffable, refulgent glow of potential recognized. You know, to kick that internal monologue: “That, man… THAT idea’s got LEGS!” How’d I get me summa that?

Or at least that’s how I imagine it. Like speed-dating, speed-entrepreneurship competitions have are populated by people at the extremes of competence and credibility. There are the pros, who spit their game like it’s the only sixty-second syntax chain their brain holds dear. They articulate each phrase well, and their eyebrows waltz in perfect time with the words they animate. But with prowess comes the other side of the spectrum. The desperate at Startup Weekend were, um, very much so.

After pitches we congregate, collaborate, extrapolate and incorporate; Chicago’s new tech potentates cerebrate. From team-based co-mingling and fifty-four hours of incubation come ideas brought to the edge of happening. Winners might Y Combinate.

Rhyming aside, I found my experience at Startup Weekend interesting. It forced me to think quickly and with a degree of granularity I’m not used to applying to the “real world.” I met marketers, tech bloggers (for one of whom I might be contributing a column on college students and technology), lawyers, students, hipster organic cycling enthusiasts, and the most preternaturally energetic 30-somethings ever. I ate a dozen tiny bags of PopChips and several WaoBao baos, but my real fuel was autogenous norepinephrine and the three xanthines found in yerba máte, which was imbibed by the double-brewed mugful. I met people and had many of those “Ohmigod I’ve followed your Tweets for months! It’s a pleasure to meet you in person!” moments. I actually found out what Twitter’s target-audience is: them.

The degree to which I’m ignorant of the technological space is astonishing, and I now understand that I’ve been looking into the wrong end of the telescope: the universe of aforesaid ignorance is much larger than I ever imagined. I introduced myself as a Luddite, they called me a “normal” and spoke their acronym-heavy language slowly and loudly to me. Now, I can’t build out a UI over a back-end API, but I can understand what’s being talked about.

I asked myself as I stumbled into my room on Sunday night , remembering that I had school the next day, and realizing that I’d gotten no work done over the weekend whether I’m doing this again. Hell yes. It says something that an undergraduate-led team won SWChi, and I’m proud to say that the winning idea’s progenitor, Colin Young, is a good friend of mine. I’ve attached a video of the Uber Cmd pitch, delivered by Mr. Young himself. It begins on the embedded video below at 1:23:00.

http://www.ustream.tv/flash/video/10866892?v3=1

Congrats again, UberCmd.

Author: Jason D. Rowley

As I mentioned elsewhere, I wear a lot of hats. Currently, I'm interested in VC data, early stage startups, and journalism. Previously I've been a blogger, designer, researcher, startup founder, (temporary) college dropout, connector, occasional branding designer and amateur chef.

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