Jess Strong and Priya Amin had the privilege of attending the inaugural Startup Weekend Pittsburgh Women's Edition back in March, at the Alphalab incubator space in East Liberty. We asked them to share their thoughts on what went down, and they were gracious enough to say yes. Below is their account of what transpired that weekend.
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To say it was inspirational would be a gross understatement. Over 80 intelligent and passionate women attended, pitched business ideas, and worked together to bring those ideas to life in 54 hours!!
These women spent a mere two days doing market research + validation, coding, designing, testing, building business models. And actual businesses were brought to life as a result! Here’s what we both individually took out of the incredible experience:
Being brave pays off.
It was so cool to see all 87 women ready to learn and grow from one another, but what was even cooler was to see the brave 40 or so women who made business pitches — some thought out and some made up on the fly. In fact, one which was made up by Marteen Garay from Invest In Her quickly became a crowd favorite (and our team’s project)! But some of those brave enough to stand up and pitch were lucky enough to bring their visions to life, and three lucky teams won interviews with AlphaLab’s coveted Accelerator program.
Collaboration is key.
I attended the event as a growth and networking opportunity, and to have fun. But what was truly inspirational was seeing those women who pitched ideas that hadn't taken off until that weekend when they managed to find the right mix of women to collaborate with. One of the top three winners was a company called WiSTEM, a program to encourage and assist women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers. The woman who originally pitched the idea broke down in tears of gratitude for her team’s willingness to bring her vision to life. Truly inspirational stuff.
Pittsburgh is AWESOME.
Seriously, I can’t get over how chock full of amazing resources this town has. Between the newly developed Code Academy down at Work Hard Pittsburgh, to the Abstractions Conference coming up in a few months, Pittsburgh is full of awesome tech and business resources for ALL entrepreneurs. Even if you’re not tech savvy, so many of these resources keep their doors open and welcome collaborators.
Finding the right team is everything.
At the start of the event, all 87 women voted on their top 11 ideas and then broke into teams ranging in size from 2-8. My team had 6, and I felt as though we had incredible energy and synergy on our team with complementary skill sets. Suggested ideas were welcome and we rolled with it; in essence, no drama. I thought that was just generally the case for everyone but that was false. Not sure if it was blind luck, a great mix of complementary skill sets, or the fact that several of us knew each other before the weekend. The bottom line is, finding the right partner/team is key. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses and communicating those openly with the rest of your team leads to long term success. The teams that really stood out had the best collaborators.
Women see the world differently.
The team that won, an awesome app called Go Jane Go, had an astute observation: their idea — and lots of the pitched ideas — would not have resonated with a mixed gender audience. I think women definitely see things differently, and thus bring unique ideas to the proverbial table; which is why groups like Propelle continue to succeed. But it was great to see this validated in action over the weekend.
Don’t hesitate to participate.
I knew in advance that I wasn't going to be able to commit to it 100% — even up until the day before, I was still wavering on whether I'd even go. But I'm so glad I did, because even 50% participation was exhilarating. I'd strongly encourage everyone to participate in something like this at least once. I felt like a "super savvy business person" with what I was able to share with the team. As limited as it was, my participation totally counted, and helped our team develop a stronger business case.
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Overall, we were BLOWN away by the hella smart women, the mentors, the judges, and OMG the food!! If you were on the fence about attending this year, GO NEXT YEAR! You’ll be so glad you did. And who knows, you may come out the other end as a fledgling entrepreneur!
ABOUT THE AUTHORS:
Priya Amin, the founder of ROKI Mom, is on a mission to empower moms to make the best choices possible for themselves and their families. Whether that means going back to work or staying home with your children, you will find a supportive community of mom's to help you become inspired and make that necessary change without any of the guilt.
Jess Strong is the driving force behind Whetstone Workgroup, a new co-working space located in the Aspinwall/Sharpsburg area of Pittsburgh. The space is designed with freelancers in mind, and is ideal for moms because it offers on-site drop-in childcare!