Start up weekend Queenstown

By Kirstin in Other on November 05, 2014

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Queenstown Start up weekend was my first start up weekend, and it couldn’t have been in more inspiring surroundings.

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Having never attended a start up weekend I had my doubts as to the value I could provide, due the fact that I am a business person rather than a developer or designer. The reality is that start up weekend is primarily about starting a business, not developing or designing a website or smartphone app. It was clear from the first evening that the team felt I had something of value to offer. My previous experience of Lean startup principles, gained during the course of our work at Boost, proved to be pretty useful.

The team I joined was headed by a woman with a mission. Tamsin Orr-Walker is the Chair of Kea Conservation Trust and she works tirelessly for the conservation of the world’s only alpine parrot – the endangered Kea. Dwindling numbers of Kea have proven difficult to track as they roam over a very wide area in the South Island of New Zealand. Tamsin’s idea was to create a quick way for people to record Kea sightings in the wild and then send a picture, location, time and date to the Kea Conservation Trust.

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During the 48 hour duration of start up weekend our team worked together to refine Tamsin’s idea into a feasible social enterprise business. To do so we undertook the following activities with the guidance of the weekend’s mentors and organisers:

The social enterprise canvas was an essential part of the process that really helped us to understand what our purpose was, the problem it solved, what the solution would be, who it was for, how it was different from other products in the market, customer segments and channels.

Once we understood our product we needed to validate the product with potential users. We did this via: in person interviews (on the streets of Queenstown), phone interviews with related industry contacts (Forest and Bird, tramping groups etc) and a widely circulated online survey that solicited over 100 responses. What we found was very encouraging. People were generally very keen to contribute to conservation efforts in New Zealand and considered a smartphone app to be a simple way of doing so. Validation also helped inform some technical build considerations. For example, we were able to ascertain that for many adventure tourists, internet access was an issue. Consequently we knew that the solution had to be able to store and send sighting information once the user was within range of a wireless signal.

Having validated the solution we pressed on with the identification of corporate sponsorship opportunities to fund development and marketing of the app. This step proved to be a bit tricky as it was difficult to sound out potential partners during a weekend. However Boost’s MD Nathan was one of the organisers of the weekend and the two of us did have a brief conversation about the possibility of Boost offering to be KCT’s development partner on the project.

The drafting, practicing and polishing of our final presentation was a somewhat pressured and nerve wracking process. We had two practice runs in front of our lovely group of mentors, who gave us suitably challenging feedback. The feedback we received prompted us to revise the presentation to ensure we presented the most convincing business case we could.

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After many practice run throughs our fearless leader Tamsin delivered the final presentation in front of a panel of judges, mentors and our start up weekend peers. A couple of thorny questions from the judges at the conclusion of the presentation and we were done. 48 hours of teamwork and we had a detailed idea of how the app might work, who it was for and what the uptake would be.

Although our team didn’t win the competition part of the weekend, I felt like I had gained invaluable experience of lean start up in a very condensed amount of time and I’d recommend the experience to any budding entrepreneur or simply someone with a great idea.

P.S We did decide to support the Kea Conservation Trust by providing a team to design and develop the app pro bono. Watch this space for the launch of Wildlife Tracker very soon.