Startup Weekend: It’s just the Second day!

This is in continuation of my experience at Startup Weekend Hyderabad. The first part can be read 

November 23, Day two

This morning I woke up to an exciting start. Why? I don’t know. The last evening was way too much activity for me. Will the excitement sustain? With that in mind I set off for the venue.

The scene at the venue was quite different from last evening. Every team had already started working on their ideas, brainstorming every single detail. And I got with my team and started working. Now to proceed forward, I need to introduce my team’s idea.

Our idea was a very small GPS device which could be put in a watch, a bracelet, a key chain or in anything the user wants. It was one device, multiple form factor products. Unlike other devices, we had a provision for a location awareness signal and an emergency signal. And as soon as an SOS signal is sent, we place a call and a message to registered numbers. What set us different was we made a standalone device and not an app. The device wasn’t dependent on a phone, it was on its own. And we called it Panic Control.

That was how our final product shaped but how we came to that point is the most interesting journey and worth more than any prize we could get. It took seven of us, 10 hours to decide the specifications, and less than a day to get the back end services ready. As an undergraduate this experience taught me much more than any volunteering I’ve done in my college or anywhere.

Every time we thought we had the final design, something hit us and we had to go back to the drawing board. And to think of, I don’t think there was any team which had such lengthy discussions like we did. We literally took over the drawing board and kept it to ourselves.

But the second round was not only discussions. Startup Weekend is All action and no talk. And that is what we did. Our software end started working on as soon as we decided our product. They worked non stop to make things possible. They even stayed up all night at the venue to make the call facility working. This was how much they believed in the product.

The software was just one part of the idea. Hardware was as important too. And, this is amazing, I and along with our team leader (and founder too) Vivek worked hard to design the circuit. We scouted for all the possible components to make the product cheap and reliable. We didn’t have time to make a prototype and test it. But we did have required components to have the prototype up and working.

But what about manufacturing? This was my first, we called up vendors who agreed to supply us parts for a lot cheaper price and almost cut a deal with an electronics manufacturing unit. And a day before, I was at my college with no idea about my future.

We also had to come up with a business plan. This was especially tricky. The product has to make money. If it was Apple, we could’ve simple attached an ‘i’ and slapped the logo, price it at $199 and made profit. But we are not. We are a less than 24 hour old startup. Our business plan had to be robust, ambitious maybe, but possible. This was way trickier than our services part. The device had to be cheap but also cover also the input and output factors. We had to come with a plan which would break even in about 2-3 years and keep us going. After a lot of intense discussions and advice from mentors we came up with a plan.

Business plan, done. Software and back end services, done. Hardware design, done. But the exterior design? One opinion we all shared was the device had to be discreet and out of anyone’s attention. We didn’t want it to be big, chunky or out of place. So, it had to be one device and multiple form factors. And to complement all the work we have done, our team had a Industrial designer who could simply blow Jony Ive out. Uday, designer, came up with designs we could only imagine. These were the ‘Next big thing’ designs. The more we looked at the designs, the more we grew confident of our product.

Before the end of the day, we got a bit of gyaan from Pankaj Jain, of 500 Startups, on pitching our product.

By 9pm, a 19 year old undergraduate had more team-working, business and diplomatic experience than he had just a day before. And remember, this was just second day. As our software guys, Vamshi and Ravi, along with our designer stayed up all night, I left feeling satisfied and more excited.

Did the excitement sustain? Yes and it even increased.

Watch out for part three, the final day.

Srinivas Arcot

An eternal optimist with volatile cynicism.

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