MEGA Startup Weekend winner Eyes on Demand receives $25k Investment from Istanta Capital

Winner of the Robotics vertical at Startup Weekend MEGA, Eyes on Demand, gained some instant momentum following the April event when they received an investment of $25k from Istanta Capital.  Istanta Capital, founded by Matt Oguz in 2012, is an emerging fund that focuses on early stage startups.

As told to Ahmed Siddiqui, Startup Weekend Bay Area Coordinator, Oguz says, “This was my first time attending [MEGA Startup Weekend]. I was amazed by the breadth and depth of the startups there vs. other hackathons. The entrepreneurs in all three categories seemed serious about turning their ideas into startups then to real businesses.”

Read the full interview with Matt Oguz at

You Know You Want to Change Your Life. But How?

“My goal in 2010 was to get out of the automotive industry, where I’d worked for 9 years.  My job provided income but was uninspiring.  I wanted change but didn’t know how to get started, and then I participated in Startup Weekend.”

Listening to Ty Mathen talk about his nine year career in the automotive industry, it’s easy to imagine countless other people describing their current work situations.  Ty got into the auto industry through a combination of interest and circumstance but stayed because his job allowed him to provide for his family, not because it’s where his passion lay.

Ty knew he wanted a change.  But how could he identify a path that would lead him to something new and inspiring? Two weeks before Startup Weekend Tampa, Ty found out about the event through the Tampa Bay WaVE Organization and decided to attend.  He says, “Startup Weekend seemed like a good way to get noticed in the Tampa tech community and make a name for myself. I was on a mission to change my life.”

With the pressure on, Ty arrived at the venue Friday night ready to take first prize.  “Startup Weekend is a competition and I wanted to win,” he says.  His team, who were working on an application called, put their heads down and worked extremely hard all weekend: they had a well-rehearsed presentation, a landing page, and a working demo to share during the final presentation.

Despite all their hard work, didn’t win. The judges weren’t convinced by their business plan.  Ty says, “I was hurt when we didn’t win.  Hurt for myself and for my team.”

One week after the event, Ty was still disappointed but had come to a realization, “Startup Weekend was my opportunity to take the momentum of the event and push forward.  I didn’t win but that didn’t mean that I had nothing.”  The team had accomplished a lot during the weekend and Ty had developed confidence in his abilities and in his place in his tech community.

As he says now, “Startup Weekend was my way of getting my wife to let me quit my job.  I was disappointed I didn’t win but I realized the power of collaboration and just how much you can get done when you really focus.”  Determined to push forward, Ty worked hard on improving the business model and brought a co-founder onboard.

A few months after Startup Weekend, Ty applied to Gazelle Labs in Tampa.  There were some Startup Weekend folks in the crowd and they were impressed by how much work Ty had accomplished in the few short months since Startup Weekend.  Ty was accepted to the program, where he focused on his MVP. By the time Demo Day rolled around, Ty had found a mentor, a partner company, and had raised funding.

Looking back on the first few months of his life as an entrepreneur, Ty credits meeting the right people and building strong relationships as the building blocks of success, “I put everything I had into my Startup Weekend experience.  I worked hard to meet the right people and to build their trust in me.”

After almost a decade in the automotive industry, Ty was able to change his life in just one year.  Despite the challenges and the sacrifice, after a year of dedicated hard work he had a steady job again – the difference being that it was one he loved.

About Ty Mathen

Ty is a mover and shaker extraordinaire who’s passionate about anything Tech, Always up for the challenge and never backs down. Constantly looking for solutions and ways of solving problems. Proud husband and father of two.  And truly grateful for all the blessings that have been bestowed upon him. Follow him on Twitter @tymathen.

Why You Should Participate In Hackathons, Startup Weekends

By Esther Crawford (Co-Founder, glmps), published on Women2.0.

I’m writing this from a bus that’s traveling from Las Vegas to Austin with 30 guys and 4 women who are working round-the-clock to launch companies on this year’s StartupBus. My team is building Open Wallet, an app that lets you get cash from people nearby instead of having to go to an ATM.

It’s an invitation-only community of hackers, hustlers and hipsters passionate about startups that started in 2010 and has become an annual hackathon-style competition on buses traveling across America at 60 mph towards SXSW. Teams get formed and then the trip is spent building companies, gaining traction, and preparing to pitch top-tier angels and VCs in Austin.

Traditionally I’ve thought of Startup Weekends and hackathons as being places primarily for coders and designers, but I was wrong – there’s a place for everyone.

This is my first experience being a participant so if you’re sitting on the fence or worry because you’re a non-technical founder here are a few reasons to go ahead and put yourself out there:

#1 – Pitching.

A good pitch is needed for a team to win and a hackathon is the perfect place to practice pitching – you’ll have to do it a lot. Having a solid design or prototype is important but they can fall flat if the problem and solution isn’t able to be concisely conveyed.

#2 – Networking.

While there are a lot of great networking events and conferences there’s nothing quite like working with someone on a project, on a very tight deadline. A hackathon is the perfect place to find a potential co-founder, no matter what skill set you need for your next venture.

#3 – New skills.

It’s almost guaranteed that you’ll have to do something new because teams are small and everyone is scrambling to accomplish a lot in a short period of time. That means getting the chance to try out new roles and to learn from others – you can get real-time feedback and pick up shortcuts and tricks from your co-founders or e watch how other teams execute.

Editor’s note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Lea

The True Power of 54 Hours (Hint: It’s Less About the Amount and More About the Intention)

“Focusing on my startup idea for 54 hours consecutively let me look at the problem from so many different angles and allowed for constant pivoting – I discovered a completely unexpected answer that changed the whole product design.”

Last year, Henk-Willem Beks, a self-described “regular guy with an idea that nine times out of ten just never came to reality,” dreamed of working with his real passion, idea development, rather than in law or banking – his most recent professional focuses.  Unable to ignore his entrepreneurial dream, Henk-Willem had an idea for a long-term relationship management app that he was working on 5 or so hours a week.

When Henk-Willem’s friend and Startup Weekend Amsterdam Organizer Nick Stevens encouraged Henk-Willem to attend Startup Weekend, he had reservations.  He says, “It was just an app. My friends didn’t understand why I didn’t just build it, invest some money and see what happened.”

Despite his doubts, Henk-Willem decided to go to Startup Weekend.  Once he got to the event and started talking to the other attendees, he realized that Startup Weekend was about “more than just building an app.  It was immersion in a world of startups.”

Henk-Willem’s pitch for GoddessAlert received the 2nd most votes out of 75 total pitches; “Getting so many votes was great validation, GoddessAlert was no longer just an idea in my head!”

Now it was time to form a team that could bring the idea to reality.  Henk-Willem says, “Nick told me that I must have a designer on my team and he was right.  Until Startup Weekend I had no idea of the true value of a designer.”

With Dennis Ikink onboard as a designer and a well-rounded team of eight, the GoddessAlert team hit the ground running Saturday morning.  Henk-Willem was blown away by how much work was accomplished in such a short amount of time.  He says, “Learning what people’s strengths are, knowing how to utilize people’s talents, and working with such dedicated and hardworking people, it’s amazing how much you can get done.”

Because of the collective creativity and output and diverse perspectives, Henk-Willem was able to tackle problems that had stumped him in the past. For example, he was able to come up with a solution for gamifying GoddessAlert, which he believes has been instrumental in the app’s post-Startup Weekend success.

The GoddessAlert team won first place at Startup Weekend Amsterdam and today Henk-Willem, Nick and Dennis are still hard at work on the application.  GoddessAlert was #19 in the top 100 paid apps in the Dutch App Store, #2 in the Lifestyle category.

About GoddessAlert

GoddessAlert is an interactive application for iPhone and iPad that helps men be more attentive to the women (goddesses) in their lives.  The application features personalized coaching and helps long-term relationships stay strong.  Learn more at The app is also available in the US and UK App Stores .

First Steps in Disguise: Failing a Pitch (Twice!) Can be the Way Forward

“Working with other entrepreneurs at Startup Weekend, I realized that what they were doing and how they were doing it were the same things I’d been doing, too!”

Owen Morris came up with the basic idea for his location-based mobile game, Arg Zombies, while deployed in Afghanistan.  At that time Owen didn’t describe himself as an entrepreneur or a game developer.  He had experience in digital content and 3D animation but had never built a game from scratch.

After returning to the US Owen found Startup Weekend online and attended Startup Weekend San Francisco in August 2011.  Owen pitched the bare bones of his game idea, however, the pitch failed to grab the crowd’s imagination and he was unable to create a team.

Owen says of his first Startup Weekend experience, “Startup Weekend San Francisco was great because it showed me what it was going to take to get my idea off the ground, and it showed me that I had important skills to the bring to the table… as well as where to go to find good people when I didn’t have the right skills.”

Finding a group of people who were builders, innovators, and creative thinkers was powerful stuff.  Before Startup Weekend, Owen knew enough to know what he didn’t know; after Startup Weekend, he was introduced to a whole set of tools, thoughts, and people who were working on similar problems in similar ways.

After his experiences at Startup Weekend San Francisco, Owen decided to try the waters again, this time at Mega Startup Weekend in Palo Alto in September 2011.  The event was organized around 3 verticals, one of which was gaming.  Owen pitched Arg Zombies but again, was unable to gather a team around this idea. He says, “I’ve since worked on my elevator pitch, and tried to learn more about how to talk to people about a big idea like Arg Zombies.”

Despite the fact that he didn’t work on Arg Zombies at either Startup Weekend he attended, Owen still found value in events, “I learned that I was beginning a lean startup company, which was an important thing to realize.  After learning more about lean startups, and what I should be doing as the team leader, I started putting my energies into better places and really looking at the bigger picture and the longer term. It’s helped me move forward immensely.”

Since Startup Weekend Mega Owen has been hard at work on Arg Zombies.  He’s staying in touch with Aaron Cammarata of AJC Games, who lead the team that won the gaming vertical.  H is, as he says, “trudging” forward with Arg Zombies, and has welcomed a full time product manager to the team.

On March 1, 2012 Arg Zombies will launch on Kickstarter.

“If our Kickstarter campaign goes well enough that we can finish development our game engine, maybe we will be able to start developing more titles, and really bring our startup out of the garage! We are very optimistic about the future!”

Learn more about the game here and be sure to check out the Arg Zombies Kickstarter page here.

Register Now for the Zendesk Customer Service Hero Tour (Seattle)

The Zendesk Customer Service Hero Tour brings cutting-edge customer service insights to the masses through a free, half-day class in downtown Seattle. Early-stage companies and budding entrepreneurs will learn how to build a culture around exemplary customer service and maintain it at scale from two of the nation’s best-known consumer Internet companies, Groupon and Zappos, while hearing from Zendesk about the growing importance of customer service in today’s social media-fueled business landscape.

Afterwards, join us for drinks and discussion courtesy of Zendesk!

Register Now!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012 from 12:30 PM to 8:00 PM (PT)


Other stops on the tour include Los Angeles (Tuesday, March 6) and San Francisco (Thursday, March 8).



Miami Startup Weekend Winners Get Closer to Legalizing Crowdfund Investing

Guest post submitted by the team at

Sherwood Neiss had no idea was going to be the rallying call for all cash strapped entrepreneurs a year ago.  Back then he was just a frustrated entrepreneur when he showed up at his second Miami’s Startup Weekend event.  He’d won the prior one with an idea to use smartphones for instant polling.  “Nothing like the high of winning a Startup Weekend event only to have that bubble burst when you realize there’s no money out there to fund it,” says Neiss.  And he’s not alone.  Millions of ideas never get launched, not because they weren’t good but because there’s no money to fund them.

So he along with 2 entrepreneurs (Jason Best and Zak Cassady-Dorion) set out to change this.  Using the fundamentals of Crowdfunding, they matched it up with the principles of seed financing to develop a framework to allow entrepreneurs to raise up to $1M from their friends, family & community.  They called it ‘Crowdfund Investing.’

To see if the idea had merit, they competed in the next Startup Weekend event to build a Crowdfund Investing platform so that Startup Weekend winners could crowdfund money right at the event and have working capital from Day One.  Low and behold, they won.

Then the uphill battle in Washington, DC began.  Since taking money from unaccredited (aka non-millionaire) investors over the Internet is illegal they had to convince the SEC to update the Security Laws to allow for this small window of seed financing.  What they faced was a deeply entrenched and heavily funded bureaucracy that refused to change.

This didn’t stop them.  They were called and testified in two House hearing, got President Obama to include their Crowdfund Investing framework in the American Jobs Act.  Got the U.S. House of Representatives to vote 96% in favor of their legislation.  (The President also endorsed this Republican-led bill in the House,).  And now they have 2 bills before the Senate.

But the Lobbyists and Special Interests (mainly made up of the SEC, State Regulators and Broker/Dealers) are waging a full frontal assault to stop them.  In an almost Stephen Colbert irony, the opponents are afraid if this tiny window of community-led financing is legalized it will question their entire relevancy.  That’s correct.  If the ability of State Regulators to oversee the crowd’s ability to make a decision of whether they think an idea is worthy of putting a few dollars behind it is taken away from them, then they are afraid that their role in policing the entire private markets is irrelevant.

Meanwhile back in reality, entrepreneurs, according to the SBA and Kauffman Foundation, created the bulk of the net new jobs over the past 30 years. Businesses create jobs.  Jobs create spending.  Spending gets us out of the recession.  “However unless we can get capital flowing, we won’t be able to create jobs,” says Jason Best.  “And if the traditional means of financing aren’t working, why not look to crowdfunding and let the community step in?  It doesn’t do away with the regulators but provides an on-ramp to more sophisticated financing when the crowd finds and backs the winning ideas.”

For Sherwood, Jason & Zak they believe the will of the entrepreneur can win over the deep pockets and curried favors of the Special Interests and opposing lobbyists in Washington.  And Senators are listening.  In order to show them the impact that legalizing crowdfunding can have, the three entrepreneurs have launched to quantify how many entrepreneurs could benefit.  How many jobs they can create in their first year and the economic impact this would have.

If you are a Startup Weekend participant or winner, sign up.  Share your story.  Collectively we can solve this problem and help foster entrepreneurship.  But it won’t happen without your support!

More information about Sherwood Neiss, Jason Best and Zak Cassady-Dorion and their struggle to legalize crowdfunding can be found at

When You Lack Experience, Sometimes Simply Participating Is Enough To Get Started

“If not for Startup Weekend, when I graduated I’d be looking for jobs like my classmates instead of creating them.”

When Anna Sergeeva and Fei Xiao attended their first Startup Weekend in LA in February 2011 they didn’t quite know what to expect.  With no real understanding of front or backend design and as the only college students at the event, Anna and Fei felt out of their element.  Their classes in entrepreneurship at USC had whetted their appetites for the world of startups but they weren’t founders and didn’t know anything about coding.

Despite any doubts, on Friday night they pitched an idea.  It was an idea that, somewhat to their surprise, proved popular with the other attendees.  With a team in place, they got what Anna describes as a “crash course” in technology.

“We had an awesome and understanding team,” Anna says. “They could tell we didn’t have much experience, but they were very supportive and brought us up to speed on everything from wire-framing to agile development.”

Not to let the momentum of Startup Weekend fade away, by mid-2011 Anna and Fei had participated in Startup Bus and found a USC graduate student to come on board as TrueRSVP’s CTO.

Anna and Fei presented onstage at DEMO (September 2011) where Fei made quite an impression with her choice of outfit – a wedding dress is something of a novelty at a tech event. TrueRSVP won a DEMO God award and went on to secure angel funding.

With the validation of the DEMO community and funding to boot, Anna and Fei graduated early in order to work full time on TrueRSVP.

“Going forward we have very exciting plans to leave our mark on the event planning industry and start our career as tech entrepreneurs,” says Fei. “It’s been a great learning experience and we’re excited for all of the opportunities that lie ahead.”

Looking back on where it all began, Anna says, “I owe so much to Startup Weekend.  It opened my eyes to the possibilities of technology, to the power of collaboration, and to the people who make startups happen.”

About TrueRSVP

TrueRSVP is the first RSVP system that predicts event attendance. The site’s proprietary algorithm analyzes details about each event and every attendee, including their reliability, in order to create “flake-proof” events.

ArabNet Digital Summit March 27-31 in Beirut: Apply for Ideathon Competition Now

ArabNet is the hub for Arab digital professionals and entrepreneurs to connect and learn.

Arabnet runs a series of events across the MENA region aimed at growing the web and mobile industry and launching
new digital startups. For the third consecutive year, ArabNet is holding the ArabNet Digital Summit in Beirut from
March 27-31, gathering over 1,500 high-profile executives and globally-renowned players.

This year’s summit is going to be even BIGGER! With 2 Developer Days, an all-new Industry day exploring the
ways in which web and mobile are transforming traditional industries, and exciting new formats covering the latest
in digital.

The ArabNet summit has a track-record of connecting participating entrepreneurs with funding and media exposure.
Again, this year ArabNet is providing the opportunity for top entrepreneurs to pitch their digital ideas and startups.

Don’t let this opportunity pass you by!

Don’t keep it an Idea, apply now to the Ideathon Competition!

If you’ve got a great idea for a mobile or web company, then the Ideathon is for you!

Apply for a chance to be one of 10 finalists who will present their ideas live at the summit. Each finalist will get 2
minutes in the spotlight to prove their idea is innovative and has strong business potential. The top three pitches will
win cash prizes and great ideas will get the attention of investors, incubators, and developers!
Deadline to apply: March 1st, 2012

Don’t stay a Startup, apply now to the Startup Demo Competition!

If you already have a startup that’s up and running, then the Startup Demo Competition will help you take it to the
next level!

Apply here for a chance to be one of 10 finalists invited to present their startups live at the summit. Each finalist
will get 5 minutes on stage to showcase their product and prove it’s worthy of the attention of media, incubators,
VCs, and investors. All finalists will get the opportunity to promote their startup with a booth at the Startup Demo
Exhibition throughout the Forum days and the Community day at the conference.
Deadline to apply: March 1st, 2012

Note: The startup has to be less than 2 years old, with less than 10 employees and less than $1M in funding.

This is the year to make your digital ambitions happen! Apply for the Ideathon & Startup Demo

Click here for more info about the conference.

Get to Work on Your Bucket List with Grappple

“Don’t just create a bucket list, accomplish one.”

The problem with bucket lists is that they always stay just that – lists of things that we want to do, but never get around to. Grappple is the inspirational social bucket list that makes it easy for you to organize your goals and connect with friends who also want to do awesome things.

Awarded second place at Startup Weekend San Luis Obispo, the Grappple team is working hard to release the web & iOS beta in the coming months. Check them out at to make sure you get an invite! 

Blog post submitted by Garrett Lauringson of Grappple. Learn more about Grappple here.