This January, 2016 three NWCCI students pulled together their ideas and went out into the vast world of Seattle start-up land. Seattle’s EuroSeattle 3 is organized by UP Seattle, which is a part of a global movement dedicated to ensuring that anyone can experience entrepreneurship, no matter where they live. In the 54 hours, participants of EuroSeattle 3 are encouraged to find others with complementary skills and the passion to build a product or service in one weekend. In this blog, Vijay Kumar, an NWCCI participant from Pakistan, currently studying business management at Edmonds Community College shares his experience and the process he went through to pitch an idea to a group of successful entrepreneurs.
It requires a unique ability to consider something as an opportunity, and to have enough courage to make something great out of it. It was random, one day, when I was surfing the internet in my friend Khurram Ali’s apartment, when I found out about an upcoming startup weekend in Seattle. It would be three days in Seattle, exploring practical skills, entrepreneurial skills, and a chance to meet with many different entrepreneurs, ranging from the people who have just started their “startups” to the people representing many giant corporate companies. We three (I, and my fellow NWCCI participants, Khurram and Phani) didn’t hesitate to sign up for the opportunity. We were excited to experience a new environment in Seattle for three days.
Although we were provided with the schedule for three days, we had little idea about how it would work. Before going, we discussed our business idea with each other over a late night coffee session. On the first day, Friday, all the participants had to practice creating teams, work together on developing their business ideas, and at the end, pitch them in front of all the fellow participants and business coaches . The pitch could only last 60 seconds. This made the job of most participants difficult, their ideas required more time to allow other people to understand. However, as it was just a practice session, we realized that there was nothing to worry about. While everyone created their teams and prepared to pitch their idea, a business coach sitting in front of us asked us, “Why are you guys here”? “We are here to learn the practical entrepreneurial skills,”I replied.
Plans for rest of the day and the next two days changed when suddenly, my team and I realized that we could try pitching our own idea just to experience what it takes to present an idea in front of people. I, without wasting a single moment, stood up and wrote my idea over a blank sheet of paper with the random name, “SpotCart”.
As soon as the process started, we found out that somebody else had a similar idea like ours. We decided to merge our ideas to work on it together. Because of this, we managed to make our idea among top 10 ideas. The merging didn’t last long though, because the owner of the other idea decided to join another team with a different idea because he wasn’t confident enough to continue with our idea.
The idea behind SpotCart was simply to create a mobile application that would allow people to navigate almost every item in the grocery store with the tip of their finger. The users of the app just need to mention the item they need from a particular grocery store and the app will direct them to the item, therefore, saving their time and efforts. Not only that, but the app would allow the users to track their spending history for each item they purchased in a certain time period. For instance, in a week or a month, the app calculates what items the shopper spent most on. It would also allow him/her to be able to better control their spending. Additionally, the app would enable people to effectively budget their spending before entering any store so that they can once again, consider the necessity of the items to purchase. Behind our idea of developing an app, was also the concept of growing consumerism in our society, where people are constantly running to buy more things. Our app idea would help make the just trade-off between what they need, and what they want.
Part of the Start-Up Weekend process of competing with our idea was to get validation from customers. This, particularly, made all of us feel like we actually struggled. We went out and talked to many shift managers and employees at major super stores in Seattle, as well as Lynnwood, including Whole Foods. In fact, we finished our customer validation process at Safeway in Lynnwood at 11 p.m. We enjoyed talking with many people and sharing our idea and getting their response. Actually, we were thrown out of Costco and Whole Foods for not getting advance permission to ask their customers, a lesson learned the hard way.
The last part of the process was to give a presentation in front of the judges and coaches who came from prominent organizations like Amazon, Microsoft, North America for Sage and Nordstrom. It was a proud moment for us to realize all the hard work we had completed over the previous three days.
The idea, which was discussed once over a casual cup of coffee was now real, making its way into peoples’ minds. From this whole process, I wish to highlight the efforts of a software engineer from Amazon, who guided us through the process, and helped us to maintain confidence in our idea.
Although we didn’t win the competition, these three days taught us a lot of important lessons. For instance, we realized that success is not a thing which comes overnight. There is a lot behind a successful story which, at first, might be hidden. Moreover, we learned the importance of persistence in our goals. The guy who we decided to merge with didn’t feel enough confidence to continue with our similar idea due to shortage of team resources. However, our belief made us stand for our idea and compete. We learned that it is not the outcome which makes the difference, it is the journey which makes us strong and gives a tremendous and invaluable experience. We three, returned from Seattle on Sunday night with a sense of achievement and full of energy.
Our presentation describes our idea in detail and all steps we followed for those three days. You can view our slideshow presentation here.
The NWCCI program is part of the Community College Initiative, an exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The opinions expressed in this blog by writers and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of the Northwest Community College Initiative program, Edmonds Community College, Whatcom Community College, Pierce College, the United States Department of State or any employee thereof. NWCCI and Edmonds Community College are not responsible for the accuracy of the information supplied by the student bloggers.