LA Startup Weekend Recap

Screen shot 2011-02-22 at 02-22-11  3.29.09 PM This past weekend I flew down to the “Silicon Beach” for LA Startup Weekend. It was a homecoming for me, and I got to see a lot of familiar faces in the SoCal tech scene. For those of you that aren’t familiar with Startup Weekends, they’re an intense three day event where attendees sprint to form teams, come up with an idea, and get it ready to be presented on Sunday night to a panel of judges. This year, the panel of judges was made up of angel investors, VC’s, and Ashton Kutcher (hey, it’s LA). There were about 100 attendees this year and ten teams:

Zaarly: A buyer’s market where everything has a price.
Hottie Spotter: An iPhone app that helps you find where the hotties are
Scene Swag: See a scene, buy some swag
GrubKlub: Helps you find underground supper clubs
Eventify Me: Turn your home into income generating space for events
Cork Hub: Sells exclusive wines, with a twist
RedLyne: Better contracts faster
MinBoxed: Encourage good e-mail behavior through badges and rewards
Find Your Mickey: Helps you find your personal trainer
GoAct.co: Drive action for your cause

The winners were Zaarly, Eventify Me, and GrubKlub. Combined, the teams took home $2,000 in cash, Coloft memberships, and a table at LAUNCH conference. Especially awesome for me was that two of the three winners (Zaarly and GrubKlub) integrated Twilio into their products. Here’s what Eric Koester from Zaarly had to say about the project and Twilio:

Screen shot 2011-02-22 at 02-22-11  3.12.46 PM What is Zaarly?

Zaarly creates a virtual bazaar at your fingertips: name what you want; what you’ll pay; and when you need it—right from your mobile device.  Zaarly transforms the outdated ‘want ad’ into a real-time, hyperlocal, personalized buying experience.  Buy what you want immediately from a wealth of instant sellers around you.  Zaarly lets users immediately offer to buy just about anything—sports tickets, access to the hottest private clubs, parties and special events, reservations at the swankiest restaurants, and so much more—the possibilities are endless.  The secondary market for events and tickets alone is a multi-billion dollar marketplace – and Zaarly can facilitate all of these transactions and more, openly and more efficiently.

Zaarly is in private alpha and is slated to launch a private beta at South by Southwest (SXSW) in early March.  According to LaunchRock, Zaarly is the fastest growing pre-launch product in LaunchRock history.  To sign up for the private beta, visit http://zaarly.com.

How did the idea come about?

The idea was a bit of a mash-up of ideas—both Bo Fishback and I had some similar ideas about enabling commerce via the mobile ecosystem.  So we decided to work together on this idea which originally was going to center around auctions.  However, we quickly realized that a much bigger, broader vision existed for a buyer-powered marketplace.  It’s the buyer who has the pain point—meaning the buyer can’t get tickets, can’t get a restaurant reservation, doesn’t want to shovel their driveway, needs a plummer, wants to upgrade his seats to first class.  And we realized that none of the existing markets put the buyer at the center of the commerce stream until Zaarly.

Zaarly really puts the buyer at the center of commerce—allowing the buyer to make offers in real-time to millions of instant potential sellers around him.  It actually creates a market of cash—I’m willing to pay $100 and anyone can have that $100 if they’ve got the item or service I want.  It’s pretty unique.  And that’s why we built a powerful platform for allowing this commerce. Twilio is the perfect partner since it helps enable instant connection between buyers and sellers.

How did you use Twilio?

In order to enable real-time, buyer-centered commerce, it was crucial that the seller and buyer could connect instantaneously. That meant the only way to do so was via mobile phone—and hence Twilio became the perfect solution.

This was my first Startup Weekend, and I’m hooked. I can’t wait until my next one. I managed to record of a few of the team’s pitches before my Flip ran out of recording space:

Zaarly‘s pitch

CorkHub‘s Walkthrough (also used Twilio!)

RedLyne‘s Pitch

MinBoxed Walkthrough

See all the photos over the weekend at TechFrog’s Flickr page.