3 Day Startup NYC: Day 1 Mentoring

I love innovation. I love working with smart people. And I love working with limited resources around extremely tight deadlines.

3 Day Startup: 30 bright entrepreneurs. Ideas flow Friday night, business plan and product demo need to happen by Sunday night.

The program started out of UT Austin, and I attended as a participant at their first event. I actually pitched the idea that the group ended up building that weekend, which ended up spinning out into a company now called Moodfish. Nik has since taken Moodfish 1000x further, well beyond the simple idea I had. 3DS has grown tremendously since and is now a worldwide operation. They've held events in Germany, Spain, The Netherlands, France, Portugal, Israel, Chile, and China.

This weekend marks their first ever event in New York City. I had the privilege of working with a very talented team of individuals last night as a mentor. And Etsy also graciously sponsored the event.

As a mentor, I really enjoyed the discussions I had with these young entrepreneurs and technologists. Some common themes / feedback I gave:

  • For inexperienced / first time entrepreneurs, ideas motivated by a problem that they've experienced first hand are always the best. Once this problem has been identified, the next question to answer is whether building a product can solve this problem, and if that product can support a business.
  • Undervaluing current standards. Email, SMS, Craigslist, Post-it Notes: these are all established standards, and their simplicity and pervasiveness is what makes them awesome. When talking innovation, it's easy to get excited; remember these standards.
  • Maintaining scope and focus. The minimum viable startup (or product) is critical on so many levels: conveying the true value / pitching the idea to others, understanding the business, maintaining focus on execution, and minimizing your technological needs. Every additional component to the business ("and, we'll give 3% to charity") adds a tremendous amount of complexity to the business. Start simple.

As a sponsor, I find 3DS as a great way to meet people in a realistic and high-stress setting. As a 3DS participant, a successful weekend requires many real-world skills:

  • The ability to collaborate with people from totally different backgrounds. E.g. an engineer having a discussion with a marketing person about developing a landing page.
  • For engineers, comfort with a workbench, and the ability to rapidly prototype.
  • Execution. Having something to show by the end of the weekend. Finding a balance between working hard, working fast, and building simple and iterating.

Final presentations are on Sunday. I'll be serving on the panel. Get tickets for the final presentations on EventBrite.