The first official Startup Weekend took place over a period of 54 hours on Sept. 16-18, 2011. Danielle Scherman, one of the organizers, invited me to attend and being curious about how events like this actually take place, I could not turn down the offer. The process of bringing 70-100 people together to pitch ideas, form teams and prototype a business in a short weekend intrigued me. Looking back at it now, I realize it was much more than that. When I first decided to go, I was on the fence whether to observe or participate. What triggered it for me was a warmup exercise Maris McEdward used to stimulate idea flow called Half Baked. A bunch of seemingly random words were put on the white board. Then we were assigned to teams to pick two words and do a quick one minute pitch for this fictitious business idea. A good example of this was John Garcia's impassioned delivery of his team's choice: Fresh Underwear. He then went beyond the requirement and overnight developed the website you now see, essentially creating a business overnight. It's amazing what one creative individual can do. I love the web page. If it wasn't for the fact that he was a judge, I would have snagged him to be on my team for his obvious skill set. But now I am getting ahead of myself. My motto has always been, life is not a spectator sport, so when it came time to pitch a real idea, I took a number. Everyone who picked a number had 1 minute to do a pitch. I pulled #7 so had about 6 minutes to come up with an idea. Around the time #5 was completing his pitch, I came up with a name for my idea: Heart My City. The next moment of truth was whether or not your idea progressed to the team development stage. There were 23 ideas in total which got paired down to 8. The selection process was very organic. Everyone got 3 postit notes and voted for the ideas they felt they liked. Since my idea was #7, I held a paper with a big #7 on it. Now imagine 70 people, all in a room, standing and moving like random particles, placing these postits on your number. It was wild. When the dust settled, Heart My City had about a dozen postits on it. Enough to get me to the team formation stage. Get ready for another seemingly random event. 70 people now coalesce around the idea of their choice, coupled with your efforts to recruit a team amongst people you may or may not know. Some teams were as big as eight or as small as one. I was fortunate to snag two smart guys, Jason Axelson and Patrick Kelly, the Heart My City team. The rest of the time was spent in heads down mode focussed on business development and prototyping. The key benefits of a Startup Weekend is the dedicated time and space to work on a project, facilitators that manage the time and keep things moving. mentors and coaches that are available for advise, a positive, supportive environment to try out new ideas and last by not least, feedback on the strengths and weaknesses in your proposal. Looking back at Startup Weekend, I can say it was a challenging but very rewarding experience. But as challenging as a 54 hour weekend might be, it is nothing compared to what comes next, turning your Startup Weekend idea into a real business. We'll talk to several of the winners on the October 26th edition of Bytemarks Cafe and ask them what their experience was like and what is next for their startup idea. Hope you can tune in for that.