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Recap of Startup Weekend Madison 2018

Published April 19, 2018

Startup Weekend Madison was held Friday, April 13th through Sunday, April 15th at University Research Park. Ten Forward participated in SW Madison in a variety of ways - president Brian Samson and developer Hilary Stohs-Krause were on the core organizing team, while developers Victoria Guerrero and Alex Petitjean attended as technical participants. Below, Vickie writes about her experiences over the weekend.

What is SW Madison?

Startup Weekend Madison is a grassroots movement that creates a space for aspiring entrepreneurs to learn the basics of founding startups and launching successful ventures. Attendees give pitches, form teams, and then present their business ideas to a panel of judges at the end of the weekend. 

I've been interested in entrepreneurship and wanted to know more about the process. Startup Weekend seemed like the perfect place to learn how to take an idea and transform it into a revenue-generating venture. 

My goal for the weekend was to learn as much as I could and to practice my project management skills.

Friday night 

Startup Weekend Madison was an experience unlike any that I've ever had. On Friday night we had two amazing speakers; Sabrina Madison, founder of The Progress Center for Black Women and Alex Lindenmeyer, co-owner of Short Stack Eatery. Both women emphasized going outside of your comfort zone by doing things differently. They also highlighted the importance of creating a valuable product for your target audience, especially when you have first hand experience of the problem you are trying to solve. 

After the speakers, participants had the opportunity to give pitches for their ideas for products or services, and we all voted for the ones we thought were the best. 

The original 20+ pitches were thereby whittled down to the ten most popular ideas, and then the people whose ideas were chosen had to try and form a team.

This process was very competitive. There was a lot of talent poaching and team merging as participants (myself included) deliberated on which pitches were most likely to succeed. It was an orchestrated chaos that I really enjoyed. 

Once the final seven teams were formed, the night ended with each team choosing a workspace, assigning roles (ie: technical, marketing, design), and planning how to collect data for customer validation. We all had high hopes for what could be accomplished during the next 48 hours. 


Saturday was the longest work day. Luckily, we had delicious food (thanks to the organizers!) that left everyone adequately fueled. 

We brainstormed, pivoted, met with mentors, and refined our business models and MVP (minimally viable product). 

Determining our target audience took a considerable amount of time and deliberation. After we focused on the way we would connect with our audience, the team felt confident about our product and made more progress toward accomplishing our MVP: a web application that would create guides on how to start a project after answering a series of questions. 

Towards the end of the night, exhaustion began to set in as we accomplished our easy wins and prepared for the next day's presentations before a panel of judges.

We decided to take a mental break from our work and caught up with our facilitator, Jason Todd, who gave us some great advice on startup life in general and provided much needed feedback on our brand. 


Sunday was arguably the most exciting day of the weekend. We practiced our presentation, tested our prototypes, and refined our data as we prepared to be evaluated on our business ideas. Once presentation time came around, our projects were put to the test in front of the experts. 

Judges included: 

After giving it our all and surviving presentation jitters, the judges selected the winners:

My Signature Dish (1st for competition and 1st for audience favorite)

My Signature Dish is a service for people who want to learn a new recipe but don't know who to ask. Customers and chefs build profiles on the My Signature Dish website and connect with each other based on the skills the chef has and the dish that the customer wants to learn how to make. 

Darify (2nd for competition and 2nd for audience favorite)

Darify is a mobile app for people standing in line. Users roll the dice to see which one has to perform a dare. It can be a exciting experience for those who aren't afraid to take a dare. 

Creme de la Cloud (3rd for competition)

Creme de la Cloud is a liquid nitrogen ice cream vending machine operation. Milk is frozen by liquid nitrogen very rapidly inside of machine. The result? Delicious and customizable ice cream treats. 

Kintsugi (my team!, 3rd for audience favorite)

Kintsugi is a guidance engine for those who know that they want to do but don't know how to start. Users answer a series of personalized questions to generate customized guides for completing their goals. 

Overall the event was a great success! 

First place winners, My Signature Dish

What's next?   

I learned that it's extremely important to determine your target audience and revenue model early on. Anyone can have a great idea, but if the business idea doesn't demonstrate a clear deliverable that will make money, it won't be successful. 

My teammates and I posing with our final product, Kintsugi!

After my experience with Startup Weekend Madison, I plan to continue expanding my network and get involved in other entrepreneurship activities and workshops. This is something that one learns best by doing. 

As for my team, we plan to stay in touch and to continue to refine our business model over the next few months. We hope to someday take our product from an idea to a viable business venture. 

Author details

Victoria Guerrero

(Former junior developer)