The third installment of Startup Weekend Las Vegas was held this past weekend. With dozens of participants, and after 54 hours of frenzied coding, designing, and building, 13 teams made their final presentations on Sunday evening.
The presentations included Proper, a platform to make the law easier for the layman to deal with through education, Phone 2 Action which seeks to easily connect constituents with their local government representatives, and Elutria, a metasearch platform which enables travelers to easily find lodging in sustainable hotels. The team from Pitchanator hopes to to “rid the world of slide decks” with a tool that incorporates audio and HTML 5 to create interactive presentations. Home Connect is working to put the emotion of home buying into the digital space, while Price Meals helps users to manage their home kitchens with recipes and reminders based on items in their pantries (their presentation also included some great dancing). The team from Post A Buy created a tool which enables shoppers to connect with sellers on their own terms. Another team created an app that connects passionate sports fans in offline settings, Rootrz. Finally, Growing Up enables parents to curate content for their young children.
The judges for the presentations were Zach Ware of Zappos, VegasTechFund, and Downtown Project; Executive Vice President of Cloud at Switch, Jason Mendenhall; and Martin McBroom of Marks, McBroom, Walston & Co., an investment advisory firm headquartered in Los Angeles. Despite having to choose the winners, Mendenhall offered all of the teams encouragement: “All of you should continue to work on what you’ve done,” he said to the participants.
Taking third place was InstaGripe, a mobile “platform for insanely responsive customer service.” Mendenhall said the product “spoke to the soul” of the judges and the desire in all consumers to complain and have those complaints heard. Mendenhall also noted that the team seems to have already created some traction which can help them move forward in the marketplace. InstaGripe was also a big favorite of the crowd with their hilarious setup video.
Second place went to DoneMet, a “humane meeting scheduler” which seeks to give users the tools to schedule appointments without endless back-and-forth emails and without the use of cold, impersonal tools which exist already. The “Crowd Favorite” award went to Honey-Do Simple, a tool which helps couples avoid the pitfalls of forgotten “honey do” chores. The team’s presentation had the audience laughing out loud while also wondering how many marriages could be saved by the simple and whimsical mobile application.
The weekend’s big winner was Launch Key, who took both first place and also garnered the Best Design award. Launch Key, a free smartphone app, allows users to operate without passwords, creating an ease of use for both consumers and businesses while also addressing critical security issues. “The problem we’re trying to solve is usability to make it easier for people to not ever have to worry about passwords and also to make it easier for businesses not to be burdened by all of those passwords. We take care of all of that. There are no more passwords. That’s the whole idea,” says Launch Key team member Devin Egan. Mendenhall noted that the judges saw Launch Key as particularly relevant, “a problem a lot of people are talking. We think they’re really onto something,” he said.
The Launch Key team was made up of four people, three of whom had never attended Startup Weekend previously. The exception was self-described “startup junkie” and iOS developer Mike Manzano, who is a founder of Counterless which formed at Startup Weekend last fall. Manzano himself had not intended to be part of a team at the event. “I’m here at Startup Weekend helping people out, but Launch Key actually pivoted in the middle, and all of a sudden they needed an iOS developer, so I said okay,” Manzano explains.
That pivot from a two-factor authentication system to a mobile app utilizing push notifications was part of a natural evolution amongst the group. “We thought, ‘Let’s make it easier.’ The idea formulated as a team. They pitched something and we changed the idea completely,” says Egan. Of the pivot and the contributions of Manzano, Egan says, “That was another huge lesson. Bring in the talent that you need, when you need it. Key people at the right time, huge.”
What comes next for the teams? For most, after a much-deserved few hours of sleep, it’s back to work. Startup Weekend organizer Shavonnah Tierra put it well in her closing remarks: “It’s Monday, now what do I do? First you sleep, then you get back to it.”
Startup Weekend wrapped up an exciting week of tech events in Las Vegas. On Wednesday, LauchUp Las Vegas featured local startups Ticket Cake, Gabuduck, and Lucine Biotechnology. Both events were held at the recently opened InNEVation Center at Switch, the world’s largest data center and technology ecosystem. The InNEVation Center is the brainchild of Switch founder and CEO Rob Roy and is designed to provide meeting space, event space, office space, and coworking space for local technology companies and offers use of the world’s largest cloud ecosystem and high-speed internet access at 1 million mb/s download.