Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore Participate in SW Los Angeles

Startup Weekend HQ is buzzing with all of the entrepreneurial energy and excitement coming out of the SW Los Angeles event (February 18-20th, 2011).

Every Startup Weekend is special since at each event the mix of people and ideas is unique and spontaneous.  We supply the basic framework but each event is different and unpredictable. Startup Weekend LA didn’t disappoint: from the attendees to the projects to the surprise guests, SW LA was one to remember!

As teams frantically prepared for Sunday evening presentations and judging, the event got some unexpected celebrity guests: Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore stopped by to listen to teams, give feedback, listen to presentations, and mingle with attendees as the event wrapped up.

Startup Weekend HQ thanks both @aplusk and @mrskutcher for their support, interest, and buzz-generating tweets.  It’s always nice to see that the work entrepreneurs do is appreciated by a wider audience.

For a complete overview of the event–including more info on the participants, teams, and presentations–read SW LA Organizer Tyler Koblasa’s full post:

The Startup Weekend Community in LA: You’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg

The LA tech scene is like an iceberg, still barely visible over the horizon on the Silicon Beach. What appears to be insignificant at first glance, is in fact powerful and intimidating just below the surface … and let’s not forget, Hollywood is its backyard. In a city of blondes, botox, and plenty of “talk,” Los Angeles may not be perceived as a threat by other tech communities. However, many may be surprised to know that a substantial tech presence exists in Los Angeles and has been influential in the shaping of the web we see today. Just check out  Ben Kuo’s socaltech.com, if you haven’t yet, to get a pulse on our active tech scene.

The tech community has strongly developed in the past 24 months. Among it’s numerous qualities, from budding entrepreneurs to angel investors and VC’s, Los Angeles has your back. Here our vibe is not cut-throat, but quite the opposite. We are focused on advising, promoting and really helping one another. If you happened to drop in on Startup Weekend Los Angeles at the Coloft in Santa Monica, you would have felt the energy and seen the passion.

SW LA kicks off with a bang!

Startup Weekend kicked off Friday evening with about 100 participants, speakers and judges from all over the country including Palo Alto, Dallas, Seattle, Kansas City, and Las Vegas.

It was a unique Startup Weekend LA, unlike any other. We had Nick Seguin (@nickseguin) along with Bo Fishback (@bofishback), VP of Entrepreneurship at Kauffman Foundation in town for the weekend as well as Startup Weekend’s Global Operations Manager, Joey Pomerenke (@joeypomerenke), Startup Weekend Board member Eric Koester, and community advisor Ryan Roberts (@startuplawyer) in from Dallas.

We also had a powerhouse group of guests that checked in, including: Patrick Vlaskovits (Organizer at Los Angeles Internet Conference Twiistup, Co-Author of The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Cust-Dev), Francisco Dao (50 Kings), David Waxman (Co-founder Firefly Networks, PeoplePC and SpotRunner) and Sean Tierny (Founder of Jumpbox).

Startup Weekend LA has been, and continues to be extremely fortunate for the supporters and sponsors that continue to foster entrepreneurship in our community.  Sponsors and contributors of this SW LA included: Microsoft, Fortis General Counsel, CallFire, Originate Labs, Idealab, Vcorp, Vol.ly, Foodme, TechZulu, Tech Coast Angels, Rocket Science, Valen Dolce, Job Board by Coloft, Infegy, NerdyShirts, Twilio, MediaTemple and Mingly.

The evening was off to a great start with speaker Dan Gould (founder of Namesake, Ad.ly and Newroo, acquired by News Corp), along with past Startup Weekend winner Max Mullen (@max) of Vol.ly. Facilitating and joining us from Kansas City was Adam Coomes of Infegy, who was rated last year by Business Week as one of America’s Top Entrepreneurs under 30. Participants’ minds were set a blaze with a quick game of “pitch fire.” The audience threw out several dozen words, formed business plans and pitched ideas such as “Semantic Gremlins” to “Uber Bieber” (for all you Justin Bieber fans).

Approximately 30 participants then pitched their actual business ideas and voted on the top ten, which soon became the competing companies:

  • Zaarly: A buyer’s market where everything has a price.
  • Hottie Spotter: A place for guys to find hotties
  • Scene Swag: See a scene, buy some swag
  • GrubKlub: Food is a means to an end
  • Eventify: Turn your home into income generating space
  • Cork Hub: We sell exclusive wines for the best deals, with a twist
  • RedLyne: Better contracts faster
  • MinBoxed: Combat your inbox
  • Find Your Mickey: Finding your personal trainer
  • GoAct.co: Drive action for your cause

As participants sipped beer from the Idealab keg, Tyler Crowley (@steepdecline) of Open Angel Forum and Launch Conference surprised the group with the addition of a bonus prize, a table and tickets to the Launch Conference in San Francisco for the winning team with the Most Complete Product (MCP). Special-edition LASW NerdyShirts were provided along with a NerdyShirt prize package full of funny t shirts for the winner. Microsoft also ran a special contest, giving away new Microsoft Slates to the team building the best Slate compatible app.

Teams worked until 2 AM Friday evening and were back at it, coding,  powerpointing and photoshopping away at 9 AM the next morning. Everyone stayed extremely focused and energized courtesy the CallFire recharge station, with lunches and a desert treats courtesy of Whole Foods and Valen Dolce.

(@Callfre recharge station!)

Saturday: Coding, Business Development, and “Eye of the Tiger”

Teams worked throughout the day all the while the final cut off of 5:00pm crept near. Nothing interrupted the focus in the room other than repeated playing of “SW HQ’s” Franck Nouyrigat’s (@peignoir) favorite SW of “Eye of the Tiger” and random shouts of startup energy. Teams gathered market research and new potential customers including one Zaarly customer who offered to pay $50 for a ride in one of the two Tesla’s parked out back.

A delicious dinner was provided by Thai Dishes along with sponsored desserts from Valen Dolce, French patisserie bakery located on Montana avenue.

Teams worked into the night and were finally asked to go home … but not first without being apart of the empowering, and now ritualistic LASW screening of Alec Baldwin’s almost Oscar winning scene in Glengarry Glen Ross — As Alec Baldwin and Coloft’s Avesta Rasouli say, “Sell Something! Coffee is for closers.” Saturday evening wrapped up and with most teams crashing hard around 11:00 PM.

Celebrity Sunday

Teams were again back at work Sunday morning at 9:00 AM and beginning to finish up presentations and began rehearsals. While teams wrapped their final work on their demos, Bo Fishback’s friends Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk) and Demi Moore (@mrskutcher) made a surprise visit, making the rounds checking out each new startup and giving them feedback.

At the 5:00 PM cut off, those checking out the closing presentations began to show up and all enjoyed appetizing foods provided by Fritto Misto, a favorite local Italian restaurant while the room was transformed and prepared for presentations.

Closing evening kicked off with several remarks by Allen Morgan (Director at Idealab) and Scott Sangster (President of LA TechCoast Angels). Judges were then introduced which included, Jeff Scheinrock (President of Originate Labs), Scott Sangster, Allen Morgan, Sean Percival and Ashton Kutcher (Katalyst Media).

Adam Coomes (@adamcoomes) brought the already high energy level to new heights as he introduced the first presenting company of ten. The show was more than underway, and the demos were broadcast live by Efren Toscana of TechZulu.  Viewed by over 10,000 viewers, SW made its way to the top of Hacker News.

Each team did an amazing job and presented highly entertaining and well-done presentations such as that by Hottie Spotter, winner of the Idealab “Cleanest Presentation” award that took home a Mint robotic cleaner.  Hottie Spotter, one of several soon to be produced apps brought to you by “BroApps” lets you report on the “hottie” score of a specific venue or club to your “bro-list” allowing your bro’s to steer clear of clubs undergoing a reported “sausage fest.”

Judges — left to right (Ashton Kutcher, Allen Morgan, Jeff Scheinrock, Sean Percival, Scott Sangster)

The Winning Teams

After the 10 presentations judges deliberated and choose winners, and they were:
Drum roll, please …

  • 1st Place – Zaarly
    • - $1000 cash, 1 x TechCoast Angels Fast pitch tickets, One Month at Coloft for entire company, NerdyShirts package
  • 2nd Place – Eventify Me
    • - $500 cash, 1 x TechCoast Angels Fast pitch tickets, Two Weeks at Coloft for entire company and steak knives
  • 3rd Place – GrubKlub
    • - $500 cash
  • Most Complete Product (MCP) – Zaarly
    • - “Launch Conference” package
  • Cleanest Presentation – Hottie Spotter
    • - Winnter of Idealab Mint floor cleaner

(*Note: In order to receive the cash prize, the new company would need to be Incorporated within 30 days of Startup Weekend and check made payable to the new corporation to go towards company setup costs and fees like domain names and hosting).

1st place winners — Team Zaarly!

Judges and Organizers — left to right (Sean Percival, Scott Sangster, Allen Morgan, Tyler Koblasa, Avesta Rasouli, Ashton Kutcher, Jeff Scheinrock)

RT @max: Reason #34 to attend @StartupWeekend: improve your startup shirt collection #lasw http://yfrog.com/h77z1hvj



Wrap-up and Thank Yous

With the wrap of another awesome SW, participants made the short walk to the after-party located at Wokano in Santa Monica. Drinks generously sponsored by Vol.ly and CallFire.

Again we’d like to thank all of our attendees for all their hard work, our sponsors, organizers, and volunteers including: Avesta and Cameron Rasouli of Coloft, Adam Coomes, Chris Dumler, William Barnes, Efren Toscana, Jim @Techfrog Alden, Vasily Myazin, Imo Udom, Jaime Edwards, Andrew Skotzko, and our awesome speakers and judges.

There is always more  to every “berg” than what is visible on the surface. Startup Weekend just that. It is the place for the startup experience. A place where you can try new things, share ideas. For those who have dabbled in the community — dive further, explore greater depths, what you find my surprise you.

Look closely at initiatives like Startup America and follow what the folks at the Kauffman Foundation are up to. It becomes quite apparent everyone needs to discover an iceberg emerged just to the tip and dive deeper, in turn diving deeper into your  own community. Which icebergs are sitting just below the surface where you live? Or in smaller tech cities like Omaha, Nashville, Kansas City or Los Angeles?

If you are interested, don’t sit at the edge, wondering all by yourself what startups are about or what that idea might turn  into — jump in … we would love to have you.

Stay tuned for the next Startup Weekend LA, be sure to check out StartupNights (@startupnights) LA’s monthly event (hosted @Coloft), as well as Startups Uncensored (hosted by @JasonNazar and Docstoc at the Milken Institute in Santa Monica). Also check out this weekend’s Startup Weekend San Diego and soon to be announced Startup Weekend Las Vegas.

Other posts about this past Startup Weekend LA

By Tyler Koblasa (@tylerkoblasa) , Organizer / LA@StartupWeekend, CEO / Ming.ly
Edited by Jaime Edwards and Erika Bogner