A month or so ago, John and I were having drinks with some new awesome friends of ours and discussing our characters for the Pathfinder campaign we were preparing to do together. The conversation devolved into a bit of silliness, as all of the best conversations do, and we found ourselves imagining how you might create a market for casual LARPing tourism.
The next morning, one of my bosses sent me a link to an event that she and my other boss were going to: Portland, Maine Startup Weekend. She offered to sponsor me if I wanted to attend. The description was not of anything I would normally even consider going to, but the idea of writing story-based tours was still rattling around in my brain and I wondered what might come of pitching it. Lately I’ve been feeling a little, well, let’s say underwhelmed by the level of creativity I have the opportunity to use in the work clients pay for, so I did something that is rare for me and said, “Um, sure, I guess.”
Best. Hesitant yes. Ever.
Friday – The Initial Pitch
About two-thirds of the crowd of maybe 70 folks delivered rapid-fire pitches which we voted on with little stickers. I only got four stickers, and three of those came from friends. I was going to take that as a sign that the idea didn’t have much potential, but when my boss-friends and I chatted about the projects that had made it to the second round of pitches, we agreed that they all sounded like (a) more work than fun given our interests/skillset or (b) too large a scope to create a solid minimally viable product in 48 hours.
The rules allowed us to build our own team, so my boss-friends decided it would be fun to work on my idea. Fortunately, Sarah is a born hustler. I think she must have sent half of the crowd over to me to listen to a more detailed explanation of the concept, and we managed to round up a solid and well-balanced team.
Saturday – The MVP
Saturday was where I felt the power of the weekend’s intent. We had decided early on to divide the labor in a way that would help us hit our goals of (a) having a viable business plan, (b) having a working prototype, and (c) winning, while letting us enjoy the less definable goals of learning something new and having fun. We had a pretty good check-in process, but for the most part, the work of creating our mvp was divided and we made the leap of faith to trust one another to get our individual jobs done.
It worked. It probably didn’t hurt that we were able to close the door on the conference since it was being held in the fantastic co-working space we rent our office in. And it was a definite bonus that one of the coaches adopted us for lack of sign-ups and kept us inspired with rum (it was thematically appropriate : ). But what blew my mind the most was how much we accomplished through delegation and trust.
Sunday – The Final Pitch
My in-laws, who are clinical counselors, recently exposed me to the term “ambivert,” which is someone who needs a fairly even balance of time alone and time with others to draw strength from, someone who’s in between and introvert and an extrovert. I have spent most of my life identifying as an introvert, and certainly Friday night when the anxiety of the upcoming event made it difficult for me to get in the car, I was feeling that tendency strongly. But the experience of the weekend also reinforced for me how much I am able to thrive from the energy of other people.
I would never have had the gumption and the sticktoitivity to do market research or tech development or branding or business plan development. The idea would have stagnated in my brain until it died, had not seven other people chosen to give their time, energy, and most breathtakingly of all, belief to the idea. Granted, the idea we committed to evolved quite a lot from the beginning (instead of guided LARPing, our platform is for self-guided, story-driven historical tours for smartphones), but it’s an idea I’m excited to work on.
We did struggle fiercely to get our pitch together on Sunday–if there was any point in the weekend we could have used a conflict resolution coach, that was it, but I was impressed by the way one team member stepped up to manage the conflict to help us get back to an energized, productive working environment. When we used the five-minute break from the final pitch session to throw the world’s fastest awesome birthday party, the cake and rum were a valid celebration of the fact that we did something amazing this weekend. It was really only the icing on the cake that the judges thought our plan was worthy of a prize too, though icing is arguably the tastiest part. :)
So…yeah. My life took a bit of a pivot this weekend. Our team is going to pursue the goal of bringing our business into the money-making world, and if we can accomplish a working prototype and a viable business plan in one long-ass weekend, I’m excited to see what our success looks like down the road.
Oh, and in case I wasn’t pushy enough on social media yesterday, you should: