Startup Weekend Day 2.. Not Quite The Final Countdown

Today is the 2nd day of Startup Weekend.  I slept lightly last night as I was still jazzed from the happenings of the opening night. That’s probably why I snapped awake to the whistling of  Europe’s “The Final Countdown” outside my window.  Yep that’s right, someone was walking down Butler Street at 7 a.m. whistling the opening to this timeless ditty.  I love living downtown, and that’s not even sarcastic.

Last night started off with great food provided by Pedro’s.  I have to give them an extra hat tip as in this age of  mild, milder, and basically ketchup with onions, their verde sauce had a bit of a kick. By the way, no one is going be lacking for food at this event. Following that there was an intro by the organizers, and some fun and inspirational speeches from the local entrepreneurati.  Then came the pitches…
The way this worked was anyone there was allowed to get up and make a one minute pitch for an idea.  Once all the pitches were made anyone who wanted a second chance was given another minute.  So about an hour or so later we’d listened to some 50 different ideas.  Everyone got 3 post it notes and people wandered around the room talking to the idea-bringers and then sticking their note on the 3 ideas they liked best.  The votes were tallied and 15 ideas were picked to move forward.  Unfortunately 2 of the ideas I thought had serious potential, didn’t make it out of the first round.
After all this came the team formation.  People moved from group to group discussing the merits of the ideas and trying to find a group they wanted to work with.  Two teams refused to be put down by the voting process and went rogue.  They hadn’t been assigned a “space” in the room so they hung a sign around their necks and worked the room looking for team members. That’s entrepreneurial spirit. I finally got out of there around 12:30 after a 30 minute programming discussion in the parking lot.
Today teams are finalized and then the work begins with the judging tomorrow.
One thing I want to mention was an announcement by the City of Madison.  They’re launching an open data initiative and this weekend they’ve opened up an API to query data on every property in Madison.  I got to talk with Alder Scott Resnick who was super helpful, and after the usual smartphone/email misspelling hijinx helped me get the info to access the servers.  I ended up poking at it for an hour last night and now know the assessed value of my apartment building, the houses I lived in in college, and various commercial properties on East Washington.  It’s not so much that you couldn’t get this data before, but now you can get at it programatically, and that’s going to lead to cool apps.  How about a graphical map of the isthmus with a view of properties currently for rent, and data drawn right from the city showing, rooms, bathrooms, property owner. You get the picture.
We’re planning on banging on it more at Startup Weekend.  I have to give a hand to Madison’s IT group and Mayor Soglin.  A lot of work went into getting this ready for this weekend.  It’s still in an alpha/beta form but they’ve really done a great job.  Hopefully we don’t cause any server crashes.
First casualty of the weekend.. my shirt… caught it on a hook and ripped it to shreds, but they gave out T-shirts so I’m even. Oh, and I registered halfway through writing this post  .. don’t even try.

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