After a lot of talking, stress, fun, games, food and WORK, iWeekend Beijing 2011 has come to a close for another year. iWeekend is an event for entrepreneurs in the tech space to form an idea, attract a team and build a working prototype – a mini start-up all in one weekend! As an idea presenter and team leader, I got to experience iWeekend first-hand which I am grateful for. Here’s what happened:

Idea Creation

The first step was a call to all entrepreneurs with tech business ideas. Participants including myself submitted an application about who we are, why we want to do iWeekend and what our general ideas were.

Pitch Rehearsal

The previous Sunday, the shortlisted attendees were invited to a session of practice pitch in front of some mentors who gave insightful and practical feedback. We had to prepare 2 pitches; a 20 second one sentence about what our idea was and a 3 minute pitch to talk about the problem we were trying to solve, target market, competitive advantage and proposition to engineers why they should join our teams.

iWeekend Begins!

Real pitch time

Held at the awesome Oracle office in Jintaixizao, all idea presenters’ made their first round 20 second pitch to the audience. The audience then cast their votes to select the top 10 ideas. The 10 ideas were then given the opportunity to present a more detailed 3 minute pitch to try to recruit our team members. We were also asked tough questions from the mentors to test our business ideas.

Votes were then cast again to select the top 4 ideas. Each leader then stood at the front to anxiously see who would join our team, exciting!

Top 4 Ideas

  1. Shafama – Led by James Li, is a Chinese version of Couchsurfing
  2. Rent.ly – Led by Jason Lim (me), is a service to connect renters directly to landlord’s and bypass agents, saving time and money
  3. SportsBet – Led by Ben Ba, is a social platform to bet on sporting matches with virtual points for bragging rights
  4. Toureet – Led by Tyr Chen, is an online tool to manage travel planning

Let’s get to work!

Teams then re-grouped early Saturday morning to start working hard. Since I was busy working on my idea, I don’t know what happened in the other groups, but here’s what happened in mine.

We spent half a day clarifying the idea and target market. Intense brainstorming, questions, debates and decisions were being made. This really helped clarify the idea and made us focus. I could really sense the idea evolving and being shaped.

After a good amount of brainstorming, the talented iWeekend team led some interesting ice-breaking activities to relax our minds and get to know each other better. One strange activity involved standing in a circle and making a bizarre sound and action to then pass on the next person, then another person would start a new sound and action. Although we looked and sounded ridiculous, it was great fun to chill out!

Build, Build, Build!

One of the coolest results of iWeekend was to actually build a working prototype to demo the next day. I think for many aspired entrepreneurs, we all dream of ideas and even write them down, but because we don’t have the skills to make it, the idea evaporates or never materializes. So this was personally exciting for me to see a simple but workable demo come to life (thanks to my great engineering team!) Most teams worked till late at night to get something working but at the same time it didn’t feel like work!

Mentors give their advice

On Sunday, in the midst of the engineers coding, people researching, product team designing and me making the presentation; the different mentors dropped by each team to give their feedback and advice. I personally got a lot out of their words of wisdom, although some were encouraging and some made me doubt. The honourable mentors included:

  1. Curt Shi – Managing Director of Imprint Investment Partners, a TMT focused investment fund
  2. Si Shen – Co-Founder and CEO of Papaya Mobile, mobile social gaming network
  3. Stephen Wang – Co-Founder of AliveNotDead, Greater China artist-oriented social network and Rotten Tomatoes,
  4. Steven Chiu – Co-Founder of Zhaopin, which we covered last week.
  5. David Liu – Co-Founder and CEO of Jiepang
  6. Bill Zhou – CEO of ifindu.cn, an LBS app focusing on sharing activities

Demo time!

With a packed room of people interested in start-ups, past participants and mentors it was crunch time! My team at least was running to the line, doing last minute changes to the presentation, product and mock-ups.

Each team was given 6 minutes to present our business idea and do a quick demo of our prototypes, followed by 4 minutes Q&A.

Firstly Shafama did a passionate presentation about how they want to connect travellers in China and helping them find a free couch to crash on.

Next, my idea transformed into iShiYou.com (for China-based readers, the demo website is accessible through a VPN), meaning “love roommate”. The idea is a bit like roommate dating to find the perfect room and roommate to stay with.

Then SportsBet presented how their platform would help people make virtual bets on real sporting matches such as NBA games to show off.

Lastly, Toureet demonstrated an impressive online tool to organize your travel plans from where you go, what you do, where you stay and how you get there.

Overall I was very impressed with everyone’s idea, passion and ability to execute a product in such a limited time!

Wrap up

To close the night, Curt Shi and Stephen Wang gave a word of encouragement to the teams. The most profound and inspirational words came from Stephen who said “You are all now start-ups and I believe you can be successful entrepreneurs” but to acknowledge that “the idea is only 10%, the other 90% is all sweat and blood”. It sounds dramatic but I agree. It takes a high degree of passion, will-power and risk taking to succeed.

Congratulations everyone!

Firstly, congratulations to the SportsBet team for winning the audience vote. Secondly, congratulations to all the teams for working so hard and passionately on your start-ups. Lastly, congratulations to the iWeekend team who were all volunteers in running an awesome and smooth iWeekend. I definitely enjoyed it!

Oh yeah, here’s a shout out to my great iShiYou team – Kevin, George, Megalith, Ferry, Brad, Barry and Elias! Thanks for your contributions and hard work!