The concentration of IQ, energy and motivation was so sharp in Tallinn IT College this weekend, that there was a humming and glowing halo above the college building. What happened? 16 business ideas were turned into the launched startups in 48 hours during the Garage48.org event there. I got emotionally and physically entangled to the event in several ways.
First and foremost, I just like the concept of getting things done fast and effectively. This event just proved to a lot of people: where is a will, there is a way. All of the 16 ideas that got through the self-selection filter on Friday night, finished the event with a launched product. Even the ones, that during the Friday’s idea presentation seemed like some big fuzzy beasts with no idea at all how to fit into 48 hours. None of the ideas dropped out in course of the actions.
Second, I submitted an idea myself and launched the service at the event — the SMS Cocktail Roulette, that generated the fuzz during the event by being the fastest launched and getting into revenue literally in hours. See below for more on that story.
Third, sayat.me was a popular tool during the event. Several participating projects use it as the feedback tool, including garage48.org itself, and a lots of people on that event did the same for their personal purposes. Here is my big bow to you all guys!
And to add some spice to the story, I got sick in the beginning of last week, had some stomach flu – fever and ill-being. So I was already kind of exhausted and suffered dehydration when I got to the event on Friday.
Overall, the entire event was a great success. I am a bit tired, but very happy that I participated and saw all this.
It was Tuesday night last week when we brainstormed with couple of friends what would be good ideas to submit to Garage48. We knew the aim of the Garage48 event is to get something ready and launched in 48 hours and the ideas should be selected having that doability in mind. But at some moment, after another round in steam sauna and couple of beers we thought why not to overstretch that screw a bit and aim for revenue?
We got so obsessed by that thought, that we decided to kill all the ideas that would be perhaps technically more interesting, where we had confidence we would be able to finalize them in 48 hours, but lacked the confidence they would give us revenue in 48 hours. It had to be an idea that was technically so simple, that we would get it live on Friday night or Saturday morning, and focus entire Saturday on sales efforts.
We though it probably must be something based on Fortumo SMS infrastructure, which is a child’s play to use, assume minimal coding, and have some fun and entertainment value where buy-decisions are made spontaneously on some instant emotions. We considered couple of games, something around dating, jokes and finally landed on the Cocktail Roulette idea – via SMS you get random cocktail receipes that you can then order from bartender in pub or mix yourself at home.
Next day after the brainstorm I was slightly afraid if people take that idea seriously or if it is a proper idea for that event, but I submitted the idea to Garage48 on Wednesday and it instantly generated some fuzz (re-)tweets.
On Friday, after the presentation of ideas, during the selection process where people made their choices on what they want to team up with, Cocktail Roulette was one of the most popular ones. As event rules demanded to accept everybody who wants to team up, I started to worry, how to manage all that project effectively.
Fortunately we ended up with a team with some impressive contacts into different pubs and clubs in Tallinn, Tartu and Pärnu, that all paid off later on Saturday. We did some planning-haggling and started to set up stuff.
By 2AM Saturday morning, we had the software and IT infrastructure all set up and ready: cocktailroulette.com domain acquired and parked, SMS-service related database and PHP scripts developed and launched in a hosted web space. By that time we also had the design of the fliers that we used on Saturday to sell at bars and clubs.
The news that we are already live was embraced well on Saturday morning – we got our first revenue at 9 AM and first international revenue (an SMS to our Swedish number) at 12 noon. That means, counting from when we started, we were live in 6 hours and in revenue in 12 hours. That kept us a popular rumour entire Saturday. All posts by “Arvutimaailm blog” during the day (this, this and this) highlighted us in first paragraphs and the people on the corridors constantly were asking about revenue numbers .
During the fuzz we learned we have picked a very typo-prone name for the company. Everybody, including us, repetitively typed it coctailroulette (missing that k from cocktailroulette). While the same typo was also made by the Arvutimaailm blog post on our web address, we took the expense on the learning and acquired the typo-domain also, to collect and redirect the lost traffic.
The challenges for the Saturday were: print the filers and get those onto the tables of bars and clubs. Also we had to set up a proper web site (instead of just having the flier image there initially).
In the morning we tried to find a place to copy-print the fliers at reasonable price. As we failed finding one, we executed the fallback plan that I was prepared for around noon – I unpacked my personal color-printer from the bag and we started the printing. We ended up with a pack of about 500 fliers. We couldn’t print more as the printer ran out of the black ink. Also, two guys went to hardware store for knives and boards to cut the sheets into fliers.
We got three team members who had some contacts into the bars and their owners and made couple of calls – that allowed us to test the grounds on what they think of the entire idea. Initial feedback was promising. We got some agreements with a set of bar owners at Tartu and Pärnu that we send them the fliers (via Cargobus service), they take them and place these on their tables.
However, the main challenge with Tallinn bars was still ahead. We aimed to walk door-by-door and ask to place the fliers to the tables. My biggest fear at this point was that bars won’t let us in as some Jehovah’s Witnesses with their fliers – if that would have happened our entire undertaking would have significantly failed.
Despite of the doubts we found to our surprise, that we were let in everywhere and most barmen and owners of pubs and clubs got interested in the idea. We got some instant feedback on what they would want to have in addition to make the thing more interesting and useful to them and their customers. Altogether, we made into 14 bars and clubs in Tallinn, 3 bars in Tartu and 1 bar in Pärnu on Saturday. Later in the night people from our team saw with their own eyes how barmen quickly learned to recognize and shake new cocktails that they didn’t know before from Cocktail Roulette.
This was some result. We were live. We got revenue. We got into the bars and now we got also guidance and proposals by customers on how to develop the service into a hit.
On Sunday, before the idea presentation, we already did follow-up developments based on the market feedback. It didn’t much impact on what and how we presented to the jury at 4 PM, though. It just allowed us to say in confidence, that we achieved all our goals that we had for the event 110%.
Kratid.com is the project where you can design and take care of your online pet, and order the “real pet” to be made by your design and mailed to yourself or your kids. They got over 30 pre-orders (including one for my kids) during the event.
Wannalunch.com is a service by which you can set up lunch meetings with different people on specific topics where you need or where you can give help or advise. I did set up one for Friday in Tartu where I can help people with bootstrapping advise .
I am happy about the outcome as these are really the best services from the event and the entire event was a great success. If it happens next time, I am going to be in again.
Update: During writing this post, Garage48 got featured at TCEurope: Don’t talk, just execute – in 2 days, Estonia’s Garage48 produces 16 potential startups. That turned our team into some action once again. Result: site is now in english (before it was estonian), did set up international SMS numbers, and added Welcome to Estonia cocktail to the roulette . The team spent 1 hour and 45 minutes on this update.