Having participated in two Launch48 weekends, I can highly recommend the experience. With more of these coming along in the near future, I thought it would be useful to jot down some advice for people planning to give it go. For those who haven't heard of it, the format is a simple one - people pitch ideas for startups on a Friday evening, everyone votes to decide on the best ones (the number of ideas getting through will depend on the total number of participants), teams form around these ideas and you then spend the next 48 hours trying to build the business. Business being the operative word. Launch48 takes a holistic approach that makes the event different from your garden variety tech-focussed hackathon. The expectation is that in addition to producing an application that can be demoed on Sunday night, you will also have given thought to how you will acquire customers and monetize.
Although it certainly is possible to launch a fully fledged business using the Launch48 weekend as a starting point, I suspect the real value for most people comes from two things:
- Learning. Use the opportunity to teach and learn from others on your team (about online marketing, web development, financial modelling etc)
- Networking. Launch48 is a great way to meet entrepreneurially minded people (both the participants and mentors), and it's also a great way to see people under "realistic" work conditions which will tell you a lot more about them than any coffee chat.
Two things worth mentioning are intellectual property (IP) and equity arrangements.
Who owns the work created by the teams? Regarding IP, the most sensible approach seems to be to agree amongst the team that anything created during the weekend belongs to everyone on the team so that everyone is free to do what they want with it after the weekend. Realistically, there's a good chance that if anyone takes the project forward, they would need to rewrite a lot of what was done over the weekend anyway. If there's any pre-existing IP then things might get more complicated, but this isn't generally the case. Last I heard there were some thoughts about providing standard IP assignment forms to each team which seems like a good idea.
As for equity, I'd strongly suggest that it has no place being discussed during the weekend (other than to say it won't be discussed). Any kind of agreement binding together the 10 or so strangers that you team up with sounds like a disaster waiting to happen. If you wanted to do it properly you'd need to think about things like vesting (e.g. what happens if somebody disappears after the weekend and then comes back 2 years later to claim their share), not to mention the painful (but necessary) discussion of who should get how much. If there's a real business to built, that will happen after the weekend, and those that are left with a genuine interest in committing to it (and each other) can sort out equity arrangements amongst themselves with appropriate legal advice.
Finally, for those of you planning to a pitch an idea, my advice (worth exactly what you paid for it), would be as follows:
- Have a good think about your idea before turning up to the event. Clear and articulate presentation goes a long way, and you won't get phased by "obvious" questions about competition etc.
- Pick an idea where it's feasible to make decent progress in a weekend. This doesn't mean the whole thing should be completed in a weekend, but you should be able to produce some kind of prototype.
- If you have something that presents an interesting technical challenge, it will be easier to attract developers to your team.
- Understand that pitches are selected by voting. It won't necessarily be the best ideas that get through, but the best pitches and pitchers.
- (Arguable) Only pitch if you're prepared to lead the team and have a genuine interest in taking the project forward, or make it clear if this isn't the case. 48 hours isn't very long, so the teams really need somebody with some vision to keep things going. Don't confuse vision with inflexibility though.
Have fun, and blog/tweet your progress as the day goes on so the rest of us can follow along!