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Startup Weekend Bali: celebrating the 5th anniversary

Learn and Launch.November 23, 2018
By Andy McLean

Andy is a freelance writer and broadcaster with a passion for adventure and mental health

On November 16-18, Hubud hosted its fifth edition of Startup Weekend Bali where ten teams formed to make their digital-nomad ideas a reality. Imagine you have a startup idea. Perhaps you’ve spent a year working on it, maybe you have a team or even some funding. Or, like so many of us, you just have a basic idea that your passionate about and you’re searching for a way to kick-start yourself into action. Startup Weekend is a global challenge for this latter group of “wantrapreneurs.”

It’s Saturday afternoon and as I walk up back steps at Hubud, there’s a young Javanese woman called Novi sitting there. I say “Selamat Siang,” and I notice the name badge hanging around her neck. It’s crafted from wood, as part of Hubud’s first zero-waste Startup Weekend Bali, and it turns out that zero waste is a big point of interest for the digital nomads gathered for the event.

Much has changed since I was a participant at the first edition of Startup Weekend Bali at Hubud coworking, back in 2014. For a start, there’s a far greater representation of the Indonesian community than the one I remember from four years ago.

Novi is one such person, and she is participating through one of the event sponsors, Kafe, a local restaurant here in Ubud. She confesses of having had a business idea for the startup event, but was out of energy by the time the pitches started last night, as she was feeling jaded from a full day at work.

Instead, Novi has joined the startup team ‘Rocket’ and I ask how they are getting on: “We’re stuck on a name and a logo,” she tells me.I quietly think to myself ‘either they’ve made insanely fast progress or they’re sidetracked by a not-so-important detail’.

In some ways, this small observation highlights what Startup Weekend is all about. As the event facilitator, Ashley Uy, Product Owner & Account Executive at Symph, told the 72 participants when she introduced the event last night,

“Startup Weekend Bali is all about trying something new, making mistakes and having fun.”

Friday night kick-off: a fiesta of startup ideas

We were lucky to have Ashley here at all, after her flight from the Philippines was canceled. Even though she was “running on empty”, the energy she brought to the room was instant and contagious. Soon we were into the “icebreaker” to help everyone get over any nerves with pitching their ideas to develop over the weekend.

The task was to take a random noun and an adjective and, after a quick group discussion, to come up with a 20-second pitch. My favorite was the ridiculous ‘Spicy Banana’, a banana-shaped reusable bag for refilling spices at a shop.

Soon it was time to pitch for real, those ideas voted on by participants that would become the businesses worked on over the weekend. The nerves were still there, but eventually, 28 different people stood up at the front of Hubud’s bamboo coworking space to explain their idea in only a minute.

The theme of this startup weekend edition is ‘digital nomadism.’

“While there were some ideas for digital-nomad centric products, many pitches were on issues that digital nomads wanted to be better connected to. These ranged from immersive learning for children, to using running to help the poor, to combining coaching to support good causes.”

Each participant then had three votes for the ideas they liked and, from this, twelve projects were selected. That left one final task for the evening: for the idea ‘founder’ to build a team which, in itself, posed a challenge.

Ashley outlined the broad skills needed for an ideal team: technical, domain expertise, business and creative. A quick show of hands revealed that the room was very light on developers and designers, so developing a minimum viable product (MVP) was going to be a challenge for some teams.

Saturday: the validation of the startup ideas

After getting some sleep, the participants were back at Hubud coworking for a meditation session to start off the weekend on Saturday morning and calm the mind before the hard work ahead. I caught up with Ashley who told me that the teams were working with a coach and by now should have done some customer research to validate their ideas.

Ashley said that some pitches would need to be focused on how the business operations were likely to work, rather than producing an MVP. Also, while the participants were working hard on developing their value proposition, they also needed to prepare a draft presentation by early evening.

With this amount of work to be done in the hot and sweaty Hubud coworking, it’s no surprise that when I went to speak to team ‘Digital Nomad Finder’, I was soon told: “it’s great to hear your stories, but we need to focus.” I swiftly moved on and bumped into Clare Harrison, one of the startup weekend coaches, who had been part of SUW Bali with me in 2014.

Clare was mentoring ‘Nomad No Waste’ and chatting to her, it was evident how tricky it can be to work on a topic where there are so many possibilities: different customer types, markets and potential problems to solve. After hearing from her team and the different ideas they had, Clare had one message:

“you need to get out of building to do some research and gather some data.”

And they were not the only ones struggling in this area. I spoke to the ‘Edukation’ team, which was stuck on validating their market and its size, having been only able to gather anecdotal evidence so far.

Sunday: the final pitches at Hubud coworking space

I arrived back at Hubud coworking on Sunday afternoon to a flurry of chairs and tables being moved outside to create space inside for the final presentations at 4 pm. The tension in the air was palpable, with the participants frantically looking for a quiet space in Hubud’s garden to practice their pitch.

I caught a glimpse of the laptop screen of ‘Coaching for Cause’ and their landing page was looking slick. They were soon to be first up presenting to SUW Bali’s panel of judges.

Earlier, day three had started with a mediation session at 9 am, followed by a sumptuous breakfast provided by Kafe. Stomachs filled, the participants were soon back gathered around their laptops finessing their startup products.

Over the weekend, two teams dropped out so ten startup teams ended up competing for a place in the APAC regional contest of the global SUW challenge. With the pressure rising, teams had to select one member to deliver the presentation and who would attend the pitching workshop.

As SUW Bali moved into the final few hours, each team had the chance to practice their presentation with the SUW Bali’s coaches. Then, as the clock struck 3 pm it was time for the teams to email their presentations to event organizers, draw breath and have faith that all their hard work over the last 54 hours would pay off.

Time to pitch and the winners

Ashley was back on the mic, getting all the participants organized into seating positions so that the presentations would run smoothly. The three judges took their seats as Ashley reminded the teams of the “rollercoaster” they had been on over the weekend.

After each presentation was complete and some tough questioning from the judges, Ashley took the mic to close SUW Bali: “It’s time for a hug, to say ‘good job’ and give yourselves a pat on the back”. Then we all moved to Titu Batu Club for the after party and to await the announcement of the winners.

Here’s a rundown on the businesses pitched at SUW Bali 2018, and details of the prize winners:

In first place was Nana, a Zurich-based service that matches places that look after children (such as IKEA) with working parents that don’t have family members or a nanny to take care of their kids.

The runner up was Rocket , which seeks to disrupt the Russian and European markets for short-term specialist chef assignments by slashing headhunter fees in matching chefs with restaurants and events.

Third place went to Tea Rituals, a service that creates new habits for its customers by combining the ritual of drinking tea with immersive experiences such as guided meditation and breathwork.

Coaching for Cause tackles the issue of climate change by offering coaching services to consumers on specialist topics such as zero waste and connecting them with interesting charity projects.

Earth Challenge is an app that provides users with sustainability-focused lifestyle challenges on topics of interest which they can join with others around the world and invite their friends to participate in.

Nomad No Waste is a zero-waste champion that seeks to replace paper coffee cups in local, non-chain cafes by selling reusable tumblers to customers who gain access to a rewards and discount system.

Edukation is a platform that provides educational activities to children of families that travel the world by linking them with workshop providers such as the Green School’s environmental training programme.

Digital Nomad Finder is an app that seeks to combat isolation and loneliness in the digital-nomad community by creating connections with other nomads that are based in the same area for power-working sessions and project collaboration.

I Run The World is a platform that makes it possible for every runner around the world to turn each step into a donation for their chosen charity through having family and friends back the runner’s exercise goals.

Travel Local is an app that matches conscious-choice seeking travelers with local experiences such as sport, tours and cultural experiences such as festivals and cooking classes.

What the participants said

Novi from Java: “It’s been an amazing weekend, it’s blowing your mind. There are really cool people here with bright ideas that challenge you more. I’ll definitely go again next year”.

Davy from California: “I’ve been traveling for a few years and I came to experience the startup process and to meet new people that wanted to work on projects collaboratively. I was amazed at what we were able to accomplish in 54 hours.

Angela from Jakarta: “I came to SUW Bali to get out of my nine-to-five routine. It’s been so refreshing for me to meet people from different parts of the world and hear new ideas. I’d love to come back to visit Hubud again sometime next year”.

Manuel from Germany: “I joined SUW Bali as I wanted to put my idea into reality. I was so impressed by how much you can get done in 54 hours. Hubud coworking did an amazing job with providing the mentors to help our team narrow down on the audience and get the message out there”.

Riah Dewata from Bali: “SUW Bali is a pretty cool way to meet new people and to work a project like creating apps. I really like it for opening up new experiences and a lifestyle that I never knew before”.

Ruri from South Korea: “I had no brilliant idea but I joined SUW Bali to hang out with cool people and I was so inspired on the first night with some people that spontaneously pitched their ideas. Some of them were not confident and shivering and that gave me confidence.

If there’s one way to sum up the impact the weekend had on its teams, it’s in the words of the participants themselves. Amazing, mind-blowing, refreshing, cool people, new ideas, spontaneous and inspiring. Startup Weekend Bali proved once again to be the perfect way to get nervously excited “wantrapreners” to jump up, pitch an idea, work super hard for 54 hours for the reward of taking an idea from a thought to reality.

See you all again in the new year!

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