how to turn an idea into a business in 54 hours

59 participants. 41 pitches. 11 teams. Startup Weekend Kathmandu: Women Edition brought back the magic of Vol 1 and added to it in their most recent installment.

If anyone wanted to get a sense of where the country is headed, Startup Weekend Kathmandu (SWKTM) would be a good place to start. In the last few years, entrepreneurship has swept through Kathmandu like a cool shower on a scorching summer’s day. Not everyone’s understood it, but everyone’s been affected. A platform like SWKTM is more than welcome, not just because its great exposure for local entrepreneurs but also because it spreads awareness of this new thing, this new promise that promises change.

SWKTM Women Edition took off on July 5, a Friday, at Islington College. Even though it was meant for women – internationally, during women only sessions, 25% male participation is accepted – male members still outnumbered the females. “This is just the start. We aren’t discouraged. The ideation of the global Startup Weekend was to generate entrepreneurs and we will be doing the same with Startup Weekend Kathmandu,” said Pravin Raj Joshi, who with Brijendra Joshi initiated Startup Weekend in Kathmandu. Volume one of SWKTM, which was open to all, saw a dismal participation from women; only four participated. So the organizers pulled up their sleeves and organized a Women Edition, the first of its kind for Startup Weekend in South Asia. The number of female participants this time around was encouraging, if not satisfactory. “Women need to come out, participate, explore opportunities and benefit from them. The dry presence of females today is evident of the fact that we need more events like this. The country needs women entrepreneurs,” said Brijendra. “It is crucial that a developing country has women in power and we wish to empower women through entrepreneurship,” reiterated Yatin Thakur, the facilitator for the event, who also looks after Startup Weekend India.

For such a new event, the one-minute pitches were a surprise. With the exception of a few, the pitches were timed perfectly. This resulted from the obvious evident variety in the participants. The majority was clearly college students, but there were a few more experienced faces in the crowd too. “I am a married working woman and have a three-year old kid. I work as a software developer but you find me here because first the concept of the event intrigued me and secondly I wanted to challenge myself to work out of my comfort zone. I wanted to see if the idea that I had been playing with in my head is viable,” confessed Bindiya Manandhar.

It was with the same objective that Sujit Maharjan, a final year Computer Engineering student from Pulchowk’s IoE took part in the Startup Weekend Edition. This was his second experience with SWKTM. Together with a friend from college, Sujit started Phunka Technologies after they partook in SWKTM Volume 1. “In just 54 hours at Startup, we get hands-on knowledge on starting a company which we could not have been possible in months had it not been for the event. One gets to meet and interact with coaches, judges and fellow participants. Its an opportunity of a lifetime,” said Sujit.

Although targeted at professionals, the participants were mostly college students. (Sujit told me that there were more than 15 participants just from his college.) Although it was a great opportunity for the students, the professionals participating weren’t too excited about working with students. However, once the pitching started, and work and not talk took the centre stage, everyone was as good as the work they did and any reservations all but vanished. While the first edition saw some of the participants work through the night, (the organizers had managed accomodation facilities) this time there was a shuttle service for the women participants who weren’t comfortable staying out for the night. “In cases where the women wanted to stay, we had no choice but to manage their accomodation,” says Pravin with a glint in his eyes that gave away the fact that he didn’t approve of social boundaries for women, that too in a progressive environment like Startup Weekend.

To stay true to their Women Edition theme, the female participants were given the opportunity to pitch their ideas prior to the male participants. Also, it was a pre-requisite that each team be led by a female member. From the initial idea pitching session to team formation, brainstorming, arguing, fighting with doubts, and the ultimate revelation -the participants had to accomplish everything within the grueling 54 hours – a standard maintained in all Startup Weekend event worldwide. On the day of the final presentation, the air was charged with entrepreneurship as one after another team presented before the judges and the audiences. Besides the idea, the participants talked about their business plan, their potential clients, market surveys and the capital they needed to start off. After each presentation, the team went through questions from the judges, clarifying their ideas in a more detailed way. The winners were Butta, Say Bihe and Sakchaam – three new startups.

What is Startup Weekend Kathmandu?

Startup Weekend is a global network of passionate leaders and entrepreneurs to inspire, educate and empower individuals, teams and communities. With a presence in more than 200 cities around the world, the events provide a platform for nurturing great ideas into actual businesses. Startup Weekend’s Kathmandu version was introduced by Pravin Raj Joshi and Brijenendra Joshi, together with a group of enthusiastic individuals. SWKTM is no place for talkers; if you are a doer and have a problem-solving head, it might be just the place to be for you.

Entrepreneurship meets design

Ashish Acharya, Aayush Shrestha and Sabin Bhandari joined hands with Sheela Bogati to form Butta in Startup Weekend Kathmandu’s Women Edition. While Sheela is a student at Islington College, the three guys are final year students at Pulchowk Campus’s Institute of Engineering.

1. Can you elaborate on your idea

Butta is a crowd based designers’ platform. It can be seen as an e-commerce platform that sells t-shirts. We aim to address two huge communities: first,?the designers’ community by giving them a platform to earn cash and get exposure, and second, the consumers who enjoy custom designed t-shirts.

We are sure that if we can just ensure the quality?of the garment we produce, we can come up with a very sustainable business. All that a designer needs to do is to submit their design. We will take care of the marketing, branding, sales and give the designer his share of the profit on a 60:40 basis between the designer and us.

Once the design is submitted, people will talk about?it, vote for it and ask for it from the ‘Butta’ platform. Once the buzz grows, the design will be shipped off as a t-shirt. We will have free home delivery services and Payment on Delivery (PoD) facility for our customers. All our products will be sold from the web portal itself. With Butta, we redefine the way an average Nepali would interact with ICT technology. The entire process rests on the crowd and we grow as a community.

2. Why was the win at Startup Weekend important for you?

We had been working on something like this on our own through Threadpaints. It is a web portal that sells t-shirts. But our design source was limited. The designs came only from within which were not sufficient to address growing demands. We wanted to do something like Butta as our next step. This update was planned for 2014. But when we were at SWKTM, things shifted from ‘we want to do this’ to ‘we need to do this now!’. We interacted with experts and had mentorship sessions and we needed those insights on the technical feasibility and execution. The resources at SWKTM made our dreams come true. We will release the beta version within the second week of August 2013.

3. What are you expecting from the mentorship sessions (part of the prize)?

We expect guidance on how we can move from Idea?to business and how we?can actually make things work according to plan. We acknowledge that having a MVP (Minimum Viable Product) and having the customers actually be a part of it are two different and equally important things. In 54 hours we made the MVP. Now we hope to get real suggestions to move on to the next issue: getting the service to the customer.

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