And the winner is....not NormBreaker.
Don’t worry. Our feelings aren’t hurt. And no, I didn’t cry.
On Sunday — the final day of the Charlotte Startup Weekend — the social norm-breaking company we created in just 54 hours was named “second runners-up” after a series of pitches from nine business teams that took an idea, honed it into a minimally viable product and devised ways to make it profitable and useful.
Pantrea, a healthy meal planning service that connects users with dieticians based on specialized diets (Paleo, vegan, etc.), took home the prize – wowing judges with its promise for social good, a viable revenue-making model and solid (and, at moments, comical) presentation.
It’s OK Pantrea won. We like them.
They left the weekend with free legal services, a full scholarship to Tech Talent South and two tickets to the Southeast Venture Conference, the largest gathering of venture capitalists and top-tier investors looking to throw their money into promising startups. The conference is in Charlotte this year on March 31 to Apr. 1.
After spending two days digging into the nuances of our app, the NormBreaker team used most of Sunday to perfect our five-minute pitch. Just to remind you, I embedded myself just for the weekend to get a firsthand experience on what it means to start a business.
We put together a “slide deck,” crunched numbers (hated it), researched our competition, devised ways we’d be better than our competition, drank more coffee and watched several takes of Amanda Silver, the business brainchild, practice her presentation.
And, despite her initial nerves, she blew the pitch out of the water (“Norm” is a “fish out of water,” get it?).
Once the pitches were done, Book of Business, an online marketplace for business sellers to sell their business books (client list) to buyers, was named the audience favorite.
The judges named DressShare, a wardrobe-sharing service allowing users to rent dresses from local fashionistas, “first runners-up.”
We won second runner’s up. The judges liked our concept, our simple design and functionality and we got bonus points for getting a product in the app store for Android users in just two days. Check out the NormBreaker website here, download the app and start playing.
Not only did we earn high marks from the judges, but the crowd praised the concept, especially after we asked them to violate a social norm with us: Hug the person sitting next to you.
Sure, no money or funding was on the table. But that’s OK.
The experience was unforgettable and the lessons learned invaluable. For a group of business novices, to collaborate with a group of strangers and then produce a winning concept in three days is like downing a cold frappuccino. The creative energy keeps you alive (not just awake), and the satisfaction of the payoff is addictive.
That high is probably why the competition keeps changing every year. Just ask Charlotte’s Harish Yarlagadda, 39, a product developer, designer and owner, who has been attending the Queen Citys startup weekend for four years.
He’s seen it change a lot, he said. The first year he came, he was one of about 10 participants. This year, he was one of nearly 70, and found himself on the winning Pantrea team.
Yarlagadda, who’s created DutyStatus, an app truckers can use to update their travel logs and generate reports, said the spike in attendance reflects the upswing in Charlotte’s still-growing startup ecosystem.
“Entrepreneurship is kind of like a bug. Not everybody gets it,” he said. “Here, you can meet people who have the same bug.”
I have to agree. This weekend, the bug bit me.
In Case You Missed It...
I’ve been providing readers with daily updates on the startup weekend and NormBreaker’s progress on this blog, Twitter and Storify. If you didn’t catch any of this, here’s how you can catch up: