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How these founders launched civic-minded startups in a weekend

The winners of the latest edition of Startup Weekend DC talk about launching their companies, and what they're planning next.

The participants from Startup Weekend DC: Civic Impact edition. Photo via Twitter

After 54 hours of competition among seven teams at Eastern Foundry, three startups emerged as winners last weekend at Startup Weekend DC: Civic Impact Edition. However, their journeys to success weren’t without a few hurdles. After the event, members of some of the winning teams provided some insight on what it’s like to launch a company over three days.

It starts with a team, and an idea for the business. For the team of cofounders that included Tambra Raye StevensonPeter Boyd and Tim Nguyen, identifying a singular business plan to work on presented a challenge right away. They pitched Cottage Foodie, a virtual local farmer’s market that for customers to view the food available, pre-order, pay online, and pick up orders in person.

From there, it’s time to start building. Grand prize winner RecruitHer detects gendered language in job postings and provides alternatives to attract more female applicants by using natural language processing and machine learning methods. The team of founders—including Hratch Sofian, Natalie Olivo, Robert Chandler, Yurani Sandoval, Belen Sanchez, Tracy King, and Evann Smith—had a clear takeaway for finding success at a Startup Weekend competition.

“[You must] clearly identify the value proposition of your company/product in a single sentence as early as possible,” explained Smith, Founder and Chief Data Scientist. “If you can do this, then the problem you are solving should be clear and direct your path to monetization.”

Team RecruitHer (Courtesy photo)

Team RecruitHer (Courtesy photo)

Max Goodman of third-place team HostHome talked about reaching an MVP (No, not Kevin Durant or his mother, but minimum viable product). Goodman said that his team was working toward a more technical MVP when presenting their venture.

HostHome, helmed by Nadia Mughal, Ava Pipitone, Ashley Tolen, David Burt and Goodman, offers housing to those in need free of charge, with a focus on those in the LGBT community. To pay their hosts, the platform depends on a network of donors to support their hosts’ generosity. The team debuted their number, 1-833-HOSTME2. Goodman said the team ultimately prioritized accessibility.  With that in mind, they debuted their number, 1-833-HOSTME2.

Goodman and his cofounders took the notes from the competition and they’re already looking towards the future. HostHome will continue fundraising on YouCaring to expand their network, build out an MVP, and pay hosts.

The founders of HostHome (Courtesy photo).

The founders of HostHome (Courtesy photo).

That attitude is common. The startup launches in a weekend, but the work doesn’t have to end there.  With the competition over, Smith and her fellow RecruitHer cofounders plan to capitalize on their momentum.

First on the agenda is to construct a short-term 4-6 plan for their business.  “We feel that this experience really validated our ideas and solutions, as well as provided incredibly helpful feedback about how to improve and proceed,” said Smith.

For their part, Cottage Foodie’s cofounders plan to focus on fine-tuning their platform and increasing their customer base.

To help them along the way, Startup Weekend DC awarded each startup with an assortment of prizes. The most coveted among them includes free coworking space at Eastern Foundry, mentoring sessions with StartBlox CEO Brian Browning, and Amazon Web Services credits.

No matter where their journeys take them Startup Weekend DC: Civic Impact Edition organizer Erica Soultanian, hopes that all of the participants walked away with more than just a civic venture.

“Even if they don’t continue with their businesses, I hope they learned more about entrepreneurship and met some amazing people,” Soultanian said. “I met my cofounder [for Mission Collaborative], Grant Schroll, at the last Startup Weekend even though we were on different teams, and now we’re running free workshops for people looking to change careers in DC!”


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