My Musings

Launch48 Melbourne – Hacking together a webapp for fun and profit

The we.teach.us gang hanging out; hacking web apps.

Earlier this month over 50 developers, designers, marketers, managers and entrepreneurs came together to participate in the inaugural Melbourne Launch48 event.

I caught wind of Launch48 after seeing a retweet a few days following my arrival back in Melbourne from a whirlwind tour of New York, Austin, and San Fran where I was fortunate enough to meet with some very exciting people doing amazing things in the start-up space.

Despite only just returning home, I made the big call; decided my jetlag recovery could wait, and signed on for a weekend’s commitment to take an idea from pitch to prototype in under 48 hours.

Nerds, being nerds.

The Format

Launch48 aims to condense a six-month start up process into a couple of days.

The weekend started Friday night with participants rocking up to Deloitte’s offices in Bourke St (generously provided by @rexster) to pitch ideas and form teams. Out of 18 pitches, four of the best were raised to the top, and teams quickly formed to start building.

Prior to selecting the project we wished to work on participants were required to nominate their area of expertise across all areas of business, including planning, marketing, PR, branding, design, finance, and development. Teams of 15 then came together to work on their chosen concept for the remainder of the weekend.

Getting a couple of ideas down on whiteboard.

Our idea

The group I joined had a vision around bringing learners and teachers together under one platform. We called this web app. “We Teach Us”, mostly because it allowed us to register a cool domain name: http://we.teach.us (currently down, check back soon!).

While a traditional start-up might spend a few weeks planning functionality and capabilities before sticking that into a the business model, the Launch48 format doesn’t provide the same luxury of time, so each of the three main competencies – designers, developers and business – broke off into individual working groups to start generating output.

The skinny-jeaned designers quickly started working on high level wireframes of how the site might look and feel – an interesting exercise when you don’t really know what the site is suppose to do yet – but before we knew it we had some excellent mock-ups provide a visual treatment of the functionality.

Working with the mentors

At the same time, the developers were hard at work creating a backend for everything to run on. We pretty much left them along, observing only the occasional muttering about something Ruby related every hour or so.

The business guys just kinda sat there and occasionally barked an order or instructed someone to “monetise”; all-in-all more than fulfilling their important part in the process.

Over the course of Saturday and Sunday we were able to refine our thinking on the concept, reject the initial business model for something potentially more profitable, iterate a number of UI designs, build an instructional video, model financial outcomes, generate a pitch, raise a domain and web backend, and eventually release an online working prototype.  Lofty goals for the first 6 months of a normal web start-up, achieved in a fraction of the time under the Launch48 model.

Pitching the final output to the group

Worth it?

I came into the weekend 90% convinced I would attend the Friday post-work session, and  pike out of the following days. An hour into the pitches I knew I’d be there until tools down on Sunday. While it’s a big commitment from anyone to give up an entire weekend for what is essentially work, the calibre of people the event attracted, the quality of the organisers and mentors, and the pace and excitement of seeing something real materialise from a concept, made the justification of time sacrifice easy enough.

Whether you’ve got a burning idea to pitch, or simply want to work alongside some exceptional entrepreneurs for a weekend, Launch48 is the perfect vehicle. I can’t recommend tracking down a session highly enough.

Want to see the process of taking a concept from whiteboard sketch to high-fidelity mock up? Come back this time next week for our follow-up post.


3 Comments

  1. Reply

    Douks

    May 11, 2011

    Nice post Steve.

    Sounds like it was an enjoyable and rewarding experience, will hopefully get involved next time it pops around!

  2. Reply

    Daniel

    August 17, 2011

    Sounds awesome, any events like this coming up in the future?

    • Reply

      LongStraws Admin

      August 20, 2011

      Hi Daniel, don't know of anything coming up soon, but keep your eyes peeled on this site for any future events.


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