The Simple Connection team won the inaugural Startup Weekend Cedar Falls over the weekend.
CEDAR FALLS, Iowa—Lately it seems like Iowa’s Cedar Valley is buzzing with activity.
There have been beers enjoyed during Tech Brews, coffee sipped during 1 Million Cups and, on the heels of Up the Valley, the community’s first Startup Weekend Cedar Falls.
“Kicking it off on Friday, there was so much energy in the room,” organizer Michael Caraway told SPN. “I can honestly say that is the most pumped up I’ve been at an event like this. People were pumped and ready to build businesses.”
The inaugural Startup Weekend Cedar Falls attracted more than 75 participants and after pitches on Friday evening, 11 teams were formed.
“The most surprising thing about the event was both the energy and the support we got,” Caraway said. “Like I said before, people were jacked up about an event like this in Cedar Falls and it showed on Sunday night as well. We didn’t even have to ask for help cleaning up, people just stuck around and helped. It says a lot about the community here in the Valley.”
In the end, Simple Connection, a team focused on helping non-tech savvy consumers better use their devices, took first place Sunday evening.
We asked winning team member Bradon Bergman a few questions about the Startup Weekend Cedar Falls experience and what his team built with Simple Connection.
SPN: Where did the idea for Simple Connection come from?
Bradon Bergman: The idea came from Kaylee Wellik, who originally pitched the idea (on Friday). She works on the UNI Campus at the Physical Plant and had asked some co-workers about common problems they experience. One of the older ladies she works with said that she struggled with her television at home, not knowing how to get things connected to it correctly—specifically her TiVo. Kaylee decided she could pitch an idea about finding a way for older people, or those who are not tech savvy, have a resource to go to in order to learn how to do these things.
SPN: Tell us a bit about the product your team created.
BB: What we initially had planned to create was a website and app that people would be able to access with step-by-step instructions on how to set up electronic devices. After pivoting a few times, with help from our mentors, we realized that we should focus on something simple to begin with and adjust our target market. We stuck with a technical support website, and decided that technological problems are for everyone—not just the older generation! We also decided to make our MVP a “how to use the iPhone camera.” This would be an easy-to-show process for our audience Sunday night that would explain how our website was set up.
We would promote our business by targeting small- to mid-sized mobile retailers. The site would be free to users, but retailers would have to pay an annual fee for their customers to access our website. They would also pay for additional advertising on our website. Because products at retailer locations are already boxed with user manuals, we would not be able to eliminate them at this level. Instead, these businesses would include a card with each purchase that gives the customers access to all of the information to their new device on our website. This would help businesses by eliminating some of the need for tech support. At our website, they could find short videos on how use their products, step-by-step explanations, troubleshooting and information on additional accessories that are supported by their specific device.
SPN: What was your process during Startup Weekend? How did your team work to get things built?
BB: Our team worked to create this website and show how the website would be broken up for the user in the easiest way. We created a demo video and presented this during the final pitch. We broke up duties amongst ourselves and each focused on different things. For validation of our product, to determine if this is something businesses would want, we surveyed a few local retailers. We also had a survey that included about 60 people and identified the problems people faced with technologies and the demographics of these people. With the help of our mentors, we spent a lot of time setting up our business model canvas and worked a story around it. Although we did not have any experienced developers, the array of skills our team brought to the table helped us to make this happen. I think it was a great learning experience, and having won free office space for our business by the university, it is definitely something that our team will continue to work on.
Read more about Startup Weekend Cedar Falls on Cedar Valley Startups.