This is the second part to my experience at Boston Startup Weekend, the first part can be found here. One of m teammates also posted on his experience: Building a Business in 54 Hours – Boston Startup Weekend Recap.
The focus for Saturday was to get as much done as humanly possible. The first email of the day was the announcement that we lost Pete to a cold … which meant I was going to be the only developer. So after grabbing some breakfast and a small chat with the teammates, I unpacked my small library of references I thought we might need and started the coding project. Jay started the marketing site and Sergio started the business part of the presentation. Sergio also snagged the domain for subbids.com, which we all agreed would be a good name to use.
To help come up with ideas for the marketing site and the presentation I brought some books I thought might help spark some creativity:
There were a few things I didn’t take on Saturday that would have helped: a mouse for my laptop, a big bottle for water (save some trips back and forth), as well as more of my personal stash of reference code that uses Azure, MVC and EF (entity framework).
My first goal was to get a site on Windows Azure that we could login to by lunch time – seemed like an easy goal. In past I have built several sites that used MVC, EF and Azure … but its been a little while and my EF skills were a bit rusty. I made a series of mistakes in my effort to just-start-coding … which means I ended up creating the authentication and data access code more than once. After reworking the EF code two times I was really missing my reference code (especially the code I wrote for ifreader.com – which uses EF’s code first development and MVC). I ended up getting the site with authentication deployed to Azure and the domain pointed at the web role about 30 minutes later than I wanted, which gave me time to grab some lunch before starting on SubBids data model.
While I was fighting with the database and entity framework all morning, Jay and Sergio were hashing out the relevant entities and user stories for the site on the whiteboards. While eating lunch, I sat down and got up to speed on the contents of the whiteboards and the cards that Jay had created in trello. Jay also started the repository in github, but we decided that setting it up was a lower priority since we didn’t need to share anything.
For most of the afternoon we were all heads down, head phones on, working on our individual parts – expect for the occasional interruption of a mentor (it was always nice to hear a fresh outside view of the project).
By mid afternoon, I made the decision to throw out the repositories and interfaces … what the hell was I thinking? … functionality, functionality, functionality – forget the ‘best practices’ we’re working on an MVP dummy! Bring on the drag and drop demoware. For some reason, I’d forgotten about the packaged T4 templates that allow you to quickly create the views in MVC (given a typed view). This decision made a huge difference in the amount of work I was getting done.
By early evening, I had the majority of views tied to and working with the database (all the basic CRUDL functionality) … however they needed to be restyled and the flow of the pages needed to be organized.
By late evening, there was more conversation going on around the group about the day’s events – we all had a nice productive day. Saturday ended with creating a list of what we needed to do on Sunday.
Sunday’s main event was the final presentations – which meant we had until around 4pm to get as much done as we could and polish things off.
Jay had the majority of the marketing site done, Sergio was feeling good about the presentation but still had some things to work out and I needed to make the web app look like the marketing site.
Sunday was mostly an integration day. The marketing site was in WordPress/php (something I had little to no experience with) and the web application was MVC/.net. Instead of taking the time to figure out how to get WordPress into Azure, I decided to just create the views in the MVC with the html generated from WordPress. One challenge was that Jay wanted to start styling the web app, but didn’t have Visual Studio on his machine … and we really didn’t really have the time to install it. So we set up remote access to the Azure instance and he styled most of the views using notepad, while I recreated the WordPress site in the app locally on my machine. Of course we had to pull the files he changed off to a USB so I could merge them with my local version and redeploy. We probably did three or four of these integration rounds.
Early afternoon, things were looking good. The styles matched, the marketing site was now integrated with the web app, the functionality still worked and Jay was making the Dashboard look really nice. Then came the news … Sergio had too much content in his presentation and we would need to show some sort of app demo. Crap. Scramble time.
Jay and I worked on trying to fix the flow of the views, but we ran out of time. The last push to Azure didn’t work, then there was at least a half hour of getting the deployment out and working again. The functionality was there, however some things like dropdown lists on input views were missing and the page flow was chopped up … which in the end made our little demo in the final presentation seem short. We hadn’t practiced walking through the site for the demo – whoops!
Sergio did a great job on delivering the presentation and fielding the questions from the judges. I think the judges asked some really good questions throughout the competition. I was really surprised at the depth of the judges’ questions and how many companies they knew about that were relevant to the presenting teams’ products.
When they announced SubBids as the winner … I was surprised – mainly because I felt that I needed at least another weekend to get the product to an MVP – but I knew that Sergio and Jay had done a great job with there parts, so congratulations guys!