1. 13 Nov 2013

    Startup Weekend Atlanta - Zuit

    By: Mitchell Lane

    Jason and I decided to attend Startup Weekend Atlanta this year. The last time either one of us managed to find time to attend one was in 2008. We really wanted to hit one this year, though, so we bought some last minute tickets and prepared ourselves for a long, fun weekend. We had a few ideas rattling around, but nothing solid enough to pitch.

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    This batch was full of really strong candidates. After 20 or 30 pitches, there were a solid 10 or so that stood out in our mind, but we were only given 3 votes, so we voted on Stax Exchange, Zuit, and the Scholarship Planner.

    Stax Exchange was clearly a good idea lead by someone with very strong domain experience. The general idea was to create an online marketplace for tax credits. It’s not too complicated, but the Stax Exchange website already does an excellent job of explaining it, so if you’re interested, check them out.

    Megan Rhinehart pitched Zuit, an online shop where a woman can buy custom-tailored suits to fit her unique body shape. We also thought this was a strong idea. A quick Google search supported her market research; although the problem has been solved for men, women still lack options. Having ordered a suit online myself from Indochino, whose buying process is pretty good, I was surprised that this didn’t already exist for women. It clearly has legs if executed well.

    Scholarship Planner was pitched as a management and discovery tool for scholarships. A college candidate would fill out his or her information once and the app would reuse this information where applicable on any scholarship the user is interested in. It would also help candidates manage their existing recurring scholarships and discover new scholarships to apply for. This was another idea that sounded good, provided something similar didn’t already exist.

    In the end, after much deliberation, we decided to join the Zuit team. We thought the 3 aforementioned pitches were all strong, but in the end we picked Zuit because the concept combined a strong business proposition with an opportunity to exercise creativity in execution. As we settled into our 2nd floor office at ATDC for the weekend, we got to know the team that became family for the next 48 hours:

    • Megan Rhinehart - Idea Girl
    • Gio Juarez - QA Rockstar
    • Carlos Gonzalez - Rails Ninja #1
    • Roberto Rivera - Rails Ninja #2
    • Mitchell Lane - Rails Ninja #3 and Javascript Guy #1
    • Vince Coyner - Marketing Guru
    • Gerald Dokka - Video Virtuoso
    • Jason Bishop - Front End Slave

    Our team was fortunate to have several developers, so our strategy was to break apart and work on separate functionality. For the Zuit concept, we knew we needed 2 things to have a “complete” product in terms of engineering: e-commerce functionality (back end) and custom user flows for ordering and measurement (front end). Since Jason and I work well together and can get things done quickly, we decided that I should be the one to implement the static cuts he created.

    My first day was primarily consumed by creating the custom style picker flow. Because this was one of the major features of Zuit, I felt it was really important to make this functionality exceptional for the demo. I first built out the underlying form submission and style selection processes. I eventually integrated it with Jason’s static cuts once he provided me with them.

    I had a little down time in between the style picker and the personal sizing flow, so I spent that time building out a JavaScript-based shopping cart in order to prepare for the integration with the ecommerce solution. This is about where the first day ended.

    The next day, I realized two things: time was going to be too short to do anything serious with the personal measurements flow, and we had too much functionality to demo inside our 3-minute presentation time limit. Once I got the personal measurement static cuts from Jason, I fixed them up to fit inside the app’s flow, but I didn’t add much functionality.

    It was also around this point that we realized the actual e-commerce functionality was too much to actually fully integrate into the app in time for the presentation. We also felt that this extra layer of code would bog down the live demo. With that in mind, we decided to work out what we were going to show in the demo and just focus on making it awesome. I spent my next few hours deploying our app to Heroku, setting up the domain name, fleshing out the JavaScript shopping cart functionality, adding in various icons, adding our measurement video, and cleaning up rough edges.

    We wrapped up work and spent the last few hours practicing as a team. The first pitch and demo attempt clocked in at over 15 minutes, but with practice, some guidance from our mentors, and some tough decisions on what to cut, we finally timed our presentation at under 3 minutes - just in time for the real thing.

    We made our way back to the room where the weekend began and waited our turn to present. The prep time paid off, as Megan nailed all the important points and phrasing while managing to clock in under the scant 3-minute time limit. Moreover, practically every question we were asked during the Q&A portion was something we had already prepared for!

    People seemed really excited about our presentation:

    When the judges returned with their decision, we were awarded 2nd place, just behind Stax Exchange. We also won some secondary prizes as well, including Best Design for Jason’s excellent work, Fan Favorite, Latest Workers (we took a picture of our work at 3am), and Furthest Traveler (Roberto was joining us from Puerto Rico)!

    All in all, it was a very fun weekend. We met some great people, did some solid work (in a really short amount of time), and got recognized for our efforts! Next up, Zuit dominates the women’s fashion world.

    P.S.: Jason’s going to post a design retrospective soon about his award-winning design for Zuit!