Being on Board at Launch48

The other day I was invited to an event called Launch48. It’s an online market event, aiming at pushing young entrepreneurs to launch a complete web application in 48 hours. I was invited to be part of the board. Little I knew about anything “launch48 related” until I made it there, I admit. Had no idea what a “board” means in this context, nor what exactly did I had to do.

I’m not going to give you any details about the technical part, but I do think there’s a lot to talk about the implications of the event at the personal development level.
The Set Up

So, just to be clear: the goal of the event was to launch a complete, functional web app in less than 48 hours. Young entrepreneurs had a 1 minute time frame in which they pitched their ideas. After an evaluation period (a few hours), a jury picked 3 ideas. Once that step completed, the initiators also picked their own teams to implement their idea. From this moment on, everything was under the time pressure.

Every few hours the project managers had board meetings, along with people from their team that they considered relevant for the actual stage of the project. In between, they met mentors who volonteered to help. Each mentor had some unique expertise: programming, marketing, business strategy.

At the end of the first day, the teams had to present an application in a so-called “alpha” stage. A workable proof of concept. At the end of the second day, they must came with a functional “beta”, which means: everything described must work, but bugs are acceptable. During these two days they also had to came up with a lot of related documents: business plans, marketing plans, competition analysis and so on.
The Board

The board members (yours truly included) had to “whip” the project managers, follow the progress, ensure the team is on the right track and even provide answers to critical questions. To be honest, I didn’t feel very comfortable playing this role, I never was the “whip” guy, but I did my best to fit in. As a member of the board I was also designated to host the final presentation. In the third day, all three teams presented their apps to a very picky audience (the event was integrated in NetCamp, one of the largest Internet related events in Romania, and not only). My role was to ensure their presentations will run smoothly and in the alloted time frame.
The Happy End

At the end of this marathon, everybody was happy (again, yours truly included). The apps were functioning, the business model was understandable and some teams even had the time to make a little buzz on Twitter or Facebook. It was a complete success.

Ok, now, what I learned from this event?
1. Working under Pressure Is Not Necessarily a Bad Thing

Looking at how those ad-hoc teams managed to communicate, to share tasks, roles and deal with impending difficulties was enlightening. Many of the team members didn’t know each other before. And yet, they managed to create a functioning unit and deliver a final product. In some way, looking at those teams was like looking at a whole year of an entire company’s life, only fast forward: new people, new ideas, coding, marketing plans, communication, failure, starting over. I will repeat myself, but this whole process was really enlightening.
2. When You Really Believe In Your Dream, Nothing Is Impossible

The project managers were also the “idea” guys. Out of several other ideas presented they have been lucky enough to be picked and to be provided with the resources they need. They were able to make their dream come true. In a kind of “sand-box” way, but still. Well, this is what we usually call “luck”. At some points in our life, we do receive all the resources we need for our goals, out of the blue. The lesson: when this is happening, push all the buttons, do whatever you can to make it happening. Don’t quit and be on top of it. In the end, it will really happen.
3. Focus On What Is Really Important

I will need a book to write down all those magnificent ideas ventured by the people involved, from the board members, to mentors, project managers, idea guys or just simple team members. But the time was too short to implement all of them. If they will implement every single strategy, monetization or technical idea, they wouldn’t have finish it in several months. The team leaders heavily exercised their choice muscles. And, again, this is what we do in real life too: we may have a gazillion ideas but if we don’t focus on something achievable and start doing it, we’ll end up with nothing but a bunch of useless, shiny ideas.
4. Discipline Pays Off

They couldn’t achieve something functional without discipline. No team was functioning at 100% and I really don’t think they could, under the circumstances. But all the people made a lot of effort to integrate and leave away distractions and interferences. Some of the team members didn’t even sleep the night before the presentation. Huge effort pays off. Always. Maybe you’re not always in such a fortunate condition to work uninterrupted for 48 hours and, admittedly, the whole event was more of an exercise, a show off, but still, the result is unchallengeable: discipline really pays off.

I want to congratulate all the people I have interacted with and express my honest admiration. It’s not by chance that I offered to each team leader a wild card to my mentorship program. Technical expertise apart, they were all winners and they proved they can stretch way beyond their limits. Also, I would very much want to thank for the invitation to Cristi Manafu, the organizer of this edition of Launch48 in Romania.

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