In 72 hours, a group of strangers met, brainstormed ideas and then built working prototypes for six companies.
The companies included Spear Guard, an e-mail security firm, Renew Couture, a recycled clothing line, Stride Sync, a music sharing app, Golf Average, a statistical analysis app to improve golf performance, SimpLingo, a browser plug-in to learn a foreign language and, a professional networking app made for conference attendees.
The newfound entrepreneurs took part in 3 Day Startup weekend in San Antonio at Geekdom, a downtown co-working and collaborative workspace.
“This is the best one we’ve had in San Antonio by far,” said Cam Houser, one of the founders of 3DS. “The crop of ideas were really strong. The execution was just great.”
That’s impressive praise considering the last two 3DS weekends in San Antonio created at least two companies that are still running and that have received venture funding. One of those is FanDash, a site for band promotion and Console.FM, formerly known as HelloWorld.Im. Console.FM, created in the Spring of 2011, is now part of Dave McClure’s 500Startups incubator.
The 3DS weekend teaches students and young professionals about entrepreneurship and creates real ventures that go on to further develop their products and services, said Cristal Glangchai, a professor of entrepreneurship at Trinity and one of the organizers. Trinity, Rackspace, TechStars and Geekdom sponsored the event.
Successful entrepreneurs also lent their expertise to the various groups throughout the weekend. The mentors included Pat Condon, one of the founders of Rackspace, Ryan Kelly, founder of Pear Analytics, Jason Seats, founder of SliceHost, Nick Longo, founder of CoffeCup Software, Todd Morey, founder of Mosso, a cloud company within Rackspace and Alan Weinkrantz, a public relations expert who runs his own firm.
In addition, several members of 3DS, a nonprofit organization which puts on the events worldwide, helped. The next 3DS is next weekend in the Netherlands.
Throughout the weekend, participants experienced “a lot of extremes,” Houser said. Some entrepreneurs got their ideas extinguished early on. Others discovered, after a lot of work, that their idea wouldn’t work. One guy stayed up for 27 hours straight to work on programming a new site. Some people never left the building except to interview potential customers.
On Friday, the groups voted on the best ideas and decided who they wanted to work with to develop the idea into a company. But on Sunday, some of the original groups no longer existed like Hole in the Wall, a local restaurant review app. After doing some research, they decided the market was too saturated with similar apps so those team members went to work on other projects, Houser said.
And a new company emerged on Saturday.
Vyjayanthi Vadreavu originally pitched the idea for a documentary on homeless people and a recycled clothing line. Her idea did not get enough votes to make the final projects.
But Saturday morning, she found some people who wanted to work on it. She talked to Glangchai, one of the organizers of 3DS San Antonio, who encouraged her to pursue the idea, but with a different focus.
On Sunday, Vadreavu pitched Renew Couture with a new team. The group collects gently used clothing, delivers the items to student clothing designers at local universities and then sells the clothes made from recycled material.
An estimated four million tons of clothes get discarded every year, Vadreavu said. The opportunity to take some of the clothes and make them into new garments is huge, she said. The company would work with five local fashion schools to create the clothes.
“The clothes get a second life and the customer gets a one of a kind item,” she said.
This was the first time Vadreavu, 26, who works at Rackspace, participated in a 3DS. She plans to continue to work with her group to get the company launched and funded.
“I think it’s such a fantastic experience,” she said. “I wish I knew about it earlier in my career.”
Another woman-led venture, SimpLingo, started out as Babbling on Friday, but changed its name and refined its focus after doing a lot of research and talking with mentors, said Amando Wolf, a junior majoring in Chinese language studies at Trinity.
SimpLingo is a simple way to learn a foreign language, particularly Spanish. It’s a browser-based plug-in to translate portions of text online based on a person’s level of proficiency.
“You don’t have to deviate from your daily routine to learn the lingo,” Wolf said during her pitch.
SimpLingo was the only company to ask for money outright.
“I did the last 3 Day Startup,” said Cassie Robinson, a sophomore at Trinity studying religion, entrepreneurship and business and a team member of SimpLingo. “One of the ideas that did really well, they asked for money.”
So Robinson put up a slide requesting $10,000 and provided a bank account and routing number.
The panel of judges liked the idea and the fact they asked for funding. The panel included Jay Campion, a venture capitalist, Sheridan Chambers, one of the founders of The Denim Group, Dirk Elmendorf, one of the founders of Rackspace, Suizo Mendler, a former Rackspace executive and now TechStars mentor and George Karutz, an investment banker.
SimLingo has a lot of potential, said Alex Butler, a senior majoring in engineering at Trinity and one of the team members. “It’s really scalable.”
After the pitches, the various groups worked the crowd to talk to potential investors.
Luke Carriere, head of, started out pitching the app as a dating app and then switched to a professional networking app after researching the market.
“The problem was adoptability,” Carriere said. “Partnering with events organizers was a way to ensure there was a critical mass of users.” is planning a beta launch of its product in the Spring of 2012, said Carriere, a graduate business student at Fordham University who is doing a internship at the Austin Technology Incubator. He says he has $10,000 in funding from an angel investor to pursue the idea.
“It’s a way to reach out and meet new people at the same events,” Carriere said. “We think there is a market for that. And this is just the beginning.”