Wednesday, May 16, 2012

    A Walkthrough of Startup Weekend Tijuana Teams

    On the second day of SWTJ, I had the chance to talk to all of the teams about their products.  Keep in mind that the products described below do not necessarily reflect the final product that was presented on Sunday. 


    Bacheo/Wachabump is a smartphone and web app that allows users to report potholes to the government.  Pictures of the potholes along with GPS or other locating information can be uploaded by users and this data would be accessible to all. There were ideas of making a pothole density map from the data, which could be used to show where the worst roads were.  The end goal of the app is to pressure the government into fixing the roads.

    This product reminded me strongly of DIYDemocracy, a company that operates out of AnsirInnovation Center.  I like all ideas that improve government accountability and am excited about Wachabump, my only concern is that the idea in its current form is not too accessible to the average Mexican.  The number of Mexicans who can afford smartphones is low and the number of who have data plans is even lower.  Basic internet access cannot be said to be a given.  I imagine that the communities who would benefit the most from this app would also be the most impoverished, so I suggested that they think about a SMS reporting system as well.


    This team pivoted a bunch of times, but the pitch that I got made me think of an for university teachers.  The problem today is that university professors do not know what to teach in regards to industry software, so before planning a course, the professor would log on to the Indueducation website and see what kind of software was being used in a particular industry.  In addition to industry information, Indueducation would also provide tutorials and guides for the software.

    I was not much of a fan when I heard this idea as two very big problems came to mind.  First, I questioned whether or not professors had that much control over their own courses. Second, how were they going to get these detailed and dense guides?  One problem, the team has no control over and the other seems like it would cost a lot of money to solve. is a site where venues can register and approach users on their birthdays with promotions.  There would also be a recommendation engine for users looking to plan a party that would steer them towards appropriate promotions.  Users can also upload existing promotions as well, such as if they knew of a restaurant that offered a free meal on your birthday. 

    There was some concern that for birthday parties the team was targeting the wrong person, since usually the person having the birthday does not plan their own party.  The team explained that it was not just for restaurants but other businesses as well such as. 

    The targeting might need some a little tweaking, but overall I thought this was an awesome idea and HbD2 gets extra points for doing something that I have not seen yet.  Their model  could definitely be applied to other celebrations as well.

    I suggested they Photoshop a screenshot of the site as a minimum viable product and publicize it on Facebook in order to get validation on the idea as well as feedback on what features to include or take out.


    Cruzas is a real time traffic app for the US border crossing.  Currently, the info services on border traffic such as calling the border guards are inaccurate to the point of being useless. Cruzas aims to solve this problem by crowd sourcing and aggregating all current info sources.  There was also talk of a Waze like app that actively tracked the position and speed of the user’s car and shared it with other users as well as allowed drivers to ping each other.  In the final product, users would be able to see a heat map of the fastest lanes. 

    Cruzas seemed like a product with an extremely small market, namely people who cross the US-Mexican border regularly.  For frequent border crossers, there is already the Sentri pass that gives them dedicated lanes sort of like Fast Trak.  Where could Cruzas fit in all of this?  That was my thought until I heard the overwhelmingly positive reactions from the frequent border crossers at the event.  Apparently there are two border crossings in California, and choosing the right one could save you two to three hours one way, even with the Sentri pass.  With over a million people who cross the border every year, Cruzas could very well become a decent passive income product if they used a subscription based revenue model.  


    Eventum is a user generated public events calendar.  Any user can create a public event and it will integrate with social media sites. Users will be able to buy tickets to the events straight from the Eventum site. The site’s focus will be on local businesses and each event page will have their own QR code.

    The event discovery space is rife with competition, but nobody seems to be able to do it right.  I showed the team the Roamz app, which is the best (but still terrible) event discovery app I have used to date.  Eventum is a bit too similar to Eventbrite for my liking, despite the team leader’s insistence that it is different because it focuses on local businesses and event discovery.    


    In Mexico there a lot of problems with government transparency and Congresoplon which roughly translates to "Congress Snitch" aims to change that.  Currently, public information such as attendance and voting records are available to the public but not very accessible.  Congresoplon is a website that would put all of that public info about representatives in an easy to understand format.  Congresoplon would give representatives a grade on how well their voting record reflects the will of their constituents.  They will be targeting the federal government first.  The ultimate goal is to get representatives to be more accountable and connected to their constituents.

    I am always enthusiastic about things that make government more accountable, so immediately I was drawn to Congresoplon.  There are a couple of sites like Congresoplon in the US and and if Mexico doesn't have any equivalents already, it really should.  One of the mentors suggested they look for a grant from the Carter Institute, which promotes government transparency and that seemed like a brilliant idea to get funded and still remain neutral.  Out of all the teams at SWTJ, Congresoplon was the only team that I could see having an effect on the average Mexican citizen.   


    The tagline for Instapart was "find used parts for your car in under 90 seconds" and the team billed it as a twitter for junkyards.  Users visit the Instapart site and quickly type in what car part they need and for what car model, then Instapart blasts that query out to junkyards in the area and returns results in 90 seconds.  Results are sorted by distance, rating of the junkyard, and price.     

    I was really impressed with the team when they told me that they called and even visited some junkyards in order to validate their product.  Alline, a mentor from San Diego, suggested they use try selling a part on Twitter as their minimum viable product and me being the one who is always trying to make the product as inclusive as possible, suggested they allow for SMS queries too.


    Pimiento is a smartphone that lets you look up recipes by entering in what you have in your fridge.  I was really surprised that Pimiento received the most votes from the audience since the idea of searchingfor recipes by ingredients has been around for at least five years.  However, when I saw the mockups I became more enthusiastic about it. 

    The biggest problem with Pimiento is that it is targeting the smartphone demographic, which is also the demographic that doesn't cook!  Even when I asked the team if they cooked, all of them said not really.  This team had some trouble thinking up a revenue model, and I suggested they follow the freemium model, where users will have access to a basic free app and then be prompted to buy premium features such as additional recipes.  

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