How the “Power of Yalla” got 34 Startups launched in one Weekend!

The Weekend of 12/11/10 was one to remember! More than 250 participants came from all around the Arab world came to Lebanon for a highly intense 3 days of coding, networking, fun and most importantly of action!

Friday afternoon the first “Geeks on Bus” arrived at Berytech from Syria. Crowds were pouring in from all over. We had people from Lebanon, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Jordan, Palestine, USA, Canada, just to name a few of the countries represented. Energy was mounting to get started, but we were waiting for our Jordanian “Geeks on a Bus” to arrive. The driver got lost, but they eventually got there. Gotta love Beirut traffic. When our Jordanian friends arrived, we were ready to get started.

The goal of the first day was to get people organized into teams. The stage was open for anyone to pitch their idea in 60 seconds. After an intense compressed session, over 60 ideas were presented. Now the task was to identify the best ideas that will get traction for teams to form around. So we did it Bazaar style where each participant had two votes to cast for an idea using plain old post-it notes. It was fun to see everyone selling their ideas to others, which is really something that also happens in real life during the early stages of a startup. People gravitated towards 35 ideas and now the wheels were set in motion to take that idea and build a prototype to pitch in 2 days.

Teams formed! It was amazing to see how multinational the teams were. Many of the teams had a healthy mix of gender, skill set, backgrounds, and passion! Immediately, all teams became a force and started to take that basic idea turning into something real. The energy was contagious. You saw people immediately busting out their laptops and started to design logos, UIs, user models, UI flows and some even started coding. Not only were new ideas being generated, but internet bandwidth, caffeine and snacks were being heavily consumed. The work continued till the wee hours of the morning. Some folks did not sleep, while others just crashed on a bean bag or sleeping bag. You could smell the adrenaline in the air! Really it was adrenaline!

The next day started off early with lots of caffeine and two wonderful talks by Walid Wannous and Ayman Chalhoub. Walid talked about the importance of UI and Ayman discussed the mobile revolution we are in the midst of. Work continued, but the pace got faster. So fast, that one of the internet routers got fried. It literally overheated. That was how hot the ideas were. We pulled some ninja moves and were able to get a new router installed within a few hours. One of the teams, KomicHub, during the down time wrote an application that would send a tweet and SMS notifications when we lost internet connectivity at the venue. How cool was that!?

Later in the day we had a great talk about agile development by Joi Ito. It was over skype and with our internet woes, Habib was transcribing live what Joi was talking about. You gotta role with the punches. After Joi, Ziad gave an inspirational talk about his journey building a mobile internet business in Egypt. As soon as the talks were done, people grabbed some chow and rushed back to keep hacking. Press, investors, and experts walked around to see what people were working on and gave them feedback. Everyone after their rounds came by and expressed their awe with what they saw.

In the evening, some teams took a break and listened to more talks by Chris Messina, who described the importance of simplicity and how to mobilize a community around your idea. Ayah Bdeir gave a very exciting talk about the intersection of engineering and art. This was followed by a showing of “Pirates of Silicon Valley”, one of the best geek movies out there.

Day 3, was when all the teams went into hyperdrive. The clock was ticking and everyone was scrambling to get their demos and pitches ready. For most, it was the first time they would pitch to an audience this large. Habib, Elie, Sami and Adam setup office hours to help everyone prepare. You could see in their eyes the shock of how much the teams achieved.

It was getting close to pitch time. Crowds were pouring in. TV stations, investors, students, professions, and more arrived. People from all walks of life came waiting to see what the teams have been cranking on for the past 3 days . There were over thirty 4 minute pitches to go through. So the best way to start is to just dive in. Habib described the ground rules, and got everyone pumped. Then the marathon started. One after another the teams presented their companies. It was a wow moment for all. Yes a wow moment. A panel of judges were evaluating each idea and keeping score. What was amazing was in the middle of the pitch sessions, an angel investor from Dubai, Samer Alameddine, came up and handed the organizers a wad of cash to give to the winning teams. How amazing is that? The pitching was over and now tensions were mounting because the results were getting tallied. The results were so close that we had to call the judges back to help identify the winners. It was an exciting time for all.

And the winners of YallaStartup Weekend 2010 according to the jury were:

First place… Mimix, a service that translates voice into sign language
Second place…, infinite free community based storage solution
Third place…, a social platform that revolves around activities & going out.

The rest of the awesome startups created during the weekend are located here.

Congrats again to everyone. Everyone who participated is a winner! As the organizers, we wanted to remind everyone involved that this event is not a competition but about living the life cycle of a startup in just one weekend! It’s about getting interest for your idea, matching you with co-founders and team members, and showing each and every one of you what you are capable of. You all got a full dose of what it means to build something from scratch. What the teams were able to build in one weekend was really inspiring! A big part of entrepreneurship is about taking that first step, and remember, it all starts with the “Power of Yalla”; The power of doing things vs strategizing and thinking things forever before taking action.

To add more icing to the cake, Startup Weekend winners compete against their peers across the globe. Each city has their winning team send in a pitch to participate in a Global Startup Battle. Guess who won? Our very own Mimix. Go Mimix!

Right after we distributed the prizes and certificates we all went out and celebrated the weekend over some good food, bowling, pool and other fun games.

This event was a purely volunteer run event and we want to thank everyone who made this a reality. Some of the participants even gave us a hand on the first day to handle registration. We want to thank Ramy El Khoury from Umbrella for the great design work, we also want to thank Adam Stelle from StartupWeekend, who flew all the way in from Seattle and was of tremendous help; and Amir Kabbara and Rock Sfeir for all their hard work helping pull together the materials for the weekend! We also want to thank Berytech, Nicolas Rouhana, Tania Mazraani, Krystel Khalil and all the team for being amazing partners and hosts. Finally, we wanted to thank our sponsors for making this event a reality. As a not-for-profit, we depend on your generous support to make a difference. Thank you!

You can also view more pics here, some videos here and here.

The YallaStartup Team
Amir, Elie, Habib, Sami

2 Responses to “How the “Power of Yalla” got 34 Startups launched in one Weekend!”

  1. Dany says:

    Hi there. this is the first time i go through this kind of events and it’s definitly a great job you are doing there.
    Thus, i have one remark: is the event concentrated on technology based ideas only ?
    I have for example a new idea of launching a new fast food chain in Lebanon that is based on a totally new cuisine not known to Lebanese till now – Could i take part in your next event?
    In all cases, congrats for everyone ans especially for Mimix.


  2. It was indeed a great weekend!! one of the greatest i’ve been to so far!
    can’t wait for the next one 🙂

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