Monthly Archive: May 2015

Startup Weekend Miami – what to expect

Day 1 -What’s going on here

I entered into the Venture Hive in Miami early evening on Friday for what would be the beginning of a long non-stop weekend.  Upon arrival, I felt some anxiety mixed with excitement in the air – but people greet you like you’re supposed to be there – which was a relief for us newbies.

Ice Breakers

After explaining what the day would be like, Lee Ngo led a few ice breaker games – making all of these strangers in the room a little closer and more comfortable. We’re all there for the same reason right? In fact , I met 3 PMs in a matter of an hour.


You’re given a minute to pitch. After the Pitches, each team gets to post their pitch summary page on the wall.  Each person in attendance has 3 votes ( post it notes. ) They go around the room to vote on their favorites. The top 5 or 6 teams move forward and can now build a team.


You choose your favorite idea from the pitch, and build your team. My team was made up of the lovely Adriana Castro – Idea , Daniela Hernandez, Miguel Hidalgo, Francisco Tamayo, Juan Murillo, and myself. Today we were supposed to share our contact info and prioritize the tasks for tomorrow. My team and I are now ready for what tomorrow may bring.


Some Advice for Day 1

1. Take business cards

I guess I never got on the Business Card trend- I thought we were digital and realized that I was the only one without one- oops.

2. Introduce yourself to people

Most of the attendees haven’t been to the event before, so right away you have something in common. The more you come up to people and just chat, the cooler the experience is, and I’m sure they’re so glad you did the first step.

3. Pitch 

 This is definitely not something that I would normally say – trust me. However, you get such a great feeling right after, you feel on top of the world to have conquered that fear of being in front of a crowd. One of the the cool things  was that the facilitator Lee Ngo really brought it to light – he assumed most people were nervous about doing it, and really encouraged us to just go ahead and do it.

Day 2 – 12 Hours Straight

Day two is about creating and not talking  – Except we did our share of talking

We talked about the business model, and changed it at least 10 times, coming back to What was close to the original idea – a way to have a unique dining experience

This is how our mentors helped our team :

Harsh Thakar – Keep it simple

Clean up the business model – we started with one idea that involved multiple actors, including chefs, venues and guests. He made it clear that by having a simple model we could make a business with the existing team.  If we would add complexity, we would have to have a much larger team and expertise to  manage so many moving parts – completely agree.

Adam Boalt – Gain critical mass first

Keep it simple and piggyback on an existing technology to gain critical mass. This is where we decided to use companies like OpenTable and work with their affiliate model to reserve tables , like this we wouldn’t have to build the momentum from scratch.

Michael Hall – Data Monetization

Michael’s advice helped the team think bigger by exploring revenue models based on data.

Felecia Hatcher’s – Storytelling is crucial

To get your pitch across – it’s about how you capture the idea in a bottle – for us it’s about resonating with entrepreneurs in the room without excluding the bigger market.

Alex de Carvalho – Laser Focus on the Audience

Making your audience clear helps you make your marketing message very specific. This goes back to the lessons from 30×500 from Amy Hoy – it’s about finding the problem of one person, and solving it – not speaking to the masses, speak to me.


Day 3 – The Pitch

Three main things that we would be judged on

  • Validation:

    Were you able to validate your idea?  We were able to put up a landing page and got working on sharing with friends and family. We each shared it like crazy, within a few hours we had over 60 signups. This was worth it’s weight in gold to to judges.

    Business model:

    Is there an audience that is clearly defined, and do they have a problem that we could find a solution for?  Answering this question proved a lot more difficult, and was most of what we did on Day 2 and Day 3 actually.  This kept changing form to what became our winning strategy – to use an existing technology so we can reach critical mass quickly.

    MVP ( minimum viable product)

    Do you have a prototype ? Having a mockup, prototype or actual working model of your app is crucial. We saw a team that had an actual product. We didn’t have a developer, but what we did was have a 3 page prototype that we sketched out and was put together by our wonderful designer. A nice trick was to use the InVision App to pull this all together.

Breakin Bread

 It was close to the end of the day, and we felt that we had met all of the requirements above.

For our presentation strategy , we decided not to close in on a particular audience, instead we kept the idea broad, and had any questions to be answered in the back pocket. We focused on the delivery of the pitch, because the judges had to believe in us as a team, and our confidence and the strength of our team was just as important.

After wonderful pitches from our friends, The BreakinBread team ended up winning first place – and now the real work begins.

Signup to Be Part of a New Type of Dining Experience

Winning 2015 Miami Startup Weekend


Why the Curaçao is not getting the visits it deserves

Today I saw this pamphlet in the Netherlands embassy.  And although I had all the time in my hands ( I was waiting for my turn ), and I was dying for some entertainment ( my phone died)  , and I love traveling , I couldn’t find myself reading through the damn paper.

It was so freaking generic, and sounded exactly like everything else I had ever read about every other Caribbean Island – It was forgettable.

If I had been part of the story, then I know that it wouldve made an impression on me

What if we switched the hero of the Story to be YOU instead of CURACAO.

The more concious we become of the rule that people wantwant to be the center of the story.

What would that look like?

Be foreworned – I am far from a copywriter, and don’t want to be.

  1. Easy for you to get here. You’re only 1.5 hours from Miami.
  2. Practice Spanish, learn Dutch or even discover a historic Papiamentu – All while being comfortable and understood with your native English.
  3. Your dollar is worth a lot in Curaçao.  In fact – 1.7x more than the Antillean G which means you’ll get more for less.
  4. Coral reefs can easily be reached without a boat – why? the sea floor drops off steeply within a few hundred feet of the shore, and this is unique to curaçao.
  5. Imagine yourself relaxing in crystal – clear blue waters that offer grlass like visibility in one of our 35 beaches – the best are the smaller most intimate shores, some are carved out in secluded inlets.
  6. Enjoy walking tours along Willemstad while you immerse yourself in the island’s architecture, history and traditions of in one of the 750 sites and monuments.
  7. Learn about jewish history and see a testament of how they overcame persecution. Visit a synagogue full of rich mahogany yet a floor made of sand when you visit The Mikve-Isrel Emanual Synagogue – the Western Hemisphere’s oldest.
  8. Enjoy authentic local food “kriyoyo” at the floating Markets in downtowan Willemstad – where locals line up everyday at noon to visit the foodstands. Or stay closer to home to the many sidewalk cafes and renowned chef restaurants.
  9. Celebrate with us in one of our festivals  – Carnival in April, Jazz festival in August/Sept . Food and Muscis in February, Sailing Race in January & Cycling Race in November.
  10. Are you planning a romantic getaway? Or are you getting away for a Dive Trip, Do you want to get married? or are you planning your next Family Trip? You can do it all here.

The title says it all – the top 10 reasons to visit curacao.

What are the rules that I followed?

  • Dont Me myself and I  – Try to not use “Our” or “I”, Only used
  • Describe the Hero’s Dreams – Imagine the Hero in the story , describe as much as possible what they could be feeling.
  • Have a Solid Point of view. Notice #5, when I talked abot beaches, I pointed out the best beaches were smaller intimate shores.
  • Be Authentic – Everyone always says the same thing. If you think you’ve heard that phrase before – you’re safer not saying it.
  • Be Specific  – Even when being generic about festivals, we added specificity of times – this helps the reader.
  • Be Descriptive – is gives me a feeling, and I imagine myself there. Use adjectives that make you feel part of the story.  ex.” full of rich mahogany yet a floor made of sand” – This gives me a feeling, and I imagine myself there.

You have a great Idea? Forget What you Know.

How many times have you said to yourself ” I have a Great Idea”?

The path usually goes like this: Oh man,  “This idea will kill it” , why have I not thought of it before? It’s so good, I don’t even want to tell others!

what-we-do-a-broken-systemYou’re a creator, you are a designer, you’re a builder, so you go ahead, and  create your awesome

product. You create it based on your great UX , design or programming skills. You do your homework – you go online and do your “market research” and examine your competitors and based on that, create something similar, better, or different. ( Maybe all three)

You spend ( fill in amount of time) working on this baby. The interface looks slick, you change the color scheme a few times, perfect the copy a little, and launch.

You launch, and crickets…

You would wonder why it is that others already had a test base, etc  like I don’t have any connections, you don’t have 200 early adopters, why ? What did I miss?

You think to yourself,  oh I know I’m missing stuff

So you do the obligatory Social Media. You spent a little money (or maybe get the $50 free coupons) doing some ad words tests, you think to yourself – I also have to work on organic traffic – of course you make tweak all of your pages and make them SEO friendly.

You get ideas online on how to market your awesome product. There’s a hundred “guerilla marketing” tactics,  you add your product into the beta lists, tweak the copy a little more -now based on the USP ( unique selling proposition)

“Oh, of course!” My product doesn’t compete! My customers would love this that’s why it’s not resonating. You add more features. You change your product, you maybe go a little deeper and now that you’re there you tweak the design a little more.

Then you Freak Out.

Or Perhaps, you’re smarter than that

You’re cool, you follow “Lean methodologies” you already know that you always start with the PROBLEM duh! This is what Lean Startup or Startup Machine “Get out of the Building” teaches you.

Go out and ask people questions, and see if based on that you tweak your Audience, your Problem and your Solution, then you do your MVP.

But wait there darling – How do you sell that Solution to people?

Why is this a Broken System

This is what Amy Hoy calls Idea quicksand. It’s a Broken System. Why?

  • Because by starting with an idea, you become a slave to it. You will do whatever to validate it , even if it’s not a great idea.
  • Most likely you know nothing about the audience, so you won’t be sure that they want the problem you found solved.
  • Since you don’t know your audience, it will be very difficult to market to them properly.
  • You take a gamble on the product. If you start with the customer, they will not only be your early adopters, but you have guaranteed their involvement and interest before it became a product.

 Instead – Start with the Customer – the Audience.

  1. Get to know their NEEDS.
  2. Define their and your CONSTRAINTS
  3. Learn and Understand their WORLDVIEW
  4. Use it to craft an OFFER