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Shoot, Fire, Aim: 3 Day Startup & the Rackspace Startup Program

Authored by John McKenna, the Rackspace Startup Program

We love helping startups, young professionals and students. The Rackspace Startup Program reaches out to these individuals across the country with raw ideas as they evolve into entrepreneurial startups. By providing the foundation of Cloud hosting, Rackspace helps them get up and running in the right direction and 3 Day Startup (3DS) provides these entrepreneurial minds the opportunity to start a technology company in a three day period with guidance and mentoring from some of the brightest in the business.  The most recent 3DS event was held at the Rackspace headquarters, in San Antonio, and was sponsored by Trinity University.

What is 3DS?

Students and young professionals from numerous backgrounds were invited to participate while mentors provided guidance through the early stages of the startup experience. Over this intense weekend participants of 3DS brainstorm ideas, conduct market validation, devise business models, build prototypes, create branding and pitch to investors and successful entrepreneurs. The result of 3DS is an experience that challenges students to innovate, build and launch real companies.

Among the mentors were influential individuals such as Pat Condon (co-founder of Rackspace), Jason Seats (founder of Slicehost), Dirk Elmendorf (co-founder of Rackspace), Nick Longo (founder of CoffeeCup) and Ryan Kelly (founder of Pear Analytics).  Check out this video to listen in on what these mentors and the rest of the 3DS staff have to say about this program.

 

What goes on each day?

Day 1: Shoot. The 3DS participants bring ideas to the table and learn the strategy of team building. Eleven brainstorming groups were assembled, formulated a pitch for their ideas and presented the ideas to attendees and mentors. Participants then self-elected the top five ideas and self-organized their teams. Each team was made up of members with diverse strengths: developers, designers, journalists, marketers, writers, business and liberal arts majors. With the teams assembled, Day 1 blended into Day 2 as all the 3DS participants jumped feet first into the deep end of the idea development pool.

Day 2: Fire. The 3DS process allows teams to develop and validate their chosen products. Team leaders assign tasks to each member. Some hit the streets to interview business owners and potential customers of the chosen product. Developers begin to write code and designers begin work on the look and feel of the project. Writers begin to craft the message for the end presentation. Mentors are on hand throughout the day and night to provide guidance, direction and a complete breakdown of each project in order for teams to have a valid product and business plan before the teams formulate their final presentation.

Working around the clock and fueled by adrenaline and caffeine, you can find teams taking a break from work and bringing down the stress levels by initiating a nerf gun battle or doing some push ups in the parking lot. And at any hour you run across someone catching up on a well deserved nap asleep at their work station, curled up on the floor, or for the smart ones, a well deserved break on their own pillow, blanket and air mattress. Life is good at 3DS.

Day 3: Aim. All of the hard work from the previous two days come together as teams begin prototyping their business. Remember, the 3DS participants have now been together as a team for less than thirty-six hours. In the early afternoon, mentors gather with each group and hear the abbreviated pitch for the final presentation. With direction from the mentors, teams push on to finalize the project which includes defining the business, its unique selling proposition, a valid business plan backed by stats and research, channels of profit and a technical demo that brings the business to life.

Final Moment
Then comes the moment of truth in the final hour of 3DS: the final presentation. Teams and mentors are gathered, a panel of tech entrepreneurs is assembled, family and friends of the participants are in the crowd for support, and the 3DS staff gets the finale into full swing. Now it’s time to pitch the business in eight minutes with a questions and answers session at the end. And pitch they did…40 plus individuals who were broken up into 11 brainstorming groups who self-elected the final 5 and came together over 3 days as a cohesive team of entrepreneurs. Now that’s living the 3DS dream!

A Big Thanks
From the Rackspace Startup Program team, a special thanks to Trinity University and the 3DS team: Cam Houser, Joel Hestness, Cristal Glangchai, Bart Bohn, and the Mentors: Pat Condon, Dirk Elmendorf, Jason Seats, Nick Longo & Ryan Kelly.

For any question or comments on the Rackspace Startup Program, please contact Jeff Lamboy. If you would like to participate in next event please visit the 3DS San Antonio Website.

About the Author

This is a post written and contributed by Angela Bartels.

Angela runs integrated marketing campaigns for Rackspace. She started at Rackspace in 2003 and has done everything from Linux support, account management, sales, product marketing and now lives in marketing. She left Rackspace in 2005 to work for PEER 1 Hosting but returned in 2009 because she was interested in the cloud computing movement (and has always been a Racker at heart). Angela is a strong believer in the power of storytelling.


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