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Tools to Bootstrap your Startup Weekend Idea

Mike Knoop
Mike Knoop / October 10, 2012

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend Columbia MO's second annual Startup Weekend (you can read about Zapier's origins at the first annual, last year) While the Zapier team was officially registered as mentors, Wade and I decided to also build a gag startup, PRLibs.

PRLibs — madlibs to create press releases for startups. We realized that many startup press releases sound the same and that we could build something to auto-generate them. I think the expression is, "adding fuel to the fire".

PRLibs Banner

The product works like this: users fill out a few form boxes with details pertaining to their startup. Those form entries (coupled with a website scrape which we added later) combine to create an often hilariously inaccurate madlib-style press release.

Wade and I decided that we wanted the final product to auto-post to a blog somewhere. We could have spent a few hours installing, configuring, and designing a WordPress blog (or similar) but realized we could get there even faster by using Posterous and using their built-in "Email a blog post" functionality.

The final piece of the puzzle was the glue between our madlib form and sending an email. Something Zapier can help with! You can hook up simple HTML forms to Zapier using our Webhooks app. In a few minutes we had our Zap, Webhook -> Send Email, and even used Zapier to build final paragraph out of the submitted form fields.

Zapier can help you get from idea to working demo, even if you don't know how to program. Many times (like in the example above) you can build an entire demo only knowing HTML.

There are a ton of other tools out there that can help you get from zero to demo, especially if you are not a developer. This list is compiled from actual observed successful usage at Startup Weekend:

Kickoff Labs Landing pages and email collection. A great thing to have live by the end of the night, Friday

Balsamiq Pitching an idea or vision? Mock-ups can quickly convey information to would be developers

WooThemes Get a custom Wordpress Site off the ground by Sunday

Posterous and Tumblr can host your Blog without needing a server of developer

So, how'd we do? 54 hours and a working demo later, we had this nice traffic graph:

PRLibs Traffic Graph

I believe one of the judges referred to us as "worst startup of all time". In other words, PRLibs was a smashing success and great way cap-off the real Startup Weekend participants. Congratulations to everyone who participated!

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Alex Minchin, Managing Partner at Zest

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