Participant Spotlight: My Experience at William and Mary’s Inaugural 3 Day Startup

Contributor: Claire Gillespie, sophomore at the College of William & Mary and participant at 3DS William & Mary


3 Day Startup is forty people, seven meals, dozens of laptops, several words, and glory. For me, it was standing up in front of a group of strangers – most of them older and probably smarter than myself – and telling them the business idea I had been mulling around in my head for months. It was questions and criticisms and learning to work with a team of strangers. It was talking pretty, talking code and talking to some of the most passionate, innovative individuals I’ve encountered at the College of William and Mary.

Students came to 3DS on Friday at 5pm and broke into small groups to share startup ideas that ranged from apps to websites to features on existing network systems. We were told to talk about the problem our ideas solved, the target market, and, lastly, how we would make money.

We ate sandwiches and pizza as thirteen students pitched their ideas to the group. After, these students were bombarded by a series of questions from their fellow undergraduates, law students, MBA students, and the executive partners – experienced business alumni – who served as mentors over the weekend.

After voting on the ideas we liked best and the ideas we would most like to work on, we split into teams based on ideas spanning from an app that plays one-minute educational or entertaining videos to tablet-based hotel management software to an app that delivers food to your seat in a stadium.

My team – the hotel management software group – created an online survey asking about people’s hotel experiences that we sent to our friends then discussed the amount of coffee we would need and the appropriate ways we would obtain said coffee.

Saturday morning began at 9am with a presentation about talking to customers. My good friend and I then spent the majority of Saturday driving from hotel to hotel speaking with front desk staff and general managers about their current hotel management software and their interest in the idea we were proposing. The highlights of this day include discovering the sun roof on the ’94 Camry a team member had lent us to drive, navigating the maze of the Great Wolfe Lodge (we actually got lost while looking for the front desk), and watching hotel staff’s faces light up as they understood our idea and the energy and time it could save them.

In the evening, we ate pizza as we watched three teams give three presentations about three very different products in the first round of pitches. Again, we offered feedback in the form of questions but more abstract and difficult this time.

On Sunday, as I worked with other business-minded students to perfect the pitch, the developers on my team had coded an entire mock website and basic prototype for two Nexus tablets. In other groups, developers created mockup apps to demonstrate their product.

After creating a logo, eating pizza, and having a large group discussion about if we should use black or white font on a green background, my group was ready for its final pitch.

Three days together does something to people. They become like childhood siblings, blunt and intimate. The developers cap their projects off with inside jokes and friendship. The mentors come and listen and provide feedback and share their experiences.

And then, the teams give their final pitches, and with the final pitches, come the glory. The glory is the idea turned to reality – all tied up in seven minutes and some code.

With the pitches done, the weekend is mostly over. On Sunday evening, I went home exhausted with an extra pizza box and thought that 3DS has taught me more about working with other people and creating a business in three days than I had learned in the past three years.

Of course 3DS was a success. Anything that William and Mary students give three days, almost thirty hours, and a whole lot of themselves to is at least a little magnificent.

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