In my mind, last Friday's Demo Day was an unequivocal success. This wasn't because of the packed house(although that was nice), or the free sushi and beer(both which seemed to disappear as fast as they could be replaced), but because the students truly shined as professional developers.
The ultimate evidence of that came in the Q&As. There were some inquiries about process and functionality, such as "How did you set up your Trello cards?" and "What inspired that UI choice?" But there were also business-related ones: "How do you see this scaling with the user base?" and "How does this compare to your potential competitors"?
When people start thinking about the various ways your project could actually make money, that's a great sign that you're doing something right.
For projects that these students really only started building a couple weeks ago, that's pretty cool. To their credit, the students handled all 3 types of questions with aplomb. Today, I'll recap the first 3 presentations:
This group aimed to solve a unique problem that they had just recently faced: as prospective students, how can you really compare coding bootcamps? While bootcamps release statistics, curriculums, marketing pieces and maybe even Instagram accounts, it can be very challenging to get a feeling for the actual day-to-day experience. Essentially, how do you cut through the bullshit and get to the real stuff.
The answer: Beacon, a website that connect prospects with grads of bootcamps so they can ask them real questions and get real answers about the overall experience. Through GitHub-connected user profiles, a name steal from our monthly newsletter and a multi-leveled verification system to ensure there weren't imposters, Beacon is a user driven site that doesn't allow the meddling of bootcamp administrators (like me!) to get in the way of true feedback.
In the question period, one person joked about how as Lighthouse grads, they could rig the site to favor the "home team". Personally, I'm fine if students want to just make a site that's just a huge ad banner for Lighthouse Labs. But I can appreciate the concern, and Billy had a much more reasonable take: they don't ahve any motivation to do so, because at the end of the day anyone who put in those kind of raw hours at any bootcamp that is someone worth hearing from, and worth sitting down to have a beer with.
This may have been Lighthouse's first-ever in-presentation pivot. Dragonfly was presented as a way for people who know and want to learn different languages to connect - so if you know English and want to know more French, you could meet up with someone who knows French and wants to know more English. Through skype-like video functionality designed by Andre and Jamie, they showed off their impressive matching algorithm and sleek interface in a live demo that had one of them speaking from a completely different room!
The impressiveness of the web app didn't go unnoticed, and the minds of the audience quickly moved to.. well to where our minds always seem to be. What's stopping this from just becoming a dating app, where people just go on to hit on exotic bilinguals? Jamie Woodbury responded with a lean mentality that would make our entrepreneurial neighbours in Launch Academy proud: they said why not? Their goal was to connect people through languages, and if that's a cause for romantic spark, then so be it! Parfait!
Stratavox was a unique project in that there was a product already in place before the course. Rene came to Lighthouse Labs as "Chief Multitasking Officer" for Stratavox, which at the time had already started to build a platform to streamline communications for property managers. He wanted to be able to code his own vision for the product. Colin, joined him, excited about creating something that he knew would result in a real business.
The result surpassed most expectations, with the duo allowing property managers the ability to coordinate and sort massive amounts of data, notify residents of important updates by SMS or voice, and get live updates on crucial information. What's more - in the Q&A, someone asked them how much of this was in place before the class. Their answer? None. They had torn the previous software down and built it up from scratch.
That's half of the recap! Read Part 2 here.