Each weekend all over the globe Startup Weekend events are taking place from Bloomington, Indiana to Lahore, Pakistan – and sometimes I am lucky enough to fly over and help manage the event. During this time I get to watch the very beginning stages of entrepreneurial stories unfold. I find it such an amazingly beautiful thing to see and feel the euphoria and adrenaline created when smart, ambitious, creative and passionate people come together around an idea. It is in this collision of connections where the best entrepreneurial stories are written – you never know what might happen or whom you just might meet.
It is these small and random stories of entrepreneurship that make what I do for a living so exciting and meaningful. I could never listen to enough Startup Weekend stories and the impact the event has had on people’s lives. One story I find particularly interesting is CloudMine. For those who don’t know (mobile developers pay attention) CloudMine is a platform that eliminates the need for you to build custom backend solutions for your mobile application. CloudMine is co-founded by Brendan McCorkle, Marc Weil & Ilya Braude.
I first met Marc Weil while facilitating at Startup Weekend Princeton. I knew I liked the guy from the beginning – he had tons of energy and loved helping out teams (even if they weren’t building on the CloudMine API). If you spend more than 2 minutes with him you pick up on his brilliance – both for business and for solving technical problems. It was during this time he shared with me the story of how CloudMine came into being.
Startup Weekend Philly
Marc Weil met Brendan McCorkle in January 2011 while participating at a Startup Weekend event in Philadelphia. Marc describes his participation in the Startup Weekend event as the “beginning of the end of his corporate career.” As the event kicked off on Friday night, Brendan pitched his idea for the original CloudMine, a consumer product aimed at data curation and backup of mobile devices. The pitch struck a cord with Marc since he had been thinking about developing a similar product to solve his own problem. While Marc ultimately decided to apply his development skills to another team during the event, he told Brendan that he really liked the idea and wanted to learn more. When I asked Marc why he didn’t join Brendan’s team, he said:
“I didn’t join Brendan’s team because I already had met up with my friend who came down from RIT and told him I’d be on his team. It was my first real tech event and I was a little nervous around all the new people, so I stuck with the person I knew.”
During the course of the event, Marc and Brendan worked on separate teams, each competing to be named the winner of Startup Weekend Philly where they both witnessed the birth of Launchrock. It would take a combination of other entrepreneurial/tech community events, tensions between a product manager at Oracle and an unbeknownst application to DreamIt Ventures before CloudMine would become more than just a side project of Brendan’s.
Quest for a Technical Co-Founder
Prior to co-founding CloudMine, Brendan started a company in Boston offering a SMS-based solution alerting restaurant patrons when their table was ready (as opposed to carrying around those square clunky things that vibrate); but like so many other non-technical co-founders, Brendan had to go out and earn his technical co-founder.
Months later, during a Philly Startup Leaders (PSL) happy hour, Brendan met Ilya and they hit it off together. A few weeks later Brendan introduced Ilya to Marc at Eulogy (a Belgium tavern). After a few beers, the geek fest between Ilya and Marc ensued. They have been geeking out together ever since.
When I asked Marc what he liked about Brendan he said:
“When Brendan & I were getting to know each other he just seemed like a cool and really smart guy. He was wary of the technical/non-technical working relationship and showed a strong interest in the technical side.
These days, I am more impressed each time during a customer or partner meeting at how well Brendan is able to explain how the product works in technical terms.”
Marc continued to offer his advice and helped out with technical research, but it would only be a matter of time before Marc would start cranking out code. He was about to reach his breaking point at Oracle and learn about CloudMine’s acceptance into DreamIt Ventures.
Sticking it to the Man & Dreamit Ventures
Brendan applied to DreamIt Ventures and listed Marc (without him knowing) as the technical co-founder of CloudMine. When Brendan called Marc to inform him of acceptance (surprise!), Marc immediately stopped what he was doing to meet up with Brendan at Starbucks and signed the contract between CloudMine & DreamIt. I asked Marc why the acceptance into DreamIt Ventures made him decide to work on CloudMine full time, he said:
“I liked the idea of not jumping into the deep end with my eyes closed. I liked the social reassurance that came our acceptance into DreamIt. We had people of respect and authority giving thumbs up on the idea. DreamIt was basically saying ‘we think you can make it, we can give you money, we can help you.’”
Marc had become increasingly frustrated with his work at Oracle and was looking for a change. After a final argument between he and a product manager, Marc called a close friend who was currently working at Philly startup and asked him to ask his boss for a temporary job until the DreamIt Ventures program started in three months. The said friend’s boss agreed and Marc quit Oracle.
Brendan, Marc & Ilya then entered into the DreamIt Ventures program and went heads-down into hustler mode.
Beta Launch & Global Sponsorship
After finishing up with DreamIt, CloudMine launched its public beta at Startup Weekend. I asked Marc why they decided to launch at a Startup Weekend Philly. He said:
“We really liked the poetic closure – we’d met at a Startup Weekend, so let’s launch at one too. All our friends would be there too – it was basically good karma.”
Since their launch, CloudMine has become a Global Sponsor of Startup Weekend events around the world and now offers free resources to other Startup Weekend teams. They have also hired three employees and have received ample funding to build the company to scale more quickly.
I really love the CloudMine story because it sends such a great message to Startup Weekend attendees.
As I said at the beginning of this post, you never know whom you might meet. Make sure you engage with other interesting people at your Startup Weekend event - especially if they are not on your team. Actively increase your odds of serendipity!
Get involved with your community! Continue riding that wave of energy created at Startup Weekend and seek out other entrepreneurial/tech events in your city.
If this has motivated you to attend a Startup Weekend event in your city – check out our Global Events Calendar or email me @ keith [at] startupweekend [dot] org