by Alexander Soule
In winning Startup Weekend Stamford on Sunday night, the team of SlipShare offered judges an appealing option for their vote: an app allowing yachters to reserve dock space at marinas while on cruises.
SlipShare’s early problem? That ship may have already sailed.
Conceived by Stamford residents Paul and Sherrie Norton, SlipShare recruited seven other people to its team at Startup Weekend Stamford, the fourth annual installment of the contest in which entrepreneurs pitch the kernel of an idea for a product or service, recruit team members and flesh out a rough business plan in a marathon, 54-hour session.
The SlipShare team won six months of free space at the Stamford Innovation Center, where the contest was held last weekend, as well as marketing and patent assistance.
Even as the SlipShare team considers next steps, a Newport, R.I., startup called Dockwa is reportedly readying beta tests in May for an app serving a similar function to SlipShare’s, with Paul Norton acknowledging Dockwa as a potential competitor, but suggesting the companies have significant differences and that two competitors can co-exist in the market.
“We did look at competitors, but I have to say, this is really an early market,” Norton said. “Each one of these competitors is kind of circling around the space. They may do a little bit of it; often, they do something else.”
Judges have only 20 minutes to vet and vote on Startup Weekend entrants, creating the possibility that some plans could mirror existing businesses, noted Tracy Chadwell, a Greenwich angel investor who was on the judging panel and who will host the SlipShare team for a consultative dinner.
“The (SlipShare) team was rewarded for the effort that they put in and the basic viability for the idea,” Chadwell said. “I was so impressed with the effort and ideas that came out of the weekend. I think it was valuable for everyone involved and helps foster the vibrancy that innovation brings to a community.”
Quinnipiac University delivered much of the vibrancy on Startup Weekend Stamford, with a half-dozen students entering their ideas in the competition and Quinnipiac student David Quito grabbing runner-up accolades with his CollegeXchange, which would create an app for student-run businesses to market their services on campus.
Third place went to Punctual Payments, whose team envisions enrolling small businesses on a website that would provide a level of assurance that they would receive invoice payments in a timely fashion.
The clock is now ticking on SlipShare, with Paul Norton saying he and Sherrie are already assessing next steps, circling back around with team members and beginning the blocking and tackling work on how to free up time in their own lives to build up the business. Neither has experience with a high-growth startup, with Paul Norton a longtime manager with Reader’s Digest and Sherrie Norton a kitchen designer. Other members of the SlipShare Startup Weekend Stamford team included Justin Botelle, Darrell DeMakes, Eric Gu, Zoe Liu, Ken Rist, Hao Wu and David Yang.
Brian Anderson, another panel judge who has built up three companies in his career, said speed may be SlipShare’s best bet at success.
“You’ve got an app like a million other people, so it’s about speed to market,” Anderson said. “You can ‘bootstrap’ it or you can bring in capital and crank it. This is one of those, because it’s not protectable.”
It is one of several decisions in the immediate offing for SlipShare, but Paul Norton is looking forward to it.
“Oh, we’re moving ahead,” Norton said. “We’re going to have to pivot our personal lives. & Previously, we had talked to people who say they like the idea. That’s different from someone actually writing a check.”