Sylvain, Pierre and Maxime participated at the last SWPA Tech edition on March 2012, where they won with their Dropdock project. Interview !
Hi guys, Could you please introduce yourself ?
Sylvain Giuliani: I recently quit my job at Allmyapps.com to focus on various personal projects. I’m usually the “Biz Guy” as most people like to call us, although every week I tell myself that the next week is “the week I’ll start to code”. I’m also passionate about the startup industry and think it is very important that events such as The Startup Weekend are present in Europe, allowing for people such as myself to meet like minded people.
Pierre Mage: I am a Java developer with over five years experience. I love learning new things whether it has to do with technology or not. I am planning to move to London in July but I might change my plans depending on what happens with Dropdock in the following month.
Maxime BF: I’m a full stack web developer (python/php) with experience building high traffic sites in startup environments. I love programming, the startup world and most of all learning and building new things.
You participated to the Startup Weekend Paris on March. Is it your first participation to a Startup Weekend ? Why did you participate to this event ?
Sylvain Giuliani: This was indeed my first participation. Before participating in the SWPA, Maxime and I always wanted to do a 48H “Hackathon” but we were always busy with other stuff when there was actually one in Paris. But not this time! Boy, aren’t we glad we did it.
Pierre Mage: It was my first participation to a Startup Weekend. I missed the Paris event last year. I did not missed this one. I wanted to participate to meet interesting people and learn new things. My expectations were exceeded!
Maxime BF: First participation as well. Like Sylvain said, we wanted to do a hackathon for a while. I love the idea of building something in a weekend. I did it several times for personal projects. I find the concept of merging an hackathon (coding) with real business constraints (business model, validation..) a brilliant idea.
What’s your global feedback about the event ?
Sylvain Giuliani: It was exciting to build a product in 54 hours and I think one of the main reasons behind our success was the great organisation of the event itself. We did not have to worry about food or any of the logistics, simply just focus on shipping our product. Maxime and I also met Pierre who is now one of Dropdock’s Co-founders so that’s got to count for something!
Pierre Mage: We had nothing to worry about but develop our project. The organization was really great! I met a lot of interesting people and saw a lot of great ideas. I will definitely participate in another Startup Weekend event someday.
Maxime BF: Like Pierre and Sylvain said, the organization was great and we had nothing to think about apart from our idea. I met some really nice people and learn interesting things. It gave us the opportunity to start Dropdock which is great.
What about the Dropdock project you have created this weekend ?
Sylvain Giuliani: Three days before the Startup Weekend, Maxime and I decided to come up with an idea to pitch. That day, one of our co-worker, talked to us about how even today, sending files around the office was still a pain in the ass and he talked to us about how drag & drop would make sharing files easier. We then decided to “scratch our own itch” and work on this problem.
The idea I pitched was to create a cross platform application that allows users to send files of any size to anyone by simply dragging them to one edge of your screen were a dock with the avatars of your contacts would appear. By dropping the files onto one of them you’ll be sending the files to them, whether they are online or not.
I pitched the idea at the beginning of the weekend but it didn’t get enough votes to be selected for the Startup Weekend… However, the other projects didn’t seem fun to us so we decided to work nonetheless on Dropdock. The organizer said we needed to recruit at least one more person on the team to continue working so we ‘lobbied’ Pierre into joining our team. 54 hours later, we pitched Dropdock (http://getdropdock.com) to the judges and won!
Pierre Mage: Keep it Simple, Stupid! Do just one thing, but do it well! Dropdock was not my first choice but I fled from my first choice when I found that the team was dreadfully serious about continuing the project after the weekend while I was only here to meet interesting people and code some cool stuff. So I joined Sylvain and Maxime to code Dropdock because they came with similar motivations and I really liked the idea. I thought to myself Dropdock is a software I would like to have, so why not coding it.
Maxime BF: Sylvain pretty much summed up how we came up with the idea. Dropdock was really an itch to scratch which was motivating throughout the weekend. We were building something that we could really use and demo rather than a business presentation. I built the prototype of the desktop client and Pierre built the server. I did it using PyQt, a technology I had never used before. It was challenging and I had a lot of fun. We really wanted to learn new things during this timeframe.
Since the event, what about your startup and your team ? What were your tasks, and planning during these 6 weeks ?
Sylvain Giuliani: Pierre, Maxime and I decided to continue working on Dropdock in our spare time and we are releasing the private beta in the very near future. My task was to recruit beta testers and create the content for the website and the mobile app. Since neither of us is a designer, I also ended up doing the design of the mobile app.
Pierre Mage: I developed the Android application. I am developing the Microsoft Metro application. I will develop the iPhone application.
Maxime BF: I rebuilt the server from scratch and most of the desktop client, as well as built the web app. I added all the little things that an app needs to become production ready.
From your point of view, which advices could you give to someone who’d like to launch a new startup project ?
Sylvain Giuliani: Focus on validating your idea. Is there a real needs for your product? For Dropdock I created a landing page with our core features and a mockup screenshot of our product. I ran some Adwords campaign with a free $100 coupon with targeted keywords and posted the url on Hacker News, Reddit, etc .In 18 hours the website saw 1204 visitors and we had a conversion rate of 24%, so there was definitely a need for our idea.
Pierre Mage: +1, and at least, read Lean Startup.
Maxime BF: Build a prototype/MVP of the damn thing! Unless you’re idea needs tons of research, it is generally possible to built some kind of MVP in a (long) weekend. Do it, show it off to your friends and gather feedbacks as early as possible.
Do you have something to add to this interview ?
Sylvain Giuliani: If you are a “Biz Guy” looking to go to a Startup Weekend, please read this.
1. Don’t focus on the bloody PowerPoint presentation. Do focus on validating your market, your business model and finding potential clients.
2. Don’t go there thinking you’ll find engineers that will work for free on your prototype.
3. For the love of god, don’t create a Twitter / Facebook / whatever account before point 1 is finished and/or before you can no longer help with the marketing content of your website / app / whatever.
Maxime BF: Sylvain has a very good point here. I think engineer can also benefit a lot of this kind of event, learning how the business side of things work.