Ryan Richards on Team Formation and Spoon Date

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We have an update for you from Women 2.0 Labs - the fall 2010 edition. At the start of the 5-week program, teams form around individuals and ideas. Ryan Richard's Story

On Sunday afternoon, my teammate Van and I got together for some Indian food at this place on the corner of Third St. and Folsom. We were talking about engineering, startups. and how excited we were about the Women 2.0 mixer. Little did we know that by the end of the day we'd have found our team and already be working on a great startup idea.

We walked through SOMA to Pier 38, looked around a bit, ran into some other folks who were attending, and eventually found our way inside. Shaherose and Baat were there busily preparing cheese plates, fruit, and crackers. I helped myself to some cheese and wine and began the process of getting to know the people around me. It was a really good mix of engineers, designers, and business people so finding interesting conversation topics was a breeze.

Everyone but Van and I seemed to have an idea for a startup they were eager to pursue. I must have heard about seven or eight elevator pitches when, overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information and interaction, I retreated from the conversations and sat down next to Van to take a breather. We sat quietly at a table by ourselves surrounded by excited people engaged in a flurry of social interaction and idea validation. That's when Jenn walked up to our table sat down with us and said something along the lines of "So you guys code, and I'm a designer, we should work together!"

We began discussing the prospect and found that our personalities were an great fit. We discovered that we were all startup folks working in and around SOMA, loved to laugh, and needed a person to help us on the business end. Just then Raissa showed up and quickly introduced herself to everyone at the event before going to collect some snacks. Jenn looked at me, I looked at Van, and van looked at both of us then I said "We should go talk to her."

We approached, introduced ourselves, and then asked her if she had an idea. She explained her love of food, background in finance and culinary arts, and her idea: a dating website for foodies. She talked with a great deal of passion, had numbers to support her arguments, and was incredibly friendly. After a small pause one of us abruptly blurted out "We should totally all work together." After a little more discussion we decided to take off from the mixer and grab something to drink at the cafe across the street.

As Van, Jenn, and I packed up our things people descended upon Raissa with the networking fury only a crowd of slightly inebriated entrepreneurs could muster. It was kind of hilarious since it took us nearly half an hour to tear her away from the them and get on our way to the cafe. We all talked non-stop on the way there, and ended up staying for a couple of hours discussing the idea and getting to know each other better. It was well after dark when we exited the cafe and parted ways.

The next couple of days went by in a blur. The next Tuesday, everyone got together at True Ventures and Shaherose gave us a ton of information on the program, how to proceed, what was expected of us, and what we should do to prepare. The most important part was when she talked about being dedicated to our teams. To me, loyalty and dedication are two of my fundamental ethics, not only for startups but also in life. Between meeting my team so early and hearing that from Shaherose, I knew I had found the right place and began really looking forward to the next month.

Wednesday found us all at True Ventures preparing to give pitches so that we could form our teams. Since Jenn, Raissa, Van, and I had already formed our team, we just sat back and had a blast coming up with names for our service. The winners were: Spoon Date, Yum Crush, and Brie Harmony. By the end of the night I also learned that adding twelve pitches, tons of discussion, and three hours of standing equals five scrappy teams ready and willing to change the world.

On Thursday, I was beside myself with excitement as we would be sitting down to talk with Eric Ries.

After a quick preamble by the good folks from True Ventures, Shaherose started the discussion with Eric by introducing and interviewing him. In true Barbara Walters style, she got the discussion rolling and then Eric took over explaining who he was, what he did, and his beliefs in the lean startup methodology.

Much of the discussion involved his experiences at IMVU and how he learned the value of engaging and learning from customers the hard way. He explained how had spent months working on a feature for the product only to have it scrapped after they realized it wasn't what the customers wanted. "Learning is the last refuge of all execution failures," he declared and was greeted by a round of laughter and giddiness.

Eric is an amazing communicator, a very smart cookie, incredibly inspiring, and hilarious. If I was super pumped about the project before his talk then I was ULTRA PUMPED about it after he shared his experiences with us. My team and I left the building that night and decided to grab some curry. We had a hilarious time at the restaurant joking around, planning, and discussing the ideas that Eric had so graciously given us. By the end of dinner we had a plan: engage our customers in-person, and do it tomorrow.

That's exactly what we did the next day. We met up at True Ventures, analyzed the data, and began working on the next iteration of customer research and development. Our cycle is fast, our team is hungry to learn, and our outlook is positive. In a word the first week of Women 2.0 Labs was: awesome.