Bringing up Baby - and a Startup!

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I tried to get some programming done while Oskar was sleeping and scheduled times with my husband so I would have a couple of hours for SpeedSpiration every now and then. It worked pretty well. By Diana Kondel (Co-founder, SpeedSpiration)

When I was pregnant last year, I knew that I would have six weeks of paid parental leave before delivery (and more afterwards, though I would obviously be a bit distracted.) I know this is an unlikely scenario in the United States, but in Germany I looked at these subsidized six weeks as time to prepare for the baby - and work on my own projects. Awesome!

In order to find others to work with, I attended the Startup Weekend in Hamburg. It was a great experience. I went there with the intention to start a school project to get more girls interested in programming, but it wasn’t among the top projects people wanted to work on. So instead of working on my own idea, I joined a team that wanted to do something focused on ideas, inspiration, and community-building. We didn’t know exactly what the outcome would be, but we had a great team and very supportive mentors. By the end of the weekend we had a working prototype of SpeedSpiration, an online brainstorming tool where you get to answer brainstorming questions of others within 100 seconds.

After Startup Weekend, our team met a couple of times. The team shrank over the weeks however, until only Deva and I were left. Since it was a side project for both of us (Deva had her job and I was busy with Oskar) we tried to get done as much as possible during nights or weekends. I tried to get some programming done while Oskar was sleeping and scheduled times with my husband so I would have a couple of hours for SpeedSpiration every now and then. It worked pretty well. Our Beta version of SpeedSpiration went live in February, just in time for Social Media Week.

During the Social Media Week in Hamburg, our tool was used for idea generation and exchange among the participants and others who weren’t able to participate in person. Some of the questions that came up were: “What annoys you most about the digitalization of our society and lives?“ and “What stereotypes of social media have you heard?” Our users came up with almost 600 inspiring and creative ideas, helping others to find answers to their brainstorming questions while challenging their own creativity.

Besides the online brainstorming during Social Media Week, we also organized an offline “brain-working” (brainstorming + networking) event. The event was like SpeedDating, but instead of matching couples, we were matching questions with ideas. It was great for networking and getting to know each other beyond the usual “What is your name?” or “What are you doing?” small talk.

What’s our vision?

We want to build a tool where anyone can get creative input on his or her questions. This can be people working in creative industries or in startups as well as researchers or students needing inspirations for their coursework. At the same time we want to offer people a tool which can be used to challenge their own creativity. Coming up with spontaneous answers to all kinds of questions within a short timespan is not that trivial. But – according to our users - it is lots of fun. And it clears your mind after a long meeting or workday.

What’s next?

We are currently working on developing our Beta version further. New features will soon be implemented. The next Startup Weekend in Hamburg will take place soon. Since this is where it all started, we want to give something back: We are doing a “brainworking” session with the participants in order to help them find great ideas for pitching and getting to know each other.

How is Oskar doing?

Oskar is doing great! He attended his first startup session at the age of four weeks. He is now seven months old and has probably learned a lot about startups and entrepreneurship passively. He affords more time during the days now, but together with my partner we manage to both have time for Oskar and our (side) projects. Parental leave is a great time for having two babies: A real one and a digital one.

By the way, I'm currently in San Francisco and the Bay Area (until mid/end of may). If anyone wants to learn more about SpeedSpiration or is interested in an offline event, please contact me. We are also looking for a third co-founder. So – if there is anyone out there who would like to help us build a great creativity and brainstorming tool, let us know.

Women 2.0 readers: What would be your advice be to a pregnant aspiring entrepreneur?

About the guest blogger: Diana Kondel is co-founder of SpeedSpiration, a platform that brings together people for fast and fun brainstorming. She holds a Diploma in Media Computer Science and a PhD in Computer Science/Human Computer Interaction. Before parental leave and co-founding SpeedSpiration, she worked as a researcher, a web developer, an IT project manager, team lead, and IT business analyst. Follow her on Twitter at @dianaknodel.