3DayStartup in Paris – Smarter than your average startup weekend?

This is a guest post by Liam Boogar of RudeBaguette.

When I first heard about 3DayStartup last September, it was being pitched by the organisers of 3DayStartup Paris at FailCon. Listening to the idea, I thought what most people probably think at first: “Oh great, another StartupWeekend knock off.” I quickly jotted down the differences in my head: not backed by Kauffman Foundation, no winners*, and you have to apply and get accepted – sounded like a losing combination, which is how I went into their end of the weekend pitch session this past Sunday.

The first thing that was struck me was the quality of mentors they had brought to the weekend. Where I normally expect to see the likes of Blaise Vignon, head of Microsoft France’s Bizspark program, and the other event usuals, I instead saw the likes of Frederic Mazzella – you may know him as the CEO of Comuto/CoVoiturage, Accel’s most recent $10 million investment. Other notable mentors included the Cedric Giorgi, CEOs of KissKissBankBank, PearlTrees, Super Marmite, & La Ruche qui dit oui.

The theme for the weekend was Collaborative Consumption, and the projects came in many forms. While many ideas still have some kinks to work out, and some of them just plain won’t work, there were two that resonated with me and impressed me for a weekend sprint.

Du Ble Dans Le Jardin, literally “Wheat in the Garden,” proposed a P2P platform for gardens. The idea is simple: most gardens in France go unused, and plenty of people without gardens would be willing to pay, either in percentage of produce or in cash, to have a garden near home. I spoke with Alison von Ketteler, the strategy consultant from Germany who brought the idea to 3DS, about the project to see if she would be taking the project forward.

Just like in her pitch and during the often grueling Q&A session, Alison had answers for every question, and had clearly well thought out many aspects of the idea.She plans to spend the next month talking to potential customers to see what they need and want, in order to optimize her platform and its offerings. The second idea that I enjoyed was Troc2Jouets, or “Junk for toys.” This P2P platform allowed users to trade their old toys for other ones from other people – finally, I can get rid of my Beanie Baby collection!

I caught up with Cam Houser, the Austin native co-founder who made his way out to Paris to make sure the first edition of 3DSxParis went well. He smiled as I told him about my initial comparison’s between StartupWeekend and 3DS – I’m sure he gets it all the time. He told me how he and his grad-student co-founders came up with the idea – in grad school, of course.

They looked to startup successes like Zuck, Jobs, and Gates, and instead of asking “why are we in school?” they thought “Why did those guys have to drop out to succeed? Why can’t Universirties teach students to launch startups?” And so they launched 3DayStartup. With now over 1000 3DS alumni having raised over $4 million in the past year, the university-oriented weekend sprint focuses heavily on getting universities and college students involved.

3DS’ format varies a bit from StartupWeekend: if one team lacks a designer, for example, multiple groups will share a single designer, in order for each team to progress as far as possible. Elminating the competition aspect, there is no winner announced, though audience members are each given forms to rate and comment on each presentation.

While Cam assured me that, just like any weekend event, the quality of the presentations varies, there was definitely a sense that the quality of ideas created was higher than average – whether that was the application process, the high-level mentors, the enthusiasm of the participants, or just plain dumb luck, only time will tell. 3DayStartup has spread well outside the US, with events now taking place everywhere from Chile to China, from Amsterdam to Spain.

The next 3DayStartup will take place in Portugal next month, and while there may not be an event in your town yet, but there’s no reason why you can’t get one started today.