Interview with Daniel Williams, team member of Anyvent, formally known as Lydria

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By Briagenn Adams, PR Specialist at the Ohio University Innovation Center

Daniel Williams is a recent graduate of Ohio University’s College of Arts and Sciences. Daniel majored in plant biology at Ohio University, and attained two minor degrees in computer science and chemistry. Daniel also earned a certificate in Bioinformatics, that – he says – is a fancy term used to explain anything that computers do in order to study biological data.

Briagenn: How did you hear about Startup Weekend Athens, OH?

Daniel: I may have heard about it at last year’s BioVenture and Innovation Showcase, but I originally participated in Startup Weekend in November of last year in Columbus and loved it, so when I heard that there was a Startup Weekend in Athens I was all for it.

Briagenn: What product/service did you first pitch at Startup Weekend Athens, OH?

Daniel: I actually didn’t pitch anything at Startup Weekend Athens, OH. I was thinking about pitching my Columbus idea – which was a method for analyzing automating metabolic pathways – but the idea was extremely complicated and I couldn’t translate my ideas and thoughts into words well enough, so the idea wasn’t very accepted.

If you’re going to pitch a very technical, crazy idea, then you need to have a really good explanation for that idea. You can’t just pitch all the scientific words and expect an immediate following. I got a lot of blank stares, basically. So, I decided to come to Startup Weekend Athens, Ohio, and join another team.

Briagenn: So you came to Startup Weekend by yourself, without an idea to pitch?

Daniel: Yeah! Absolutely, and that’s why Startup Weekend is so great. You don’t have to come prepared with an idea, you can just come to experience the entire process and join an existing team. For example, it’s really great for marketing students who want to promote an entrepreneurial team’s cause. It’s not just about the entrepreneurs; it’s about the whole team. The team is what wins in the end.

Briagenn: How did you learn from your Startup Weekend experience?

Daniel: The biggest takeaway is that you need to push, hard, to get places. You can sit back, think, dream, and imagine all you want, but it’s not going to get you very far. You get places by asking questions, interviewing people, looking up data and then asking more questions. You need to form a hypothesis and then validate that it will be appealing to potential customers by asking questions. The more hypotheses that you validate, the stronger your business model will be.

Briagenn: So, would you say to focus more on the big picture, rather than small details?

Daniel: Yes, during Startup Weekend, the details don’t really matter. Getting fixated on details won’t build a company, often it’s best to build something really basic, really fast, and go from there.

Briagenn: Can you explain your Startup Weekend Athens, OH product, Lydria?

Daniel: Well, since Startup Weekend Athens, Ohio, we have completely changed our company’s name and purpose, and now we’re called Anyvent. However, Lydria was originally an education-based website that would break down the communication barriers between students and professors. The problem was that by competing directly with existing programs, like BlackBoard, rather than creating an original and unique product, we faced an enormous barrier to overcome.

Briagenn: What would you have done differently, given the chance, at Startup Weekend Athens, OH?

Daniel: We were very stubborn about education, about sticking with our original plan. We weren’t willing to change our original pitch idea. Some of our advisors were telling us to look into a different avenue, a different niche, and we should have listened. We would have done better. Certainly in the Innovation Engine Accelerator this summer we struggled with the same thing, and we pivoted about two weeks in and finally decided it was time to let go. And after we did that, everything began to come together.

Briagenn: Because Lydria changed a lot and transformed into Anyvent during the 2013 Innovation Engine Accelerator, can you explain exactly what Anyvent is?

Daniel: Anyvent is essentially an event-planning facilitating program for a wide range of events.  It was a huge transition from Lydria to Anyvent, but we still utilized some of our original concepts. We thought there might be communication challenges between event organizers and attendees like those in education. We talked to event organizers and they said that communication wasn’t the problem, but the actual planning process was! So, we pivoted, once again. Now, Anyvent is a website that will walk an event planner through the entire process – similar to how TurboTax walks its customers through filling out tax paperwork – so that when they’re done, they’ll know they’ve hit all aspects, and they can sleep at night.

Briagenn: One last piece of advice?

Daniel: Come to Startup Weekend Athens, OH with an open mind. If you come to Startup Weekend with your entire company mapped out, it probably won’t be a beneficial experience. Startup Weekend isn’t about, “I’m going to work on the idea I’ve already been working on.” It’s about, “Hey, I really like this idea, let’s figure out how to make something out of it.”

If Daniel’s story has inspired you to become a part of Startup Weekend Athens, OH, it’s not too late to register! You can find more information on our website. We look forward to seeing you at the Ohio University Innovation Center this weekend!