Build-A-Sign Wins the Startup Olympics Summer Games
Eight Austin startups descended on the Krieg Softball Complex Saturday for the second Startup Olympics. Much like the better known games taking place in London this summer, the event began with one of the startup founders running a torch up to the podium. After some kickoff speeches, a dozen doves were released and the games began.
U-Ship won the indoor winter Startup Olympics, so every team agreed they were the ones to beat. This year, rival Build-A-Sign brought home the gold with a final score of 17 points. Silver went to SpareFoot with 13 points and AdLucent brought home the bronze with 10 points. As the winner, Build-A-Sign earned $10,000 to be donated to Austin ProBono. The other seven teams earned $500 each for a charity of their choice.
When asked for the secret behind Build-A-Sign’s athletic success, CEO Don Graham joked, “We had good lead up and noticed this was happening, so we’ve been able to hire appropriately.”
Long before the final scores were tallied, Graham admitted he’d had his eye on U-Ship at every event. “This is a competition,” he said. “We need to defeat U-Ship. They deserve to be crushed. They’ve got a sweet downtown office and that giant van. Plus, they won the last Olympics. We’ve got a great charity. We’ll do it for them, not just to put U-Ship in their place.”
The sense of friendly rivalry dominated the games.
“I think it’s fun to get together outside work,” said Colleen O’Gorman, part of the partner management team at WhaleShark. “It’s nice to break down that boundary and just hang out with other startups and have a good time.”
“Next year I’d like to see some kind of water events,” said Lindsay Kaplan, also of WhaleShark Media. “Swimming. Diving. Synchronized Swimming.”
“We’re WhaleSharks. We’re better in the water than on the land,” said O’Gorman.
Since these are startups, the games included things like beer pong and kickball. To nearly everyone’s surprise, tetherball turned out to be the most exhausting event. “It’s hot and we’re holding up really well,” said Erin Fitzer of SpareFoot. “I never would’ve thought tetherball would make someone puke.”
“This is Texas. Despite the heat this was a real hit. It felt like everybody had a good time and worked up a good sweat. It made you feel good to be alive,” said Josh West, who works in sales at SpareFoot.
For a group of eight startups, surprisingly few coders took part in the competition. Most of the events were dominated by employees in sales and customer support.
“We should have a coding challenge,” said Colin Bass of U-Ship. “These guys may think they’re tough, but that would be a real competition. We could set a room aside at the next Winter Olympics for the coders to hack it out. There’s all this posturing about the faux athleticism, but it would be really interesting to see our guys out code each other.”
Participants from all eight startups were full of ideas for additions they’d like to see in future games. Volleyball topped the list with horseshoes and washers coming in close behind. Other recommendations included cornhole, slip-n-slide long jump, and anything with water hoses or sprinklers.
All teams agreed they would like to see the Startup Olympics expand beyond Austin.
“Austin startup people could definitely kick the ass of any San Francisco nerd working in a high rise,” said Bass. “We have an ongoing challenge to all San Francisco tech companies and startups to come beat us at our own game. We’d love it if they could come down here and compete with us whether at South by Southwest or some other time of year when they’d be around.”
West gave the San Franciscans credit for being heartier than Austinites might expect. “It’s a funny thing. A lot of people in Austin used to work in San Francisco. They came here and they didn’t melt. I think taking the Startup Olympics national would be awesome. It’d be a great opportunity to network and get more exposure in more markets for everybody.”
The next Startup Olympics Winter Games will be held in early 2013.