Ski app ‘Slopes’ wins Philly Startup Weekend — but that’s not the point

Philly Startup Weekend was the closing bookend to a full slate of Philly Tech Week events. The 54-hour frenzy put 17 tech-related business ideas through their paces.

When it was all said and done Sunday night, one idea had prevailed: An app that uses the GPS in your smartphone to track and quantify a ski run.

It’s called “Slopes.”

“When you go to the mountain, you just essentially hit record,” said Curtis Herbert.

Herbert is the freelance developer who pitched the winning idea. He’s also an avid snowboarder.

“My friends and I would always go to Denny’s afterwards or Perkins afterwards and talk about how fast we went, the awesome trails, stuff like that,” said Herbert. “This way, you have the data to back up your bragging rights.”

Now Herbert — and his Startup Weekend team of Tim Li, Jiate Zhang and Liwen Mao — has a few months before the season begins to polish Slopes and turn the product into a business.

Think Nike+ or RunKeeper but for skiing and snowboarding.

“We wanted to see a really good app like that for when you’re on the mountain,” explained Herbert, adding that the idea has been percolating since January. “Like any sport, people want to know those stats. There’s one or two [similar apps] out there right now, but, frankly, they all suck. We knew we’d be able to do something better.”

Community building

Co-organizer Chris Baglieri says about 120 people participated in last weekend’s design sprint, which was the fifth Philly Startup Weekend. About 25 participants were designers, 40 were developers and the rest were nontechnical, according to Baglieri.

“It’s really just about collecting people who are passionate about what they do,” he said.

Baglieri — who participated in the first two and organized the last three — says Startup Weekend isn’t so much about the winning idea, but the relationships that are forged by two-and-a-half days of chaotic collaboration.

“It’s not necessarily, ‘Oh, I built this cool product,’ or, ‘I built this cool prototype,'” Baglieri said. “Yeah, that’s a really neat element of it, and obviously that’s the tangible point of the event. But it’s the intangibles, the relationships that are built, that really are what makes it so special.

“You build those relationships and they become the seeds of other great things.”

Baglieri offers himself as a small case-in-point.

He says his job at Center City mobile app firm Artisan came through ties he cultivated at previous Startup Weekends.

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