Totem won Startup Weekend Brussels Makers 2015

Totem won Startup Weekend Brussels Makers 2015

Startup Weekend motto states: “I created a company in 54 hours, what did you do last weekend?” Even though I can’t say I actually created a fully running company last weekend, I created a fully functional prototype called Totem.

How it all started

My kids are respectively 1, 3 & 5 years old. Last month I used to be woken up by my son at 4:30am. He can’t read the alarm clock and he was just too excited to stay in bed. Too bad.

So here is what I did. I created a proto using a Spark Core (now Particle Core) connecting LEDs to If This Then That (IFTTT) in WIFI. The principle is very simple: if something happens, then I want something else to happen.

For example: if my wife sends me an email, the LED turns red. Or, linked to a weather forecast app: if it is raining, it lights up in blue.

Sketch of Totem
Totem first sketch

I manage to get my first proto to work and make it light up in green when it is 7am. I told my son to wait until the green light shows up before racing to my bedroom and… Tada!

Now I no longer wake up in the middle of the night. He’s now my personal, fairly reliable, morning alarm clock.

The weekend

On Friday evening at Startup Weekend Brussels Makers, I pitched the idea of a connected device stacking various “floors” of different LED colors. I still didn’t know what it was going to be used for at that time. Applications seemed to be endless.

Totem Device Prototype
Totem first prototype

We formed a team of 6, among which a graphic designer, a project manager, a business manager, a product designer and a marketer. As I am an engineer, those profiles were bound to be quite helpful to develop a further strategy.


Together, we decided to focus on the reminder functionality. Totem was designed to stack various LEDs reminding different things like taking the trash out or bringing the umbrella.

We went out in the street to interrogate our future customers who were quite helpful in giving us insights and further ideas of development. Then we 3D printed various stacks for our proto.

The reward

Pitching is no piece of cake, and the other projects that were pitched were quite good. But in the end we made it: we won Startup Weekend! Totem got the Best Maker Prize.


The experience was entertaining, however tiresome. It was very interesting to work with a totally new team during a whole weekend. I strongly recommend you try it too.

Stay tuned for more news on Totem and on Twitter and Facebook.

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