Human Resources, Small Business & Startups, and Technology

Startup Weekend convenes downtown

December 26, 2014
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Startup Weekend launches downtown
Startup Weekend Grand Rapids attendees team up to launch startups over a 54-hour period. Photo via instagram.com

Entrepreneurs will gather downtown next month to participate in a three-day crash course in developing a startup.

The sixth-annual Startup Weekend Grand Rapids, a build and pitch competition, is coming to Start Garden in Grand Rapids from Jan. 16-18, at 50 Louis St. NW.

Startup Weekend invites entrepreneurs, innovators, programmers, designers and businesspeople to convene for a 54-hour weekend of developing a viable startup from scratch, while competing against other teams.

Registration is $75 a person through Dec. 31 and $99 a person in January.

3-day event

People interested in launching a startup or gaining hands-on experience in the startup development process start on the night of Jan. 16 by pitching ideas, forming teams and beginning their work.

During the next day, teams develop strategic business models, customer development and conduct market validation for their ideas with the support of the event’s coaches and mentors: Felip Ballesteros, startup communicator at GR Current; Amanda Chocko, community relations, Start Garden; Ryan Vaughn, co-founder Varsity News Network; Paul Jaques, director of student and community engagement, Spartan Innovations; and Mike Bopp, developer, Rapid Development Group.

The weekend competition also incorporates three event speakers who represent the local entrepreneurial community: Jeff Courter, founder, Sportsman Tracker; Ryan Montgomery, founder, Chext; and Katie Kirsch, co-founder, Sisu Global Health.

Teams then participate in final presentations on Jan. 18 to compete for awards, based on feedback and a decision by a panel of judges: Mike Marsiglia, managing partner, Atomic Object; Laura Vaughn, founder, Blackbird RSVP; Shawn Crowley, managing partner, Atomic Project; Stan Samuel, director, GR Current; Kim Pasquino, portfolio relations, Start Garden; and Aaron Schaap, founder, Elevator Up.

Competing

With as many as 35 to 40 people pitching an idea in the past, Start Garden’s Chocko said there’s an aspect of competition from the very beginning.

Attendees vote on the top 10 ideas, and at the end of the weekend, those teams present their progress to the panel.

The judges then vote for the top three teams to receive a trophy based on a number of criteria: progress of the idea since the idea was pitched; how much customer validation they received on their business model; any prototype the team created; and whether they were able to gain customers.

Validation and networking

Chocko added that the event is an opportunity for people to share potential business ideas, find potential partners and complete in a focused, heads-down experience over a weekend to validate a concept.

"I think the purpose of the event is to form a community around starting new ideas and building startups," Chocko said. "You don't necessarily have to have an idea yourself. If you are just interested in getting involved with the startup community, it is just a great event to attend."

As the sixth-annual event, Chocko said the feedback has been positive, and the number of people who give up an entire weekend year after year says something about Startup Weekend Grand Rapids.

"Startup enthusiasts who have an idea or skill to share really appreciate the networking opportunity, working with people who have complementary skill sets and being able to get creative," Chocko said.

Thousands of ideas

More than 1,500 Startup Weekend events have taken place in 726 cities across the globe, attracting more than 120,000 entrepreneurs and resulting in roughly 13,000 startups.  

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