Research Communications

Startup Weekend gives entrepreneurs chance to develop business ideas 

By Taylor Evans
Jan. 15, 2013

During the weekend of Jan. 25-27, Ohio University will co-sponsor the second annual Startup Weekend Athens, part of a series of a global events that give aspiring entrepreneurs a chance to develop business ideas.

Participants can pitch an idea in 60 seconds, and then all attendees vote on their favorite concepts to pursue for the weekend. Teams form around the top ideas, and in a whirlwind 54 hours, they create a business model and design and develop a market validation for their concept. Participants get coaching from seasoned business professionals.

At the end of the weekend, the teams then present their idea to a panel of judges who vote on the top three presentations. This year’s judges include experts in technology commercialization, venture capital, digital media startups, global communications and economic development.

Don’t have a business idea going into Startup Weekend Athens? That’s not a problem, says Jesus Pagan, a field engineer for the Ohio Manufacturing Extension Partnership Program and member of 2012’s third-place team, Monitor Control Group.

“There were literally no preparations,” Pagan says. “It can be a last-minute decision. You can just walk into the whole experience.”

Pagan’s team has not developed their “Anti-Killer App,” an app that monitors the temperature of consumers’ fish tanks, outside of Startup Weekend, but he feels that he benefitted from the experience in other ways.

“The main thing that we got from the weekend was just the experience of having participated and having gone through that whole process,” Pagan says. “It’s something that I use pretty much every day of my life in terms of learning how to know when the idea is no longer valid.”

Richard Rodman, an Ohio University junior, was a member of 2012’s first-place winning team. He utilized Startup Weekend to develop FlashCrop, a flash card app for college students, which launched in the fall of 2012 and is available in the Apple App Store. Rodman has gone on to start his own company inspired by Startup Weekend called 530Funds, which uses crowd funding to help entrepreneurs earn money for their businesses.

“When somebody asked me what I got out of Startup Weekend, I think initially they want to hear that I got a little bit of cash out of it,” Rodman says. “But really what we got out of it was a foundation to build a company off of.”

Although Startup Weekend requires a lot of work in a short amount of time, it provides beginning entrepreneurs with valuable lessons in the basics of developing a business.  Pagan recommends that participants be ready for long hours and flexibility.

“There’s no need for preparation because as you work in groups, things might change relatively quickly over the weekend,” Pagan says. “Be flexible, and when they tell you whatever idea that you have is not necessarily the best idea, be willing to change directions.”

Rodman recommends that anyone interested in Startup Weekend Athens shouldn’t hesitate to participate.

“You’ve got to get out there sooner or later,” Rodman says. “A lot of people haven’t done it before. If you don’t step outside your comfort zone, you’re never going to achieve greatness.”

To register for Startup Weekend, visit General admission is $99. Students can receive a discounted rate of $49 by entering the promotional code STUDENT.

Startup Weekend Athens is sponsored by the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce, the Athens County Business Remixed, TechGROWTH Ohio and Ohio University’s Innovation Center, Vice President for Research and Creative Activity and Center for Entrepreneurship.