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Students working on their startup idea.

Hunger strikes a win at Startup Weekend Athens

Austin Ambrose
November 17, 2016

Hunger and hacked are not typically positive words, but for the winning team at Startup Weekend Athens host by the Ohio University Innovation Center, those words procured a brilliant startup idea.

Attendees gather Oct. 21 to Oct 23 to pitch startup ideas and form groups to expand on top-voted ideas throughout the weekend. Coaches and mentors were available during the weekend to guide teams through the process of refining their ideas for the final pitch to a panel of judges.

The first evening began with a speech from former Startup Weekend Lexington winner Daniel Johnsen, founder of The Recovery Station in Kentucky. Johnsen has participated in more than 30 Startup Weekends in roles ranging from a participant to a judge. This year he acted as the facilitator of the weekend.

Johnsen challenged the conventional idea of “fail fast,” encouraging the attendees to try his approach of “speed to outcome.” He said that instead of trying to learn from failing quickly, participants should work toward a speedy outcome regardless of the result.

"The importance of this idea," Johnsen said, “is that you learn from your failures and successes to become a better entrepreneur overall."

Johnsen then handed the floor to Dr. Christopher Crawford, assistant professor of strategy and entrepreneurship at Ohio University. Crawford reinforced Johnsen by encouraging the participants to expect greatness. He reinforced that having high expectations allows people to reach high results.

“If you don’t dare to greatly, you don’t achieve greatness,” Crawford said. “Expectation drives actions, and actions drive outcome.”

The evening transitioned into the open-pitch section, where volunteers suggested their startup ideas to other participants. These ideas were voted on later, and groups formed around the top-rated ideas. Among the ideas pitched were a solar-shade canopy and a mobile t-shirt shop.

The ideas were refined and flushed out to prepare for the final pitch on Sunday. Some of the teams stuck to the original idea, while other ideas developed and shifted focus from their initial intentions.

Three winning teams were chosen from the final pitches. Hunger Hacked claimed the first-place prize with their idea for a “user-generated cookbook.” The idea was designed to allow students to interact with dining halls at Ohio University by giving students an avenue to create and share recipes from the food found in the dining halls. It would also allow users to voice their concerns with the dining halls. The judges applauded the idea’s creativity and applicability, but questioned its longevity and noted the need for a revised revenue model.

Second place was awarded to Eleven Fifty-Five, a personal wellbeing tracker that compares a person’s health with air quality of their location. That information could then be used to inform the individual about health suggestions when visiting different areas. The judges recognized that consumers in the target market would respond well to the product, but cautioned the need to improve the core relationship between air quality and customer’s health.

Both the first- and second-place teams were composed primarily of Voinovich School students currently enrolled in the Science, Tech and Innovation Policy course taught by Dr. Derek Kauneckis, associate professor of environmental studies. The class was highly encouraged to attend Startup Weekend as a part of the course.

The team to walk away in third place was Hop Runner, a beer delivery service. The idea was to bring beer to customers through a safe method that could also have a component of entertainment. Their business model could be expanded to other universities and included the potential for partnerships with local businesses. The strength of the business model helped the team achieve third place, but the judges felt the idea did not create enough of a distinction to make themselves stand out in a highly competitive industry.