Back to school isn’t just for the kids as summer winds down. Budding entrepreneurs looking for new educational challenges will find just what they’re seeking at Charleston’s first annual Startup Weekend, September 12–14 at Lowcountry Tech Academy. The 54-hour innovation marathon will give entrepreneurs an opportunity to take their ideas for a spin with a team of likeminded individuals.
Startup weekends have run successfully in over 175 countries worldwide, including many places across the South. For a mere $75 participants get the hands-on, accelerated experience of developing an idea from concept to product. Whether you’re a programmer, designer, marketing professional, or business development whiz, your expertise is crucial to turning ideas into marketable products overnight.
Co-organizer for Charleston’s upcoming event, Joe Dwyer, spent years driving to Charlotte and Raleigh, NC to participate in Startup Weekends. “Silicon Harbor is really taking off and it just makes sense that we have our own Startup Weekend event for the Lowcountry,” Dwyer said. He is still in touch with designers, developers, and business people he has met at these events over the years. These new contacts introduced him to new methods and resources like Sublime Text, GoMockingbird, and Twilio—tools he still uses today as a Technical Assistant and President of Makelab Charleston.
Along the 54-hour journey, teams are coached by some of our community’s most successful entrepreneurs. When their time is up, the judges provide even more feedback on the team’s ideas, processes, and execution.
The list includes:
• Steve Swanson, Founder of Automated Trading Desk
• Gray Somerville, CEO Telogical Systems
• Eric Bowman, Co-Founder / CEO SPARC
• Michael Knox, Managing Partner at Silicon Harbor Capital Management LLC
• Rich Yessian, Owner, Blue Ion, LLC
• Prag (Pragnesh) Shah, SVP at Zubie, Inc.
• Gavin McCulley, Angel Capital Group—Charleston.
It’s a one-stop crash course for makers, coders, and business people alike and encourages something that no entrepreneur can get enough of—constructive criticism. “It’s a great way to validate your concept for a business or product,” Dwyer said.
The Harbor Entrepreneur Center has been central to getting Startup Weekend under way. “They jumped in with both feet, making phone calls and introducing me to other people who have a passion for entrepreneurship in our community,” Dwyer said. The result has been an impressive list of judges, coaches and the kickoff keynote by Steve Swanson of Automated Trading Desk.
John Osborne, founder of the Harbor Entrepreneur Center said Startup Weekend “clearly fits our mission… to simply create a bunch of collision amongst entrepreneurs.” While there will be ten new and exciting ideas that come out of the creative race, the weekend is “about connecting with 95 other people who are interested in startups, interested in moving something forward, and can demonstrate in a very short period of time what they’re capable of doing,” Osborne said.
The Charleston Chamber of Commerce is similarly invested in Startup Weekend. Soon to open their new Entrepreneur Center, the Chamber aims to “stimulate and engage the Charleston startup community,” said Megan Reilly, the Chamber’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Manager. One in ten of Startup Weekend ideas go on to become legitimate businesses. Reilly said that this “statistic alone speaks volumes regarding the potential and the drive of the players who are drawn to participate in Startup Weekend events.”
Amanda Hodges, a developer at the Charleston startup Zubie was asked to be involved in planning Startup Weekend because of her success in making Sparc’s Hackathon a hit annual event. She said, “diversity is key to any productive team. You need different people, with different backgrounds and experiences—to give you every insight you can get on the pros and cons, best techniques to try and pitfalls to avoid—about your idea, your plan and becoming an entrepreneur in general.” Zubie’s team will be active with sponsorship, coaching and judging during the weekend. “The company is super excited to support other budding entrepreneurs, especially in this ecosystem of technology that is growing here in Charleston.”
This isn’t just an event for established entrepreneurs. Osborne said, “If you’re at all thinking about, or even if you’re just curious, this is the perfect way to dip your toe in the water and get a sense of what this whole startup scene that’s getting a lot of buzz is all about.” While participants will develop an idea, Startup Weekend is about the experience. Dwyer said Startup Weekend is “fun, it’s educational, and you will meet really nice people, maybe even a co-founder.”
Here are the prizes available at Startup Weekend:
First Place Team:
• Cap A Ventures: $2,500 convertible note offer
• Catalyst Center: 3 Months free co-working space
• GitHub: 1 year of our Small plan (10 private repositories)
• Logo and Branding Development (estimated value of $1,500 by LeftRightNowIdeas)
• Hellman Yates and Tisdale: Intellectual Property Consulting (estimated value of $2,000)
• JTE Marketing: Social Media and SEO Package (estimated value of $1,500)
Second Place Team:
• Conversion-Optimized landing page (estimated value of $3,500 by LeftRightNowIdeas)
• GitHub: 1 year of our Micro plan (5 private repositories)
• Post-It: Easel Pad and supply of Post-it Self-Stick Easel Pads
• Build My Hosting: Two years of free web hosting (estimated value of $800)
• City of North Charleston: Startup supplies package
Third Place Team:
• GitHub: 6 months of our Micro plan (5 private repositories)
• Google SC: http://www.startupvitamins.com/ mugs and swag
• Google Chromebooks: Two lucky attendees will be randomly selected
• Amazon Web Services: $100 work of hosting per participant
• Startup Weekend T-Shirt
• .CO: Free: One free “.co” domain address
• Google Cloud Platform: $2,000 of credit to build their startup on Google App Engine and Google Compute Engine.
• Github: 3 months of the “Micro account” to all the attendees
• Google Chromecast: One lucky atendee wins a wireless HDMI device
• Apple IPod Touch: One lucky atendee wins a 16GB iPod touch
Check out the video – Startup Weekend First Timers: