If you’ve considered attending a Techstars Startup Weekend event but haven’t for whatever reason — don’t let that happen again. We’re still buzzing with the positive energy from the most recent Startup Weekend here in Gainesville. On Friday, June 10, dozens of participants from many walks of life convened at UF Innovate at the Hub, a business incubator in downtown Gainesville.
There they started on a 52-hour journey that could leave its mark on the world for years to come. One participant told the crowd at the end of the weekend, “I’ve been an entrepreneur since 2009 in Boston and Seattle. I don’t think I’ve seen such a collection of brain power in one spot than here.” It’s clear that Gainesville’s efforts to stimulate and support its thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem are having an effect.
Here is how it starts…
For those who don’t know what a Startup Weekend is, imagine being thrown into a blender with a handful of likeminded people — who you may or may not know — with the expectation that a business would emerge when the blades stopped whirling. Here’s how it goes down:
People with an idea for a business or product pitch it to the crowd on Friday night.
Next all the participants vote on the ones they are most excited about.
The top 10 go forward, selecting participants to join their teams.
The teams work together until Sunday afternoon.
Then the entire crowd gathers to take turns presenting their progress to a panel of judges from the local business community.
Jose Vilches, a developer at a local SEO agency and two-time participant, helped as a mentor at this most recent event. He says the hardest part may actually be getting started as a team. “I’ve learned a lot about leading and cooperative efforts, because personalities don’t always mesh.”
But he sees that as invaluable experience in terms of understanding what it would be like to run a startup, with diverse groups comprised of people from technology, medicine, science, accounting, real estate, business development, marketing and sociology backgrounds. “You have to keep your group cohesive and help everyone see the vision,” Vilches says.
First prize winners: Honeycomb
James Ruffer, a leader in his community’s homeowners association, had noticed that there was no existing software to bring order and transparency to HOA operations. He and his team, consisting of Michael Sholty, Linda Heshmat, Eric Hosford and Scott Lavery, built a business plan and prototype in just two and a half days to fill that void.
He says, “I do believe we would have never gotten this far with the idea to market without the Startup Weekend program.”
James and his crew plan to make good use of the first prize, three months of rent-free office space at the Hub generously donated by UF Innovate.
Second place: Adulting 101
The runner up, Adulting 101, proposes to help youth make the transition to adulthood with live events tackling issues like personal finances and other things you’re expected to handle as a grown-up. They received $3,000 towards legal services from sponsor Locke Lord to help with contract formation and other necessities for getting a startup going. We can’t wait to see where they take this idea!
Third place: Medscribe
Medscribe saw an opportunity to improve medical care using AI and video to reduce the burden on doctors to enter data during patient consultations. Sponsor Locke Lord also provided the third place winners with $2,000 towards legal services. The future of medical care needs these guys.
Here is how the story continues…
Techstars representative Michael Norton facilitates Startup Weekend events around the country. He had an abundance of kind words for Gainesville. “You get 50 to 100 of the most interesting people in the city — intelligent and creative and beautiful to the core. People want to create something good for the world. It’s my third year in a row coming to Gainesville, and its a city I’ve come to love.”
Indeed, the other seven ideas chosen give even more insight into what matters to the energetic startup community here. Also pitched was an app to help people adopt pets more easily, a platform that would bring greater transparency to the renter-landlord relationship, a 3D learning program that mirrors the brain, a home health agency for personal care of the aging, a medical device for reestablishing blood flow in the body, a career development network for recent grads, and holographic learning technology.
Deysi, a 52-year-old nurse with a passion to improve elder care — who almost didn’t pitch her idea — stood up and told the crowd, “On Friday night, I won. I won when others, people with no background in medicine, techie people, saw something in my idea and wanted to do it.” Echoing the sentiments of many participants, she said, “I got this amazing team with all our different backgrounds, and I’m so thankful.”
Here is who we need to thank…
These founders have now started to grow the idea they arrived with on Friday into something concrete. Many teams left equipped with people to fill crucial roles, a business plan and prototype, and input from members of the business community.Many thanks to the esteemed judges who provided valuable feedback on the team presentations: