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Startup Tucson connects UA students to local entrepreneurs

Startup+Tucson+connects+UA+students+to+local+entrepreneurs

On Wednesday, Startup Tucson hosted Startup Day at the UA for students to learn about the Tucson companies it recently assisted to network with other entrepreneurs in Tucson and to launch its new chapter, Startup Tucson — Student Chapter.

Startup Tucson was created to foster new companies, entrepreneurs and talent in Tucson. The new chapter was created to “give students a place to plug in” and help them recreate what other startup companies have done, according to Justin Williams, president and founder of Startup Tucson.

“What we realized is there are already a lot of student startups [here],” Williams said. “We wanted to bring them out and show what we can do when we work together.”

LeadLocal, a leadership and community development program that helps connect undergraduates with projects in the community at local nonprofits and small businesses, participated in the fair to reach out to students. The company is currently recruiting interns for fall projects.

Brooke McDonald, a UA alumna and co-founder of LeadLocal, created the company after she spent four years working at Tucson Medical Center. Its goal is to encourage students to remain in Tucson after graduating, McDonald said.

“It is amazing how much is going on in Tucson as far as entrepreneurship is concerned, and people don’t even realize it,” McDonald said. “There are so many awesome businesses that start here. We want Tucson to one day be like a mini Silicon Valley, and students can help make that possible.”

In August, Startup Tucson assisted Stephen Ost, a UA alumnus and the founder and chief executive officer of Ufree, in creating his app, which shows a list of nearby friends who have time to hang out. With the help of Startup Tucson, Ost was able to network with entrepreneurs and investors in the Tucson community to get the word out about the app.

Startup Tucson also assisted UofA Deals, a website with discounts for students, by finding a web developer for Chad Lehrman, founder of UofA Deals. The website went live Sept. 3, and the company’s Facebook page went live a month and a half ago, Lehrman said.

“Our economy is changing in a lot of ways, and a lot of people are going to be freelance and a lot of people are going to be doing stuff where they need entrepreneurial skills,” Lehrman said.
“[Startup Tucson] help[s] you regardless of if you are at another company or not, because those skills are going to help you with everything you do.”

Many students stopped by Startup Day’s accessible location on the UA Mall.

“I’m just stopping at the booths and seeing what’s going on,” said Samantha Swartz, a sociology freshman. “It’s cool to see what other people are doing and get involved with that. [Benefits of being part of a startup are you] find something cool and you get behind it — you’re one of the first and you helped it get started and up and growing and running.”

Startup Tucson also promoted Startup Weekend Tucson 2013, which begins on Sept. 20. The event gives students 54 hours to make their idea into a real product, according to Williams, and creators will have the opportunity to present their product to investors on the final night.

“It’s incredibly important for anyone who has an idea,” Williams said. “We want you to just go get started and a lot of times people will stand around saying, ‘I don’t know what to do,’ or ‘I wish I had the money to do this,’ ‘I don’t know how to write software,’ or ‘I don’t know anyone who does — how do I get started?’” Williams said. “We’ve been through all of that. We’ve helped figure out those problems and move from, ‘Hey, I’ve got this idea,’ to ‘Hey, I’m actually going to launch my company.’”

-Follow Rachel McCluskey @rmucclusk6

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