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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Aspiring entrepreneurs dream big at Startup Weekend

    Students+collaborate+and+prepare+to+vote+for+their+favorite+pitch+ideas+at+Startup+Weekend+on+Feb.+12-14.
    Courtesy of Cheyenne Merrick
    Students collaborate and prepare to vote for their favorite pitch ideas at Startup Weekend on Feb. 12-14.

    Student innovators collaborated and business ideas came to life on Feb. 12-14 at Innovate UA’s second annual Startup Weekend. From aspiring entrepreneurs to students who simply aspired to be a part of “the next big thing”, the weekend provided a welcoming atmosphere for students to pitch their ideas for innovative new products and companies.

    Designed and hosted by Google, young entrepreneurs formed teams focused on business pitches and were given resources to make their ideas a reality, including coaching and mentorship from professional marketers and entrepreneurs. Teams then presented their business plans and prototypes to judges, hoping for the opportunity to move forward with their plans in the upcoming weeks.

    “Innovate UA Startup weekend is all about helping students start with an idea; something they think is cool, something they are passionate about, something they’re interested in, and then running with it,” said Jasmine Sears, a graduate student studying optical science and Director of Startup Weekend. “Then, they try to build a cohesive business plan around that idea in just a weekend.”

    “We’re making it easy for them to create this business very rapidly while lowering barriers,” Sears continued. “If a team feels like their idea has potential, after running it through this whole gauntlet of a weekend and presenting to the judges, then they may qualify for Innovate UA’s accelerator program. [The accelerator program] is six weeks of intense mentoring. You’ve got this fledgling idea, you’ve got the groundwork from the startup weekend, but now how do you build on it. What direction should you go? What markets are you exploring? How should you pivot if your original idea isn’t quite right?”

    The winning team of the UA Startup weekend automatically gets into the accelerator program, but any team that presents a pitch and participates in the weekend will have the background and experience necessary to fill out an application for the accelerator program and potentially still compete.

    Pitches ranged from interesting product ideas to in-depth business plans for brand new companies. One team that formed during the weekend was focused on designing an app called “Connected Communities”. The app aims to pair local nonprofit organizations with volunteers in the area, allowing volunteers to easily find and access available opportunities with organizations and causes they are passionate about.

    Emmanuel Anderson is a first year graduate student in Eller’s MBA program who pitched the idea the first day of the event.

    When asked how he came up with the idea, he said, “I went to Brazil for an Eller MBA class called International Management. We toured 10 different companies and one of the companies was called CoLab. They connect citizens to the government. For example, you can take a picture of a pothole and send it directly to the Department of Transportation and you will receive a message back. I liked the idea of connecting people with the issues they care about. I interviewed 8 nonprofit organizations in Tucson, told them about my idea, and asked them what their biggest barriers were in getting volunteers.”

    Anderson and his group won the nonprofit business plan at the Startup weekend and will go on to participate in the six-week accelerator course.

    “My vision is to see a place where people no longer believe they cannot affect change,” said Anderson, when asked about the next steps for his business. “I want to create a place where the community can start to solve some of its own problems. I want create a place where the community is coordinated.”

    The Innovate UA Startup weekend will return to campus next spring and encourages students from any major and background to find their inner entrepreneur and participate in creating the “next big thing.”

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