Takin’ care of business

Dayton’s Startup Weekend debut

By Stacey Ritz

Photo: Startup Weekend judges question a team during Sunday pitches at the November 2013 Startup Weekend event in Columbus; photo: David Sherry

“Startup Weekend Dayton will be a 54-hour business hackathon – software developers, designers, marketers and project managers get together and attempt to build a business over the course of the weekend,” Dave Best, event organizer for Dayton’s first Startup Weekend said.

Although Startup Weekend is a global organization with more than 400 events held worldwide in 2013, Dayton’s first time hosting the event will begin on Friday, June 20 at The Entrepreneurs Center, located at 714 East Monument Avenue in Dayton. 

“Startup Weekend is fundamentally about experiential education; teaching entrepreneurship through constraints and mentorship,” Best explained. The event is coming to Dayton because the community is large enough and there is enough interest to make it feasible. We shouldn’t have to drive to Cincinnati or Columbus for one of these.”

Startup Weekend Dayton will start with a “pitch fire” event, allowing any attendee to have the floor for 60 seconds to pitch their idea for a business. Later, attendees will vote on the presented ideas and form teams. “Saturday is when most of the building will happen,” Best explained. “Teams are encouraged to take a holistic approach to the idea. Some will write software, some will work on the design and some will work on validating the idea with customers. The teams will be judged on all three [components] on Sunday. We will have several coaches and mentors walking around during the day providing advice and feedback.” 

The final day of the event is “pitch day” where each team will provide a short presentation. Coaches for the Dayton event include entrepreneur and business coach Tom Rubens; VP of UX at Kall Consulting, LLC and Security UX, Darren Kall; Owner of B2BPlanner Ltd., Business Coaching, Art Helmstetter and Ohio SBDC Director (District 4), Earl Gregorich.

Best became involved with Startup Weekend after attending an event in Columbus last November. 

“I had a lot of fun, but what struck me the most about it was the sense of community,” Best said. “If you read any of the press about Silicon Valley or startup culture, you can come away with the impression it is aggressive, unfriendly and treacherous. That is not what you see at one of these events. These events are a bunch of talented people having fun and trying to do their best work. There is just as much cooperation, if not more, as competition.” 

Best wanted to work and try to build the same type of community here in Dayton. 

“When another attendee from Dayton approached me about getting something started here, I jumped at the opportunity,” he said.

Startup Weekends around the globe have given birth to countless success stories. Zaarly, a discovery service for local service providers like house cleaning and lawn care, started in 2011 as a result of an event in Los Angeles. Calif. The group has raised more than $15 million and continues to expand. A recent Columbus Startup Weekend saw the founding of Heroes2U, which recently won a $10,000 prize at a business plan competition. 

On their website, Heroes2U shared, “[We are] a social enterprise with the mission to give every person the chance to meet amazing people and have unforgettable conversations to uplift meaningful causes. Heroes2U was started in hopes that together, through the technology we use, at a price point everyone can afford, we can connect the next generation of givers to the people and causes they care about and raise millions for charity.” John Weiler and Jeremy Meizlish (ages 24 and 25, respectively) are the founders of Heroes2U. 

“Startup Weekend reports about 35 percent of teams continue with their business after the weekend,” Best added. “There is a good chance Dayton will gain a few new, young businesses after the weekend.”

Those with an entrepreneurial spirit who are looking to connect with other like-minded individuals are encouraged to attend this one-of-a-kind event. “These events tend to be dominated by business and technical people,” Best said. “Different perspectives and skill sets prove invaluable in coming up with innovative solutions. Graphic designers and visual artists are usually in short supply at these events. Presentation is a key part of the prototypes that are built, so anyone with an eye for the aesthetic will be in high demand. The same holds true for the copy on the pages.” 

Domain expertise and problem-solving skills are in high-demand at Startup Weekend as well. “Teachers and educators tend to do very well at these events, especially when they pitch educational related ideas,” Best said. “Education is a very hot topic in startup culture – everyone has ideas, but not many have domain expertise. The same holds true for lawyers, dental hygienists, professional photographers and veterans. They know the problems they are facing, they probably have an idea about the market and they might know what a good solution looks like.”

Flexibility and willingness to work collaboratively are essential to participation in Startup Weekend events. Whether you’re looking to start a business or simply enjoy networking, you are sure to gain self-confidence, valuable connections, a renewed sense of purpose and, as Dave Best added, “a deeper understanding of the process of starting a business.”

Startup Weekend Dayton will take place from Friday, June 20 through Sunday, June 22 at The Entrepreneurs Center, 714 E. Monument Ave. Registration begins at 6:30 p.m. Friday. For more information please visit dayton.startupweekend.org.

Reach DCP freelance writer Stacey Ritz at StaceyRitz@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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