Startup Weekend gives entrepreneurs a head start on business ventures

startupweekendTom Moore

Contributing Writer

The roar was deafening. The sound of clapping and cheering was contagious. But it wasn’t a concert that incited the crowd – it was “Rock Paper Scissors,” a social mixer that whipped the crowd into a frenzy of shouting, stomping, clapping and chanting at the beginning of Startup Weekend of the College of Business on Oct. 16.

Timothy O’Keefe, dean of the University’s College of Business, said it best when he took the podium.

“The purpose of Startup Weekend is to give students a taste of how what they are learning in the classroom can be applied to the real world,” O’Keefe said.

Thirty-four potential businesses were pitched, explained and voted on, and the five businesses that survived to present their ideas at the end of the weekend were:

ResidenSeek: A database that matches recent medical school graduates to the best hospital for them to do their residency.

“Level Up” for real-life: A mobile app that would list community activities. Each person who participated in the activities would get points from the business.

Virtual Closet: Part database that would keep inventory of your closet contents, and part algorithm that would match cut, color, and summer or winter wear.

Virtual Eats: Database of healthy foods and virtual menus so meals can be perused virtually and healthy meals can be planned and purchased on a budget.

Item Return:  Mobile app providing return information and refund status through the company database.

Saturday, Oct. 17, was the day the five teams rolled up their sleeves, strapped on their work boots and settled in for the long haul. Some teams were there as early as 7:30 a.m. to begin work. Between 2-4 p.m., local entrepreneurs were on site to answer questions of the teams.

On Sunday afternoon, Oct. 18, the teams had five minutes to present their ideas to the judges and investors. After each team’s presentation, judges had another three minutes to ask questions.

The winner was ResidenSeek, an internet database and algorithm that serves as a one-stop shop for medical school graduates to find the best hospital residency for them. The team received a prize package that included workspace for up to three people at the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship; day passes for the Coworking Annex at One Palafox Place; four hours of startup consulting at Coastal CxO Services; two tickets to EntreCon Pensacola on Nov. 5-6; one hour of legal consulting from Beggs and Lane; and user experience (UX) coaching from Accountingfly.

But win or lose, the real question is this: What happens next? How will the knowledge, experience and connections the teams developed during Startup Weekend be used in the long run?  The answer depends on each team. In this sense, Startup Weekend is not the end, but merely the beginning.