Jabbok Schlacks and Matthew McDonald first learned about Startup Weekend Columbia just three weeks ago. By the end of the event Sunday night, Schlacks and McDonald had already made the first sale for their fledgling business, EquipmentShare.com.
The story of EquipmentShare.com is one that’s illustrative of the rapid progress aspiring entrepreneurs can make turning a business idea into reality over the course of a weekend. And that’s the name of the game at Startup Weekend Columbia, the local version of a weekend-long startup competition held in cities across the globe.
The Columbia event, now its fourth year, started with 125 participants and 43 business pitches on Friday night. Participants formed teams around 18 of those ideas and set to work. The 18 successful pitches ranged from the practical — DelCaf, an app for ordering coffee delivery — to the whimsical — KrappScore, which allows users to score the “crap” that friends post on Facebook.
Over the weekend, teams worked to build products and develop business plans, all while sipping beer, dining on a variety of local fare and listening to tunes from an in-house DJ — just some of the perks covered in the cost of a ticket to the event. Teams consulted with mentors to address potential problems with their startups, and they fine-tuned pitches in preparation for final presentations. It all culminated with the Sunday night finale, where teams delivered five-minute pitches and fielded questions from a panel of judges.
Those judges awarded top honors to EquipmentShare.com. Ombiance Yoga Mats, which pitched an idea for decorated, rug-like yoga mats, finished second. Wandering Turtle, a mobile app to help travelers discover new attractions, took third.
Prizes for the winners included six months of free space at the Columbia REDI Downtown Incubator, the opportunity to pitch to local angel network Centennial Investors, and in invitation to present at 1 Million Cups.
EquipmentShare.com’s Schlacks and McDonald described how their peer-to-peer rental platform grew out of a real-life frustration with the Missouri equipment rental market. Their startup seeks to serve as a middleman, connecting users of equipment and contractors who have spare equipment available for rental.
Their pitch included details like how the startup would take safety precautions for the heavy machinery, and how they would create profiles to ensure approved renters are “good renters” who take care of the equipment they rent. Ultimately, Schlacks said, EquipmentShare.com wants “to be the AirBNB for rental equipment.”
“Startup Weekend was incredible,” said Schlacks, who works as a general contractor. “I cannot believe the team. Each person was so integrated and integral to everything we did.”
McDonald said expert guidance throughout the weekend helped strengthene EquipmentShare.com’s pitch.
“One of the biggest things that mentors helped us with was finding out about potential problems early on in the weekend,” McDonald said. “You don’t want to be presenting and be asked questions by the judges, having curveballs thrown at you that you totally had not anticipated.”