Startup enthusiasts flexed their entrepreneurial muscles and geared up for an intensive weekend of building business models Friday night during the opening session of Columbia Startup Weekend.
Thirty-eight entrepreneurs, including developers, designers, students and other enterprising locals, pitched business ideas to a packed room with more than 140 people. Each aspiring startup founder delivered a one-minute pitch, and 19 of the ideas were selected as the basis for weekend-long projects.
The 38 pitches included a wide array of ideas: Surplus, a mobile app that increases the flexibility and fluidity of cash flows among companies; Visual Reality Meditation, a mobile application that uses virtual reality technology to immerse people in a full state of meditation; A Major Music, an online platform that provides guitar lessons and connects music lovers with talented instructors; and Music Nexus, a website that connects vocalists to producers who share similar musical tastes.
Now in its fifth year, Columbia Startup Weekend drew more students this weekend than in years past. Among the 140 registered participants, 74 are college students and four are high school students, according to lead organizer Heidi Fuhrman.
“We had several incredible professors that tried to make Startup Weekend thrive and make their students involved in entrepreneurial things,” Fuhrman said. “These professors who work alongside those students elevate the quality of their pitches and ideas.”
Bill Turpin, the president of Missouri Innovation Center and a serial technology entrepreneur who worked for years in Silicon Valley, will serve as a judge for Sunday’s final presentations. He said the most important thing for participants to stand out in Friday night’s pitch session was effectively communicating their ideas to the audience.
“It takes a combination of speaking skills, a certain amount of confidence, and some facts that show a real problem and that you have a real solution to it,” Turpin said. “That’s the key for entrepreneurs to figure (out) – problem and a solution.”
Turpin said he expected the 19 teams to think creatively, and that some could conduct actual business over the weekend.
“I think the teams that are picked will do more than they think they can do at the weekend,” Turpin said.
Alex Winkler, a frequent traveler and a University of Missouri senior majoring in international management, wants to develop a web and mobile company called Global Hiker for fellow travelers. He hopes to create a rewards program to ignite people’s passion for travel and connect them with companies that make travel easier.
“There is a market out there for travel,” Winkler said. “Only 30 percent of the United States actually have passports. That has actually doubled in the last decade. I know there are needs.”
Brandon Banks, a junior at the University of Central Missouri, wants to launch a nonprofit academy for young entrepreneurs that focuses on training middle school and high school kids to be entrepreneurs and business leaders.
“I started my first startup when I was 15, and I ran it for about four years,” Banks said. “I have been teaching young entrepreneurs how to launch their own business in middle schools and high schools over the last six years. … I’m here hoping to get anybody that feels passionate about teaching our next generation of entrepreneurs, including designers and developers.”
Each team will brainstorm, and develop a business, prototype or product over the weekend. Business coaches and mentors will help teams refine and develop their ideas.
After Sunday’s final presentations, the top three teams will be awarded prizes: $2,000 for first place, $1,000 for second and $500 for third. Winners will get office space at the Missouri Innovation Center, content marketing services from Influence & Co. and mentorship from local business professionals, Fuhrman said.
“The biggest resources (created by the event) are the momentum that makes excitement around startups and the power of getting really smart people together in the same room, thinking about ideas, sharing with each other and learning from each other,” Fuhrman said.
The 19 ideas that made it through the initial pitch round are below. Descriptions are courtesy of Columbia Startup Weekend’s organizers.
- Flash Food: Connect people to the food from restaurants that they planned to throw away
- Student Loans: More efficient platform for student education financing. Platform that allows individuals to invest in your future and students they’re passionate about supporting
- GoogleDocs for AI: Collaborative tool that allows developers to brainstorm, aid and imagine artificial intelligence technology as well as market and sell the ideas
- Tenant Loop: Tenant experience platform for property managers to better serve and communicate with their clients/tenants
- MedNed System: An app that allows patients to capture informative medical content to partner with doctors and foster a better understanding and communication of their illness
- Staffed Up: Small business subscription staffing solution
- eSports Booth: Platform for professional e-sports apparel
- Back Rat: Personalized platform for backpackers and hikers to help plan your gear
- Music Nexus: Personalized website community connecting vocalists to producers via the “Tinder” of music
- iHappy: An app that reinforces happiness. Sends “good feels” notifications and promotes positivity
- A Major Music: Uber for guitar lessons with talented, qualified instructors coming straight to your home
- Budget Beaver: Budgeting and personal finance app with a built-in rewards system to help you achieve financial freedom.
- MixtapeMonkey.com: Hip-hop website where users can download and stream music without fear of viruses or fees
- Global Hiker: Web and mobile platform for avid travelers that create a rewards program that helps travelers and participating companies
- Fido Force-Field: An app that allows you to map out a perimeter that creates a wireless fence for your pet through multiple device communication
- Academy for Young Entrepreneurs: An entrepreneurial training ground and an incubator without walls empowering and educating young, aspiring entrepreneurs, ages 12-18
- Commuter Awareness Robot Stage: Robot to help with stage-timing for productions
- Forex Buddy: Avoid the large fees by getting better exchange rates for transferring money overseas.
- Pick Champ: Social gaming app that’s a game of skill and is a twist on fantasy sports