Ideas and Innovation: How Columbia’s Startup Weekend Can Help You

The 2nd annual Columbia Startup Weekend, hosted by the League of Innovators, will start Sept. 28, 2012 in Columbia, Mo.

Startup Weekend is a non-profit organization based out of Seattle, with a movement to empower entrepreneurs by teaching the basics of founding startups and launching successful ventures.

“Participants come for the weekend and it’s a 54-hour long event,” Director of League of Innovators Heidi Fuhrman said. “People can pitch business ideas, then those ideas are narrowed down and teams form around those ideas.”

Teams create themselves once the event begins and can come prepared with a business idea to pitch or develop one during the event. After building a business plan all weekend, presentations are given to a panel of judges to select a winner.

Participants from all different disciplines attend—entrepreneurs, lawyers, accountants and even students who hope to start their own businesses.

“In an ideal world, you’ll have people that have some experience, and on that same team you’ll have students,” Fuhrman said. “We have a really high student turnout at entrepreneurial events around Columbia.”

The event is a good opportunity for both entrepreneurs and students to be big thinkers and implement those energies, Fuhrman said. The reward for the League of Innovators is a lot of benefit locally from connecting business professionals and seeing the possibilities of what they can do.

Kansas City and St. Louis both hold their own Startup Weekend events as well.

Startup Weekend Coordinator Taylor Bell explained one company that emerged out of the first Startup Weekend, Rockupied. Its mission is to develop mobile gaming applications for smart phones. Bell said its founders have office in The Museao in Columbia, Mo. where the League of Innovators has a working space, and it’s great to see them succeed right next door.

Zapier is another group formed during last year’s Columbia Startup Weekend. According to its website, its mission is to serve “busy people who know their time is better spent selling, marketing, or coding. Instead of wasting valuable time coming up with complicated systems – you can use Zapier to sync the web apps you and your team are already using on a daily basis.”

“If you aren’t looking to be the next person opening your business, that’s alright because it’s a lot of fun and above all, a great networking opportunity,” Bell said. “It’s a great way to meet people who are similar-minded to you and passionate about entrepreneurship and also some very successful people in the community.”

Some sponsors include Veterans United Home Loans, Regional Economic Development Inc. (REDI) and the University of Missouri’s Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute. The participant cap is 125, and more than 50 participants have already registered, Fuhrman said. The goal is to exceed last year’s attendance of 76 participants.

Registration can be completed by signing up online or calling the League of Innovators in Columbia, Mo. at (573) 445-0678.

“It’s your chance to put yourself out there, do something that maybe you have wanted to do for a long time but haven’t gotten the chance,” Bell said.

A Columbia Startup Weekend promotional flier is posted at the Reynolds Journalism Institute. / Photo by Katie Artemas.

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