Entrepreneurs, techies and idea people will converge on downtown Pensacola this month as Start-Up Weekend returns to the city. This will be the fifth start-up weekend event in Pensacola, the last one happened in 2015. Kelly Reeser is the Director of Entrepreneurial Development with Florida West Economic Development Alliance and the director of Co-Lab Pensacola, a business incubator space in downtown Pensacola. She has been involved with every start-up weekend in town. "The idea of the weekend is that you gather developers, designers and start-up enthusiasts [and] put them through a pretty intense ideation process. So someone could pitch an idea on Friday night, they have 60 seconds to pitch that initial idea, a team forms, and then that team is attempting to build a working prototype and a business model around that idea in just 54 hours."
Typically there are about 100 people at the event and about 35 ideas are pitched. It’s the entire group that decides which ideas get worked on and developed. "It's a very collective process. People select those ideas that they want to work on and team with. So it's a very organic process. People walk around and talk with the individual that pitched the idea and then the teams just form organically. Typically those 35 ideas come down to around 20 finalists and then, by the time the teams actually form, sometimes [the ideas] roll into each other. they say these two ideas are similar enough that they could pair together. And typically we're building anywhere between 12 to 15 complete business models throughout the weekend."
Not everyone who attends the weekend has an idea to pitch. Some people are looking to find a project that needs their particular skill set. These include everything from programmers and coders to artists and design specialists.
This year Pensacola start-Up Weekend is partnering with Tech Stars, the company that owns the Start-Up Weekend brand as part of the Tech Stars Global Start-Up Week. "And Tech Stars has what's called a Global Start-Up Battle. So if you're participating in a Start-Up Weekend you become part of this event called Global Start-Up Battle." There are over 200 Start-Up Weekend events going on around the world the same weekend as Pensacola's. The winner of the local event will have their idea pitched at a regional competition and perhaps have it progress even further.
There have been some companies that have progressed from the local start-up event. Kelly Reeser says two success stories come to mind. "The first place winner of the last event was called "Life Boat", an app to pair road side assistance with mechanics. they've gone through several iterations of that business over the last two years, and have actually launched an app in the App Store, probably three or four version past what they pitched at Start-Up Weekend, but they have stayed together as a team and have developed that success." Reeser says another Start-Up Weekend team developed a law enforcement app. "They were able to partner with one of the coaches at Start-Up Weekend here locally [and] get that idea just past that working prototype phase and get it to something that was more advanced and a more viable business."
The organizers of Start-Up Weekend Pensacola are actively looking for not only participants, but also coaches for this year’s event. "Some of the best and brightest talent from the Pensacola area that are interested and willing to give back to these next ideas and these next idea generators."
Pensacola Start-Up Weekend is November 10 through the 12 at the Co-Work Annex in Downtown Pensacola. To sign up or get more information go to pensacola.startupweekend.org, or search for Start Up Weekend Pensacola on Facebook.