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Startup Weekend Seeks Tech Entrepreneurs

Startup Weekend is an international startup event where businesses go from ideas to actualities in just 54 hours. Locally, volunteers in the startup, technology and entrepreneurship community are launching the third iteration of Startup Weekend Pensacola and it is set for October 17-19 at the University of West Florida’s College of Business. WUWF's Dave Dunwoody recently sat down with Startup coordinator Kyle Schmitz.

Why Startup Weekend?

"We really wanted to support economic development, technology and startups here in Pensacola and we thought this was a great first step to achieving that...We're really focused on technology ideas, so anything that can be found on the web or mobile, anything from social media ideas to mobile gaming, etc.

Entrepreneurship Online vs. Traditional Brick & Mortar Sales

"An online startup is so much faster to get off the ground, theres so many tools, frameworks, to help you get up and running fast. There is so much technical talent, creative talent, that can allow you to put your business out there, gain a following, gain users without a huge monetary investment. Whereas a brick and mortar store you're definitely going to need more of an investment- you have to find a space- a tech startup you can run from your kitchen if you want."

On the collaborative nature of Startup Weekend:

"About half of the participants will pitch ideas: the ideas they've had in their head for weeks, months, or even years, but what they really need is complementary skills. You may be a business person but you need the technical, creative, and marketing chops to get that idea off the ground and at startup weekend you will be able to find that."

What skills can be acquired at Startup Weekend?

"We will have some small workshops, pitch workshops, many sessions that will teach you to prop up a website in about 15 minutes. This is a really rapid prototyping event. So things will happen fast, they won't be incredibly polished, but the idea is to have something Sunday night that you can present. We will have ten mentors and judges throughout the weekend that will be able to guide you, whether that's advice on a business plan or what language to write this application in, they will be there to help guide you."

How much computer savvy is needed to take part?

"Not everyone needs those development skills. We tend to have a third developers, a third, designers, and a third what we consider nontechnical skills, they could be marketers, entrepreneurs, or other business men and women. What you really want to do is have at least one or two technical people on your team. Once you pitch your idea you will have the opportunity to build that team. You say, well I need one designer and two developers to help make this happen. Not everyone will need technical skills.

On networking with successful veteran entrepreneurs:

"Absolutely, we have Quint Studer there and Vernon Niven, who is a Silicon Valley veteran, we'll have Mona Amodeo, Mike Hicks, and Dean Parker. They are all people who have built successful businesses in this city. We will also have coaches and mentors who have built successful startups or other business ventures."

On the intensity of a 54 hour startup:

"It is a fun experience, there is a lot of laughter. It is really fun if you like this sort of stuff. But it is a weekend spent working. You pitch your idea Friday night and by Sunday we do expect some level of prototype or a minimum viable prototype that you can show to the judges. Having that prototype will definitely factor into the judging."

The Takeaway:

"It's really going to be about the experience, we want you to have a good time, we want you to meet other people in the community, we want you to find people that can help you build your idea. We're not necessarily looking to launch and build 10 or 12 successful companies from this. If you're interested in entrepreneurship or building a startup this is just a really great way to start that."

When: Begins Friday, October 17 at 6:30 p.m. Final presentations which are free and open to the public are  at 5:00 pm on Sunday, October 19.
Where: University of West Florida - College of Business
11000 University Pkwy, Bldg 76a Pensacola, FL 32514
Cost: $50 as a participant, $20 for students. Final presentations and judging are public and free.
Details: http://www.up.co/communities/usa/pensacola/startup-weekend/4548