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(Previously published in the Galway Advertiser ‘Startup City’ section)

The Local Enterprise Office in Galway is headed up by an entrepreneur, Breda Fox. One of the initiatives they run is the food academy programme. Last year, 10/10 of the companies on this made it through to the shelves at SuperValue. That’s aside from the ongoing events like the one last Monday in our Michelin starred restaurant Loam, where 30 high quality local food producers met everyone there is to meet in the food industry.

We also have the likes of Cait Noone and JP McMahon bringing 40 world famous chefs to Galway to speak over a two day symposium at Food On The Edge. All speakers are chosen for their innovation, passion and influence on today’s food culture and it shows in the impact the 2015 event had that lead to bigger plans for this year’s event.

There’s something happening with food, and with Galway, and with the great startup ecosystem we have. That’s why I’m so delighted that Bank of Ireland are powering Ireland’s first food and technology startup weekend, supported by LEO and hosted in SuperPixel Labs.

The weekend is happening from April 8th — 10th, and although we have some free tickets in the workbench, most tickets can be gotten on the website, or through Twitter or Facebook at ‘galstartweekend’. The registration of €45 covers all food and drink for the weekend, mentorship and many creative surprises.

Startup Weekend Galway is owned by local community leaders who run this in their spare time, in this case, Ashlee Chin of IMS, Erika Miklos of Ex Ordo, Keith Farrell of BiteSize, Oggie Hollywood of SCCUL Enterprises and Olivia Lavelle of LingoHost. The goal of Galway Startup Weekend is to build connections among the startup community and the food experts in the region, providing the space and time for collaboration on innovative projects.

Here’s how it works:

On Friday you come in and meet the organisers. We get you some great food and give you a shirt with a colour for designer, developer, or general. We generally do ‘Half Baked’ then, where we give everyone random words and you pitch an idea that forms from those words and the brainstorming of the group. Then it’s onto the real stuff and you pitch the idea you want to work on in 60 seconds (this part is optional). Using super techy sticky notes, votes happen on the best ideas, the best 10 pitch again and then teams are formed with different skill sets.

On Saturday we bring in some great mentors across tech, design and business. You have all the support you need to build, build, build which leads us on to Sunday. Sunday is more building and then pitching to a panel of judges, winning some great prizes and finally celebrating a great but challenging weekend!

In terms of ideas, go as big as you can. When the BOI innovation team dropped by London’s food Startup Weekend, ideas ranged from better ways to label food, to finding restaurants that suit allergies, to ‘FoodWizard’ which makes your fridge smart to help you know what’s in there and what delicious meals to make.

I’ve organised 4 startup weekend’s now and facilitated one. It’s not about coming in on Friday and running a startup on the Monday, although you will have more than likely built a product, it’s much bigger and much longer term. The first mentors I had at Startup Weekend Dublin for that short weekend in 2013 have stayed with me over the years, and I can quite confidently put the majority of good decisions I’ve made since down to them.

You absolutely will not regret attending it, and if you’re unsure, feel free to contact us and drop by for an hour or two. Last year, Ogie did that after seeing the updates on Twitter and he loved it so much he’s co organising it!

Tracy Keogh