Don’t Miss Startup Weekend Chicago | Maker Edition | March 10-12 @mHUB

We’re kicking off 2017 with our first ever Startup Weekend – Maker Edition! Startup Weekend is a 54-hour event designed to provide superior experiential education for technical and non-technical entrepreneurs. The weekend events are centered on action, innovation, and education. 

What does Maker Edition mean? Participants will pitch startup ideas that include the development of a physical technical component/product. No, you don’t need technical experience to participate. Successful startups leverage the diverse skills of their team; including business, marketing, development, and design! 

Sound like a tall order in 52 hours? No worries! We’ve partnered with mHUB to provide participants access to state-of-the-art machines, workspace, and material! mHUB is Chicago’s first innovation center focused on physical product development and manufacturing. mHUB galvanizes the manufacturing ecosystem by bringing innovative ideas, attracting world class talent, and driving greater productivity and profit. mHUB provides members access to 63,000 square feet of state-of-the-art machines and work space, and a vibrant community of manufacturers, entrepreneurs, engineers, designers and investors. mHUB ensures Chicago’s legacy remains that of a beacon to a region that builds products, and also the future. 

Join Startup Weekend Chicago and mHUB in Building the Future! Come pitch, join a team, iron out your business model, and tinker away! Startup Weekend is a global network of passionate leaders and entrepreneurs on a mission to inspire, educate, and empower individuals, teams and communities.

Come share ideas, form teams, and launch startups!




Meet The Chicago Startup Weekend Team: Brittani Alston

Name: Brittani Alston

Age: 23

Hometown: Milwaukee, WI

Chicago Startup Weekend Role: Project Manager/Technical Lead

Creative Industry Focus: Performing Arts, Live Entertainment

Tell me a bit about yourself: My lifetime goal has always been to become a super entrepreneur; an innovative leader who impacts the community positively. Upon graduation from Columbia College Chicago, I hope to officially launch my leadership training program for collegiate women in Milwaukee, WI.

Have you attended a Startup Weekend before? I have attended a Startup Weekend; Startup Weekend Bloomington 2016

If so, what did you enjoy about your Startup Weekend experience? I enjoyed the late work hours filled with adrenaline and exhaustion! There’s nothing like developing a complex idea under pressure in a short period of time!

What can individuals expect at Startup Weekend Chicago? Participants at Startup Weekend Chicago can expect a unique experience from the diversity of ideas and perspectives that will be brought to the room. Chicago is a gold mine for entrepreneurship!

Why should people attend Startup Weekend Chicago – Creative Enterprise Edition? People should attend the weekend to learn about their strengths, network with others, and push their entrepreneurial limits.

What advice do you have for someone that wants to make their creative business idea/dream a reality? Strive to take action opposed to simply being “in motion”. There’s a difference between planning and execution. Startup Weekend can be an easy first step!

Purchase tickets here:…/chicago/startup-weekend/10099

Meet The Chicago Startup Weekend Team: Melissa Jimenez

“Be flexible and open minded. Don’t be so tied to your idea that you stifle its potential for growth.” – Melissa Jimenez


Name: Melissa Jimenez
Age: 29
Hometown: Diego Martin, Trinidad & Tobago
Creative Industry of Focus: Live entertainment and Events

Role for Chicago Startup Weekend: Lead Organizer

Tell us a bit about yourself.
A classically trained singer who loves singing complex classical works (I’m talking about things like the 60 minute vocal performance of Carmina Burana – which I have memorized by the way) and Musicals (my favourite is Aida). I majored in Musical Arts and Sociology. Live entertainment, events and entrepreneurial business development is my passion. An ambivert on most days but if you really want to see me turn it on, watch me in event coordination mode. I love to dance but sadly structured dance doesn’t like me – I tell people I have 6 left feet. When I’m not in work mode, being a Caribbean girl to my core, you can find me relaxing on a beach or cruising on a boat with a peach or mango cocktail in hand basking in the sunshine. The beach is my place of calm, rest and solace. It helps me to center and re-focus.

This is such a cliché question, but, where do you see yourself in your career in 5 years?
Managing and coordinating events for prominent independent clients, luxury hotels and cruise liners. If you top on another 5 years, I’d like to focus on cultural policy and be the next Minister of Arts and Culture in my homeland or be in a similar position, high enough to effect change and give direction to the local Arts and Entertainment industry with the aim of making it more self sufficient.

Have you attended a Startup Weekend before?
My first encounter with Startup Weekend was as a curious attendee in November 2014. I fell in love with the cause, its mission and and the community so much that I immediately reached out to the Organizer thereafter and told them that I wanted to be a part of the team for the next one. My professional expertise then was in Grant Writing so that’s where the team utilized me and we produced a spectacular Startup Weekend event themed for Social Enterprises in June 2015. I worked remotely giving assistance to two other Startup Weekend teams thereafter and recently attended the Bloomington Indiana Startup Weekend.

If so, what did you enjoy about your Startup Weekend experience?
As an attendee, several features stood out to me most with the Startup Weekend experience. Besides the food, of course, the adrenaline rush, the insane networking and the ability to complete a project that would usually take average 6 months and more for the mediocre procrastinator took us only 54 hours. And, the end product of the weekend was AMAZING! People had websites built – functional and live – others had 3D renditions of prototypes and of course there were apps built as well – no Startup Weekend is ever complete without an app idea as the origins of the event was based on innovation within the tech space.

What can individuals expect at Startup Weekend Chicago?
Great food, great networking opportunities, a mix of people who may be just right to help you get your idea from thought to reality, and an intense work filled but fun weekend.

Why should people attend Startup Weekend Chicago – Creative Enterprise Edition?
We share a vision and desire to help grow the creative industry. There’s more to the creative industry than just dance or music or visual art. We want YOU to be a forerunner, come with your ideas for ways to expand the innovation in our creative space. Whether it be a karoke app, a tool to help designers stitch clothes in half the time, software to boost DJ productivity and output or a service which makes booking venues easier for event managers.

What advice do you have for someone that wants to make their creative business idea/dream a reality?
Don’t be afraid to pitch! Yes pitching can be scary but its worth it!
Startup Weekend provides a safe space to explore your idea, and work with people who have the skill set you don’t readily possess who will help you flesh out the idea, solidify it and turn it into a reality. Be flexible and open minded. Don’t be so tied to your idea that you stifle its potential for growth.

Find out more about us! Follow us on social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.

Purchase tickets here.

Entrepreneurship: My Hidden Love

Entrepreneurship is a hidden love I discovered as an adult. This love was inspired by watching my father-in-law, Bill Toft. Bill retired from the Belvidere Fire Department as a Captain. In addition, he also has been a general contractor, realtor, plumber, real estate investor, and most recently, owner of Bush Gardens Bar and Grill in Belvidere.

It is exciting to talk about starting your own business. Owning your own business can be a very scary and lonely endeavor, but has many benefits as well. Local business owners are essential for a community, and the Rockford area needs more of them. If you are currently working in a job that is not a passion, then consider taking your zeal and turning it into a viable business. Entrepreneurs have the opportunity to determine their own work/life balance. They have the ability to build the business team of their choosing. Also, there is the potential to increase income since someone else is not determining compensation.

Entrepreneurs can have a feeling of accomplishment from establishing a business they created and leaving a legacy for their family to continue.

Being an entrepreneur is not without risk or struggle. Many business owners utilize their own funds or leverage personal assets which mean these can be lost. Smaller entrepreneurial organizations may have difficulty accessing capital and financing for capital projects, new business opportunities and support during tough times. Owning a business includes regulation and compliance filing requirements with federal, state and local governments. Entrepreneurs must invest funds and time in good employees with the risk of losing them in the future. Also, one’s personal time is potentially dictated by the business. Wanting to avoid the potential for a negative impact, many business owners do not share personal or business struggles. Therefore, it is important to have a network of trusted individuals that can provide support and resources.

Entrepreneurs are incredible assets to communities. They have created brand new industries such as internet shopping and mobile technologies in addition to creating new innovative products.

These new industries and products have the potential to create new jobs.  Profits can be spent in the local economy for products or services, invested in local businesses, or held by local financial institutions, which in turn provide for additional capital for lending.  Local service companies depend on other local businesses to survive. Attorneys, accountants, bankers and other business service providers benefit from new businesses created by entrepreneurs.

Communities need to educate more people to become entrepreneurs. This can be done through our schools starting at the elementary level and continuing through higher education. Business ownership can be taught through classes and school clubs. In addition, communities need to look for more ways for local entrepreneurs to connect with the next generation of aspiring entrepreneurs to share their guidance and mentorship.

However, I believe the best education comes from experience. If someone wants to become a business owner, they should look at starting a business by either doing one part-time while working in your main job or by making a new business your full-time job.

If you or someone you know wants to get educated on entrepreneurship without many of the risks involved, consider signing up for Startup Weekend Rockford. Startup Weekend is run by Techstars. In just 54 hours, attendees will experience the highs, lows, fun and pressure that make up life at a startup. As they learn how to create a real company, they will meet the very best mentors, investors, cofounders and sponsors who are ready to help them get started. Startup Weekend Rockford is on November 11-13, 2016 and will be held at Rockford University.  You can learn more about attending or sponsoring by contact me at or 815.484.5606.

Global Startup Battle 2015 was awesome!

The Global Startup Battle 2015 was a world-class event that brought together startup enthusiasts and industry professionals from the Chicago community in order to identify and develop innovative business ideas.

The weekend kicked off Friday afternoon with a speech by Anthony Zeoli (JOBS Act and crowdfunding expert) which provided attendees with an overview of the investment ecosystem in Chicago as well as general advice on launching a startup. After the lecture was over the attendees took the stage to pitch their startup ideas! While all of the ideas presented were fantastic, a voting session by participants narrowed down the best and determined the official teams for the weekend:

Giftr – A social platform for discovering gift ideas through relational groups

HirePower – Software tool aimed at improving and streamlining the hiring process (particularly for management consulting firms)

Chews – Interactive platform that provides menus that help users find their ideal meals (particularly beneficial for individuals with dietary restrictions)

Chefy – An app that allows people to schedule private chefs to cook at their home

Between the Notes – A startup which aims to revive classical music education for the next generation

Oyster – Curated weekly entertainment guide that delivers experience and variety

On Saturday, the teams worked on getting market feedback for their ideas by conducting in-person interviews and polling social media. As they figured out what worked and what didn’t, they refined their business models and adjusted their marketing strategies. It was a great learning experience which allowed attendees to get a deeper understanding of their potential customers and the most effective ways to market their products.

On Sunday morning, with their ideas polished and their business models defined, teams worked on their pitches with the help of an amazing roster of mentors which included professionals in the fields of product design, data analytics, software development, venture capital, marketing, and social entrepreneurship. Finally, on Sunday afternoon, the teams presented the results of their hard work to a panel of judges that included high-profile members of the startup community including the assistant director of the University of Notre Dame’s entrepreneurship program and a managing director of Techstars, one of the world’s largest startup accelerator programs.

While in our book all of the teams are winners for successfully turning their ideas into viable products and putting together amazing presentations, one team stood above the rest: Chefy. By developing a sound business model and validating its business concepts with market data (including receiving request from a chef from Italy to be included in their beta), Chefy embodied what Startup Weekends are all about.

If you are interested in oin us for the official relaunch of the Startup Weekend Chicago meetup on January 14th:

Stay tuned for more updates and information regarding our next event (last weekend of February 2016) at

Startup Weekend Chicago is back!

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The biggest startup competition in the world is finally back.

On November 13th-15th thousands of entrepreneurs from all over the world will gather in over 200 cities to put their startup ideas to the test and see if they have what it takes to start a company. Of course, Chicago won’t be the exception! Having spawned technology companies such as FishBit and WeDeliver, Chicago is a very real contender for a global win.

For those unfamiliar with Startup Weekend, our motto is “No Talk. All Action.” In other words, don’t expect to sit around and listen to talks and presentations. This is not that kind of event. If you sign up, you will work your ass off. You will be challenged with different perspectives. More often than not, you will discover that what you thought was a great idea is actually not, but that’s ok! Startup Weekend is about learning, collaborating with others, and getting a taste of what it feels like to start and run a company in the real world.

The event will kick off Friday afternoon with a round of pitches from entrepreneurs, followed by a voting session to determine which ideas will move forward. At this time, participants will have the option to join teams to work on the ideas they like the most. Over the course of the weekend, teams will get market feedback for their ventures, figure out what works and what doesn’t, and refine their business models. It’s a great learning experience that allows entrepreneurs to get a deeper understanding of their potential customers and the most effective ways to market their products. Finally, on Sunday afternoon, the teams present the results of their work to a panel of judges including high-profile members of the startup community. The event winner will then move on to the next round of the competition and face other winning teams in the region. Ultimately, regional winners compete on a global stage to determine the best global startup idea/team.

Does this all seem challenging? It should! Fortunately, you won’t be alone. Startup Weekend is a network of passionate leaders and entrepreneurs on a mission to inspire, educate, and empower individuals, teams and communities. For this reason, during the weekend you will have access to a group of volunteer professionals from industries such as software development, social entrepreneurship, data analytics and venture capital that will be there to answer any/all questions you may have in their particular fields. So what do you think? Are you up to the challenge? If so, come share ideas, form teams, and launch startups!

For more info and tickets:

Startup Weekend FinTech is a Huge Success in Chicago!

Chicago Startup Weekend FinTech, co-hosted by Startup Weekend Chicago and FinTex Chicago, was a huge success!

Attracting more than 60 entrepreneurs and inspiring collaboration between professionals across industries, the event spawned 7 teams around ideas in diverse areas such as crowd-sourcing, machine learning insurance, financial options trading, and online bill management.

IMG_4311As with previous events, things kicked off Friday afternoon with a round of amazing
pitches from the entrepreneurs, followed by a voting session which determined the official teams for the weekend. On Saturday, the teams worked on getting market feedback for their ideas by leaving the building to conduct in-person interviews and polling social media. As they figured out what worked and what didn’t, they refined their business models and adjusted their marketing strategies. It was a great learning experience which allowed entrepreneurs to get a deeper understanding of their potential customers and the most effective ways to market their products.

On Sunday morning, with their ideas polished and their business models defined, teams worked on their pitches with the help of an amazing roster of mentors which included professionals in the fields of venture capital, intellectual property, social entrepreneurship, marketing, software development, and micro lending. Finally, on Sunday afternoon, the teams presented the results of their hard work to a panel of judges that included high-profile members of the startup community – including one of the founders of Hyde Park Angels, a Chicago-based angel investment organization.

While all of the pitches were truly amazing, only 3 could be selected to place.

3rd Place-TaxCut

TaxCut is a simple tax return service platform for college students with part-time jobs. Students can take a photo of their W-2 forms, fill out a quick questionnaire and finish their tax returns!

2nd Place-Crowdsurance

Crowdsurance offers an innovative way to crowd source insurance premiums. By investing with people you know and trust, versus investing in a larger crowd with risk you may not understand, you have more opportunity to make out on your insurance choices.  

And 1st Place Goes To……InVoice!

InVoice is an online platform aimed at streamlining the sales invoicing process. Led by software developer Ellie Day and powered by engineer Bill Finn and finance pro Cristina Vera, InVoice capitalized on the growing need of freelancers and small businesses to keep good accounting and provide their clients with invoices in a seamless, user-friendly way.

Of course, the weekend would not have been possible without our awesome sponsors. For this reason, we are infinitely grateful!   Also, big shout out to FinTex (Chicago’s financial technology cluster) for their incredible support.


Chicago's 2014 Global Startup Battle is Rocking!

The Chicago Startup Weekend edition of the 2014 Global Startup Battle (GSB) started last night and it was fantastic! Over 60 attendees, 40+ pitches that generated 10 teams, who are now working for 54 straight hours in hope walk away with the Chicago GSB Crown.


This morning, teams started right away on validating their ideas and building their products. Here are the 8 teams still in the race to win this Chicago Startup Weekend GSB 2014 event:

  • Expecting Delivery: A subscription service for expecting mothers
  • Fitness Guru: An online personal trainer service
  • Skillet: An app to push people learning skills
  • Subscrible: A subscription management service for bills
  • Evolve Educators: A tool for educators
  • Skillet: A community service to learn skills
  • Beer Man: An IOS app that makes it easier to buy beers at sports venues
  • Live right: An app between Fitness, health and products

We will keep you posted on how these teams and ideas evolve until Sunday’s Demo event. Tickets are still available for Sunday’s Demo on our website.

Final Teams Form at Chicago StartupWeekend EDU

As the first night of Chicago StartupWeekend EDU comes to a close, our 7 final teams are furiously whiteboarding and business model canvasing.  image1A list of those teams and all 25 ideas pitched during PitchFire follows (final teams markets in bold and with an asterix):

  • *Eternity Engine: an online globe with a slidebar overlay for more interactive world history lessons
  • Math and Logic: math tutoring and…I missed this
  • Pedagoji: an online learning hub with gamification for engagement
  • Lingua: an ESL tool, not a lot of detail beyond that
  • *Games for Jocks from Educelerant Dennis Glen, offering remedial tutoring through serious games and other aspects appealing to collegiate atheles
  • Eduko from another Educelerant Erika Kot offering an occupation focused social website to support career exploration / entrance 
  • *Coachable, cloud hosted short class recordings for teacher professional development from recently retired teachers. Made it to the finals, but subsequently disbanded
  • *WatchmeWork, web portal with online streams of experts hard at work for consultation / reference. Made it to the finals.
  • Seeking Mentorship, a website for mentorship, I think
  • *Learning Buddies, from Dr. Jane Hornickle, a peer to peer tutoring in special education, which made it into the finals!
  • Codeable Bracelets, a cool idea from Makeda Ricketts for programmable bracelets to teach and popularize coding to girls (still bummed this did not get through to the finals!)
  • Math Media, from Michael Adamson of Atlanta, one of our farthest travelling participants, injecting pop culture video into math lessons
  • Summer Plans, for tracking children’s plans for summer
  • IdiomOcean, from Natalia from Indiana (though only recently having moved there from Colombia) a marketplace connecting language learners with native speakers for improved fluency and contacts
  • Pi Master from Educelerant and 2013 SWEDU alumna Deeann Dorman
  • *Whipping Post, an online disciplinary write-ups app which made it to the finals!
  • Perfolio from Jeremy Peters who only days ago told me he was done with Education and Start-ups…glad to see him back in the fold
  • *Tutor Train, an online tutoring feedback app jointly pitched by Tash and Stenio (looks like they already have a team), which made it into the finals!
  • *FantasyFinance bringing fantasy stock portfolios into the classroom to teach math, which advanced into the finals (too bad Eric Nelson isn’t here to help coach)!
  • Mentors for Minority Success, a social site connecting incoming minority freshman with older peer students for mentorship and support
  • And our last two pitches responding to our facilitator’s personal appeal, Student Studio, and MyMoney, a math app based on real world math skill needs
Speaking of our facilitator, a special thanks must be given to Nirav Amin, a local Chicago StartupWeekend enthusiast and recent facilitator of Little Rock Startup Weekend.  With widespread flight cancellations following the closing of all Chicago airports due to some bizarre Air Traffic Control tower arsonry, our original facilitator from Startup Education was kept from flying in today.  Thankfully, we were able to appeal to Nirav’s love of StartupWeekend to pry him away from his father’s birthday party to facilitate!

Chicago StartupWeekend Education Announces its Prize Package

SWEDUChicagoThanks to our amazing sponsors, Chicago StartupWeekend Education is announcing some special prizes for its winning teams! Local and global Startup Weekend sponsors are also providing some awesome perks, swag, and resources for all attendees.

The Winners’ Circle

  • 4.0 Schools4.0 Schools is providing free admission and travel to the multi-day Essentials workshop (covering up to $500 in travel costs);
  • The Educelerate Conference is providing a $500 credit to the team that best addresses the unique Challenges of Non-Educeleratetraditional Students (adult, online, low-income, minority) for the technology development consulting service of their choice.
  • 18711871 is offering a free two month membership to the winning team and, with DeVry Education Group, an invitation to the top higher education focused team to meet with the head of the new DV X EdTech Incubator there;
  • Kaplan TechstarsThe lead mentor at the Kaplan Techstars EdTech Accelerator will connect with the winning team to provide advice and insight into their next cohort;
  • The head of West Coast Relations at Pearson Labs will also connect with the winning team to provide advice and insight into the next Pearson Pearson CatalystCatalyst cohort;
  • And rumor has it that there is one more winner’s prize in the mix…

We are also excited to highlight several global Startup Weekend resources and sponsors – check out the below for information about Google bootcamps, free domain registration, and more!

  • .CO is proud to support Startup Weekend by providing all participants with the opportunity for a free 12-month .CO domain registration. Don’t settle for a lame name with dashes or missing vowels — get a short, memorable, user friendly domain name to launch your startup this weekend! Find an available .CO name via and use the promo code provided by your organizer to get your .CO at
  • Google is providing everyone a $500 of credit to build startups on Google App Engine and Google Compute Engine. Redeem at: (verification code: swoff-org).
  • Built with the same technology that powers, Amazon Web Services (AWS) provides start-ups and businesses with a secure, reliable, easy-to scale, low-cost computing platform “in the cloud.” AWS is issuing all SW participants a credit voucher valued at $100 which can be applied to an existing account and is good until 12 months from issue. Please follow the instructions on to sign up for AWS and redeem the promotional code provided by your SW Organizer.