Columbia Startup Weekend Success Stories: Where Are They Now?

Zapier — Winner of the 2011 Columbia Startup Weekend

zapier, startup weekend

The Problem:

Bryan Helmig knew he was on to something when he came to Columbia Startup Weekend with co-founders Wade Foster and Mike Knoop in 2011. He understood the convenience that innovative web apps offer, but integrating them was a complex and frustrating process. People needed an app that would help connect their online usage and automate tedious tasks that impede productivity. Companies had built departments dedicated to developing app integration for personal use, but without technical knowledge, creating these solutions was expensive and inaccessible to the public.

The Solution:

With the customer and specific problem in mind, the team came to Columbia Startup Weekend and created a demo of code that’s the foundation of Zapier today. Three years later, this app offers a simple way to automate common tasks on more than 400 web-based apps including Gmail, Google Docs, Evernote, Trello, and Twitter. The team supports more than 250,000 users, with people at BuzzFeed, Spotify, and Groupon among them. Zapier has been featured in publications including The Wall Street Journal, WIRED, and Lifehacker.

MedSocket — Third-Place Finalist at the 2012 Columbia Startup Weekend

medsocket, startup weekend

The Problem:

  1. Karl Kochendorfer knew that studying modern healthcare was a complex and imperfect science. It often produced results that weren’t reliable enough to extrapolate or use to sufficiently educate healthcare providers. With a desire for trustworthy healthcare information, he enlisted the help of Joel Kaplan, Eric Margheim, Matt Botkin, Ryan Frappier, Chad Haney, and Jayne Williams to devise a solution. He wanted to blend information technology and healthcare to create a medical search engine and clinical support system.

The Solution:

Using his new connections and the great minds he met at Startup Weekend, Dr. Kochendorfer laid the foundation for his product. Keeping the clinician’s perspective in mind, MedSocket quickly compiles the best evidence-based information for patient care.

In April 2013, the University of Missouri System invested $100,000 in MedSocket through its Enterprise Investment Program, and practitioners at the University of Missouri Health System use it routinely in patient care. MedSocket is one of five companies that received $50,000 in seed funding from Capital Innovators, along with project-based mentoring and follow-on funding opportunities as part of Capital Innovators’ 2014 spring class in St. Louis.

SafeTrek — Participant at the 2013 Columbia Startup Weekend

SafeTrek, Startup Weekend

The Problem:

As former president and vice president of the Missouri Students Association, Nick Droege and Zach Beattie noticed an alarming number of crime reports on campus and heard many students talk about their safety concerns at the University of Missouri-Columbia. The university had a blue lights system in place, but these alarm systems only work if a student is nearby or an active observer understands the threat. Calling 911 was too alarming for a person who was merely uncomfortable, and many people felt the need for a little extra protection when traveling alone on campus.

The Solution:

After Zach Winkler and Aaron Kunnemann joined their efforts, the team built SafeTrek, an app that offers people protection while walking alone. When users feel unsafe, they press the button on the SafeTrek app. When the danger is gone, they’re prompted to enter a four-digit PIN to disable the app. If no PIN is entered, the phone connects to the police and relays the location of the incident.

Since 2013, SafeTrek has introduced apps for Android and iOS that cost $1.99. It’s been featured on BuzzFeed, Tumblr, ABC, CBS, and The Huffington Post, and it has more than 10,000 downloads on the Google Play Store. It works anywhere in the U.S.

Gladitood — Honorable Mention at the 2012 Columbia Startup Weekend

Gladitood, startup weekend

The Problem:

Ryan Brennell’s 2011 trip to Samoa would forever change the way he saw the world.  Volunteering to clean up after a tropical storm, Ryan learned about the positive influence volunteerism can have while abroad. However, connecting with these opportunities proved difficult. Geoffrey Raymond was brought on during Startup Weekend in 2012 with the plan of building a network that would combine travel opportunities with a passion to help others.

The Solution:

Gladitood changes the way people travel and crowdfund by connecting passionate volunteers with worthy causes around the world. Creators reach out for the assistance they need, backers support the projects financially, and volunteers offer their time and expertise to help out. The fundraising and volunteer goals have deadlines, which encourages a rallying effort and creates momentum for major accomplishments.

Gladitood launched in late August and is currently crowdsourcing volunteers to develop English skills for poor children in India and build a beauty school in Africa to promote community and entrepreneurship in women. Gladitood is planting seeds of generosity in the world’s most vulnerable communities.

TimeKitJS — Honorable Mention at the 2013 Columbia Startup Weekend

startup weekend

The Problem:

As experts in website development, David Hansen, Brad Griffith, Steve Powell, Jeff Daniel, Jared Davis, and Ceili Cornelisonnoticed something was missing in their field. Engaging multimedia formats were becoming more common, and this introduced video to the landscape of website design. As a result, programmers were faced with fewer SEO-friendly options when presenting content.

The Solution:

The group designed TimeKitJS, which offers a JavaScript library for building timeline-based web page experiences with and without video. It helps create social- and multimedia-integrated websites that sync easily with video media. Plus, using JavaScript allows you to retain crucial SEO data. Although TimeKitJS is still young, it won the CLIMB Mizzou entrepreneur competition and continues to make strides.

DoctorOn — Participant at the 2011 Columbia Startup Weekend


The Problem:

Nahush Katti’s grandfather lives in a remote Indian village with no access to costly medical facilities. In India, the country with the largest blind population, many vision impairments can be corrected with proper diagnosis and treatment, but access is nearly nonexistent. Nahush knew that mobile and portable technology had revolutionized the way people, even in remote places, connected with the rest of the world. Teaming up with Vikram Arun, the two began looking for ways to marry healthcare and mobile technology.

The Solution:

With the DoctorOn app, users can send a photo of an affected eye to a trained ophthalmologist for diagnostic purposes. With a 92 percent accuracy rate and only $10, this app creates an inexpensive alternative to costly travel and diagnostics. Since Startup Weekend, DoctorOn has received two provisional patents and has been funded by the Indo-US Science and Technology Forum. The cataract and diabetic retinopathy diagnostic devices have been through field trials and are on their way to becoming clinically validated. Plans for the future include other diagnostic tools to help rural and impoverished patients access healthcare.


The Science Behind Why Women Are Neurologically Equipped To Start And Grow Companies


I’m going to go out on a professional limb here and say that, while the business world is filled with male CEOs, entrepreneurs, and decision makers, women may have the physiological upper hand in natural leadership abilities.

But this isn’t just my opinion. There’s an array of scientific evidence that points toward the neurological characteristics that generally hardwire women to be successful, efficient leaders.

The Science Behind the Claim

Simply put, the female brain works differently than the male brain does. Although it’s smaller, the female brain is more complex, which can impact the way women function in the workplace. This makes women likely to possess natural characteristics of great leaders, including:

  • Conflict-management skills. Females have a larger and faster-maturing prefrontal cortex, which oversees decision-making and emotional information. This difference can help women navigate conflict resolution and compromise. The way women approach conflict is also rooted in hormones — particularly the higher levels of oxytocin present in the female body, which produce a calming and nurturing effect.
  • Memory skills. Studies have found that women, on average, retain stronger and more vivid memories of emotional events than men. It’s also been shown that women absorb and encode more information during ongoing events and demonstrate a greater ability to access those memories than their male counterparts.

All of these components add up to an emotional intelligence that is required in great leadership, according to Daniel Goleman of Rutgers University. Goleman found that truly effective leaders don’t necessarily have the best training in the world or an analytical mind; instead, they possess a high degree of emotional intelligence, including self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills.

His more recent research found six distinct leadership styles that stem from a foundation of emotional intelligence, each uniquely impacting different aspects of business. The most effective leaders possess and utilize more than one of these leadership styles in a given week, depending on the situation.

Scientific Evidence at Work

It’s been shown that women who start or lead a business not only better the lives of themselves and their families, but they also contribute significantly to their communities and economies. In the U.S., 10.5 million female business leaders contributed $3 trillion to the U.S. economy. In developing nations, women who work put 90 percent of their earnings back into their immediate families and communities, often helping to end the cycle of perpetual poverty.

And for the first time in 13 years, the Global Entrepreneurship Committee showed that women are creating businesses at a greater rate than men in three economies and at an equal rate in four countries.

There are many examples of inspiring women putting the science to work in the world today by founding and growing successful, profitable businesses, such as:

  • Wu Yajun, co-founder and chair of the Beijing-based real estate firm, Longfor Properties. Longfor Properties has more than 10,000 employees and has developed over 100 residential and commercial projects in 21 cities since 1993.
  • Zhang Xin, co-founder and CEO of SOHO China, a real estate development firm. She and her husband started the company back in 1995 and have built it to become the largest prime office developer in China.
  • Judy Faulkner, founder and CEO of Epic Systems, a privately held company that sells electronic health records in the U.S. Faulkner is a self-made billionaire and considered the most powerful woman in private healthcare.
  • Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx. Blakely invested $5,000 of her savings to develop a flattering shapewear product, which soon became a brand bringing in more than $250 million annually. Blakely owns 100 percent of her company and is the youngest self-made female billionaire to date.
  • Weili Dai, president and co-founder of Marvell Technology Group, a major California-based semiconductor company with operations in more than 18 countries. Marvell Technology works with companies including Apple, Samsung, and Google.

The intricacies of the human brain are pretty amazing. Although these complexities give every person — male or female — unique abilities, women’s brains in general are primed to process, encode, and store information, emotions, and social cues, which are essential skills for leading a growing company. In the coming years, I hope to see more women using the talents they were born with and taking the plunge into the business world.

Who is a female leader/boss/entrepreneur you admire, and what characteristics or qualities make her so influential?