In 2013, Dennis attended the first Northwest Arkansas Startup Weekend on a whim. Thinking it was a networking event (it’s so much more), he went in Friday evening with the intent to hand out business cards and leave, but his friend Josh encouraged him to stay and pitch an idea. Not only did the idea end up winning the weekend, but it launched him in into the Northwest Arkansas startup community. Dennis recalls, “it’s where I got my jumpstart into everything entrepreneurship. It segued into an internship, a job, and now working at Supply Pike.”
Dennis’s pitch for Startup Weekend 2013 was called Getsposure. The idea was a platform that connects agencies with professional photographers around the world. For example, instead of traveling to San Francisco for a photo shoot, the platform would connect to a local photographer that was in San Francisco. During the weekend, Dennis credits mentors like Kenny and Chuong of Datarank that helped him refine the idea and prepare for a winning presentation on Sunday.
In 2015, Dennis returned to Startup Weekend as a coach. “It was cool getting to facilitate, not only did I get to help Corey with RaftUp, but I got connected with Stone Ward, which led to an internship.” As Dennis embarks on helping with his third Startup Weekend, he excited to keep using his experience to help others. When Amy Pedid reached out to Dennis, he encouraged her to do a Startup Weekend, and she ended up winning the Maker Edition last fall. Dennis doesn’t just see his role in the community as being a UX designer, but also to be a facilitator: “to help the Amys and the Coreys of this world, that’s where I get the most fulfillment.”
Dennis encourages the teams this year to go out and talk to people after coming up with an idea. “The teams that have gone out and asked people and gotten user data… user valuation, rather than self-validation, those teams always end up doing the best.” Teams should be willing to reconsider if people say no, but if a bunch of people say yes, then they’re on the right track. “If you could get people to pre order, the judges would eat that up! The goal is to win, but your network explodes either way. It’s a perfect networking opportunity.”