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I remember it very vividly because I wasn’t supposed to be there. My wife and I were visiting good friends for the weekend and I told her I would only go for the initial pitches. I was just there to observe and learn (that’s it) so I could understand what Startup Weekend was all about. We were still in the listening and learning phase of building Noble Impact and hadn’t even launched yet. So there I was on a Friday evening, in the back of the room, listening to people pitch different ideas for businesses. Next thing I knew, I was on stage doing the same and had 60 seconds to pitch my idea. Not sure what came over me but I had to get my idea out there and evidently, some other people liked it. It was an idea that made it through to the final group of teams, which would be worked on for the entire weekend by myself and the other six people that believed in it. However, my wife was expecting me back for dinner as I told her I was only going to watch the initial pitches. Needless to say, our weekend plans took a pivot.

That was April of 2013, the first ever Arkansas Startup Weekend, which happened at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service and it changed my life.

Startup Weekend is an event that has the ability to change lives because the atmosphere is supportive, inclusive, and positive.

It’s what Nick Sequin (Startup Weekend Board Member) calls the tip of the spear for entrepreneurship. That Friday in April of 2013, my voice was heard and other people believed in my idea. It was empowering and rewarding…the next two days were crazy and energizing. As we prepared for our final pitch that Sunday, you could feel the urgency, the energy, and the butterflies…and it all felt great. We ended up winning. That’s when I knew that Startup Weekend would play a big role in the development of Noble Impact.

Soon after that, I contacted the CEO of Startup Weekend, Marc Nager and went to meet with him in Seattle, where Startup Weekend was headquartered at the time. He and other members of his team confirmed my thought that Startup Weekend could be beneficial for high school students as well. Therefore, in the spring of 2014, we hosted the first ever High School Startup Weekend, which was a great success.

It’s not just one and done. It’s not just a religious experience. If you allow it, Startup Weekend is a place to form relationships while expanding your mind to new ideas and possibilities.

For me, many of the relationships I started at that first one in 2013 continue to this day on a very deep level. My current roommate in Little Rock, Jordan Carlisle, was one of the facilitators for that initial event and it’s where we first met. It’s where I first met Jeston George, CEO of Apptegy as he was in the initial stages of even thinking about Apptegy…now one of the fastest growing startups in Arkansas.

When the people from Startup Junkie asked me if I was interested to facilitate Startup Weekend NWA, it was an easy answer in my mind…”Hell yeah!”

So, this blog post is a selfish plea for any Arkansan that has an itch to be scratched, that wants to pursue more, to imagine more, and to meet other people that feel the same way. At least come to the pitches, you never know what will happen. Who knows, maybe you’ll pitch…maybe other people will like your idea…and maybe you’ll win. But you’ll never know unless you put yourself out there. Startup Weekend is coming to Northwest Arkansas on March 9th and tickets are available on Eventbrite. If you have any hesitation, call me, 813.293.8969…I’ll talk you into coming and trust me, it’ll change your life. 

Chad Williamson Chad Williamson