The winners of 2015’s Startup Weekend was a group started by Sherrie & Paul Norton. They came in with a unique problem targeting a very specific market. Below is our interview with the founder of SlipShare, Paul Norton.
What is SlipShare?
We are lifelong boaters and know what a problem it can be to find a slip when you need it most. Some of the factors that affect boaters are the weather, mechanical breakdowns or any other unforeseen circumstances. SlipShare is designed to remove the anxiety and give you peace of mind that a slip or mooring is waiting for you when you need it most.
Where did you come up with the idea?
Sherrie and I had been kicking around an idea for an app that would allow boaters to book slips much like on Open Table. Kind of like how you would book accommodations on travel sites. We had formulated our idea prior to the weekend but really had no idea where to go with it or how to get started. With nothing to lose we registered for Startup Weekend Stamford and made the commitment that if our idea was picked, great! And if it was not we would join another team to learn what we could.
How did you pitch the idea at the event?
To best describe the problem we decided to put together a little skit where we would show the problem and solution. We knew that this would be the best way to clearly articulate our idea. People must have understood it because by the end of the night we had the most talented and dedicated team. If we tried to recruit this team on our own, it would have taken years.
How was your Startup Weekend Experience?
It was simply amazing; our teammates found a fit for their skills and got to work, not a lot of discussion or debate, just got on with it. We also had coaches and mentors guiding us along the way. The guidance we received over the of the weekend advanced our idea from something we just talked about to a plan we could move forward with. It was amazing. We hardly slept it was so exciting. We knew there had been something special about the weekend and when we gave our final presentation we felt good about our prospects. But hearing our name announced as the winners at the end of the event was a thrill for the whole team. We were Triumphant!
What have you done since the weekend?
It’s been a year of market research and planning. We interviewed several firms to do the coding and selected one in the fall. We are in the midst of starting to sign up marinas for a late spring launch to boaters. There is a lot to do with little time.
We never would have gotten here without the Startup Weekend Stamford and the amazing group of people who joined our team. Add the coaches, mentors, judges and other volunteers and we realize and appreciate that there were hundreds, if not thousands of volunteer hours behind our success.
Do you have any advice for this year’s participants?
We would encourage anyone with an idea or interest in learning how to move forward with an idea to take part in the weekend. It is an opportunity that you don’t find often. The people are wonderful and genuinely want you to succeed. We hope to see you there!
Thank You Paul & Sherrie. We are glad you had a great weekend.
Join us for Startup Weekend Stamford and start your own adventure!
Close to home and close to our hearts Sal Syed, co-founder of Arccos, the number one performance tracker for golf who was recently awarded the Best New Product at the 2015 PGA Show!
While Sal Syed was earning his MBA at the Yale University School of Management, he and his co-founder at Yale realized that golf was lacking a high-performing, comprehensive tool to track and analyze a golfer’s game and improve decision-making on the course. This Gap in the market place inspired the founders to develop a product concept, and plans and strategies for the idea. Sal eventually formed a business. His product development, diligence and hard work has allowed Arccos to excel in the Golf Technology Market. Sal is a visionary. We are fortunate and excited that he can come by to tell us about his entrepreneurial journey in making golf more addicting.
While one co-founder Ammad Faisal was earned his stripes as Vice President, Investment Banking at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Sal was earning his MBA at the Yale University School of Management, where he met co-Founder Clinton Grusd, who worked to develop the foundation of the business, and the business and product concepts, plans and strategies that are used by Arccos.
Realizing that golf was lacking a high-performance, comprehensive tool to track and analyze a golfer’s game and improve decision-making on the course, these co-founders set out to change the way we think about golf and play golf.
Join us for another EPIC EVENT!
Follow us on Twitter @SWStamford
A 54 hour Hack-a-thon of the magnitude of Startup Weekend is a bit preposterous to those of us whose timeline usually consist of months not hours. Think about it. We need to come up with an idea, develop this idea in a team environment, develop a working prototype, and develop a comprehensive business plan. All in 54 hours… umph, Sounds Crazy! But, guess what, it is crazy. And such an Awesome experience. So, what does a savvy Hacker need to bring to this event? Or is the question what doesn’t a Savvy Hacker need at this event?
Here are a few things are more seasoned Hackers recommend bringing to the event. If you plan ahead, your first Startup Weekend can be a success. If you don’t plan ahead… Well, let’s just say your head might explode.
This is a Social Event
Bring your Hacker skills, but don’t forget this is a networking event and you have to mingle. The first night is all about networking. Here you will ask people, what they are (Biz Dev, Designer, Coder, Human, or Zombie), What they do for a living, What brought them to the event, etc. Just small talk. The point of this exercise is to find some people you wouldn’t mind working with. A lot of people are active on social media and blogging, use this to your advantage. Be Friendly & Social!
Ideas are free, as in FREEDOM!
Don’t be afraid to share your idea. Remember you are here to work in a collaborative work environment and the only way your idea is going to get some ideas to move is to share. Everyone at the event has the next million-dollar idea. At the pitch session you will probably hear close to 50 pitches. If your ideas are good, you won’t have to force them on anyone. Good people will find you!
You are an Amur Leopard or Black-Eyed Tree Frog i.e. You are Rare & Special 😉
Unfortunately, there isn’t a ton of Hackers who show up to these events. You are a commodity and lots of people will be coming to you. Every project needs programmers and most of the time, people will approach you. Use this to your advantage and pick the idea you like the most. Chances are you won’t be the only Hacker on your team. Also, the mentors have experience and will offer guidance throughout the event. Enjoy the ride my Black-Eyed Tree Frog, just don’t wound up like Steve Irwin!
It is a LONG Weekend…
Yes, it is a long weekend, but the food is free and it won’t be all work. If you find good team they may let you sleep an hour between Hack sessions. The reality of the situation is that you will put in a couple of long rewarding days. If you need personal space, we recommend bringing headphones with you. This will enable you to tune out those around you and get some work done. Remember from our last point, YOU ARE A COMMODITY. Let your team know that you need some uninterrupted time to get the next feature done. Stock up on energy drinks, do some yoga, and bring some positive energy. You’ll need it!
Ruby on Rails is King!
Just get over it. Your Java skills won’t cut it. Your late night hacking on the Linux kernel won’t give you much help this weekend. Ruby and Ruby on Rails seems to be very popular at these things. The one thing that rails gives you that other frameworks don’t are the fast scaffolding of an application. Python junkies can still be useful, as a few groups will go towards the Django/Pylons/etc. route. You can even go as the sole developer in a group if you find yourself better than average at another MVC framework.
Also, that windows laptop really won’t cut it. I hate to say it (as I’m typing on my Windows 7 laptop), but Ruby on Rails sucks on Windows. No worries though, just download VirtualBox and the latest copy of Ubuntu and go wild. Installing Rails on Ubuntu is a breeze if you follow the simple instructions. For those still inclined to stick with windows, you can follow these instructions instead.
Have A Blast
Remember, this is your weekend. You are doing something different, exciting, and worth bragging about. Don’t stress out about adding last minute features and just roll with the punches. There are no managers riding your coattails nor is anyone harping on you about the extra features. Complete as much as you can in the time given and try go for the gold. If you’re on a good team, follow the rules laid out before you, and come in with a great attitude then, and only then, will you survive Startup Weekend.
I look forward to seeing you at Startup Weekend Stamford on March 18th!
Follow us on Twitter @SWStamford
Before I start, maybe I should give a quick overview of what Startup Weekend is: The concept of SW is that people with an idea for a startup, and people who have skills and would like to be part of a startup meet up and over the course of a weekend try to make something happen!
Attending a Startup Weekend is the best thing you can do to start your entrepreneurial journey. Below is a list of 8 great reasons I think you should attend Startup Weekend Stamford:
- The Power of Networks
The Stamford Innovation Center & Fairfield County is a hub for creativity and entrepreneurship. There will be over 100 developers, designers, engineers, marketers, and entrepreneurs looking to build their professional network and launch a Startup.
- Education Through Action
Startup Weekends are all about learning through the act of creating. No more theory, no dry lectures, and no pompous instructors. You will actually build your own strategy, learn from mentors and other startup professionals, and launch your business through the school of Hard Knocks. After all, we are known as the City That Works!
- Form a Startup Team
Whether you have the next big idea, or you want to be part of a team actively working to solve problems, you’ll be a member of a startup team! You will be making crucial decisions and be involved in the entire process start to finish.
- Save Money & Win Prizes!
Startup Weekend cost between $75 and $99 ($50 for students). Your ticket covers seven meals, snacks, swag, and access to exclusive resources from our global sponsors. The winning teams receive thousands of dollars worth of prizes provided by our amazing sponsors. There are even prizes just for attending the event… That’s how cool we are!
- Get involved in the Fairfield County Community
There is no better way to give back to your community then starting a business and stimulating the local economy through employment or local purchases.
- Learn a New Skill
Being a member of a Startup Team will challenge you in ways you never thought possible. You will be challenged with developing solutions for a new business and working with a team. The whole weekend is a dedicated to letting your creative juices flow, Stamford Startup Weekend is the perfect opportunity to work on a new platform, learn a new programming language, or just try something different.
- Launch a Business!
By participating in Stamford Startup Weekend, your goal is to develop a web or mobile application with a viable and sustainable business model. After Startup Weekend, most teams continue to develop their project and market it to the world. Who knows, you may even start the next multi-million dollar Internet venture!
- Join a Global Community
Join over 30,000 Startup Weekend alumni, all on a mission to change the world. Come join the Stamford Innovation Center at our 4th annual Startup Weekend Event. We are committed to our community in developing local talent. Join Us
Startup Weekend Stamford is March 18th.
Follow us on Twitter @SWStamford
And, now the moment you’ve all been waiting for…
Startup Weekend Stamford is back–and better than ever. What is Startup Weekend you ask? Startup Weekends are a 54-hour event where developers, designers, marketers, product managers and startup enthusiast come together to share ideas, form teams, build products and launch startups. Very exciting! Oh, and before I forget, win prizes and face time in front of Venture Capitalist and Angel Investors. Interested Yet? This is the fifth-annual Startup Weekend the Stamford Innovation Center is hosting and we are expecting a bigger and better experience for all participants!
I know exactly what you are thinking, STARTUP WHAT? Let me explain, Startup Weekend is a weekend-long, hands-on experience where entrepreneurs can find out if startup ideas are viable. On average, half of Startup Weekend’s attendees have a technical background; the other half has a business background. But 100 percent of attendees come away with new ideas, fresh perspectives and new possibilities.
So, Let’s break down the event. The night begins with open mic pitches on Friday, attendees are encouraged to bring their best and boldest ideas and inspire others to join their team. Over Saturday and Sunday teams design and develop business plans while continuously tweaking their startup vision. On Sunday evening, teams demo their prototypes, listen to judges’ feedback and choose a winner. Oh, and did I mention, you get a T-shirt for participating in the event! I can’t tell you how many events I volunteered for just for a T-shirt… I have a shrine, and I am proud!
Alright, Alright, Alright! Let’s get technical. Startup weekends are specifically designed for entrepreneurs interested in receiving feedback on an idea, looking for a co-founder, or those seeking a new skill. We also welcome anyone looking to test the entrepreneurial waters. Startup Weekends are risk-free environments where everyone is expected to roll up their sleeves and dive into the exhilarating world of startups.
So, Why should you attend? Here is a list of reasons conveniently placed in bullet points for you:
- Build your network: Have you taken a look at our speakers, judges or mentors? There’s a smorgasbord of entrepreneurs, angels, and VCs with incredible credentials. It’s a ‘who’s who’ of people you should absolutely know- right here in Connecticut.
- Co-Founder Dating: We all know it’s not just about the idea – it’s about the team. What skill are you missing from your dream team? Biz-dev, marketing, developer, designer?
- Launch a business: Here’s your chance to validate that idea you’ve been mulling, build a team and make it real! Also, you didn’t hear I from us, but some of our investor guest keep an eye on early stage ventures… Just Saying.
- Get face time with community leaders: The speakers and mentors have decades of experience at being phenomenally successful Ask them for advice, that’s exactly why they are here! We have a great set of consultants, analysts, lawyers and experienced startup people on hand to help you work through your ideas.
- Save money and get FREE stuff: There are some great freebies and discounts and everybody, I mean Everybody loves swag.
Join the global community. Come to Startup Weekend Stamford and come see what all the fuss is about!
Startup Weekend is a global grassroots movement of active and empowered entrepreneurs who are learning the basics of founding startups and launching successful ventures. It is the largest community of passionate entrepreneurs, with events in over 100 countries and 580 cities around the world.
This year Startup Weekend New Haven will be held in collaboration between Yale School of Management and New Haven’s co-working epicentre, The Grove. The event follows the same basic model as previous years: anyone is welcome to pitch their startup idea and receive feedback from their peers. Teams organically form around the top ideas (as determined by popular vote) and then a 54 hour frenzy of business model creation, coding, designing, and market validation ensues. The weekends culminate with presentations in front of local entrepreneurial leaders with another opportunity for critical feedback.
Whether entrepreneurs found companies, find a cofounder, meet someone new, or learn a skill far outside their usual 9-to-5, everyone is guaranteed to leave the event better prepared to navigate the chaotic but fun world of startups.
November 13 to 15, 2015 at Yale School of Management (165 Whitney Avenue, New Haven) and then breaking out to The Grove (760 Chapel Street, New Haven).
Startup Weekend Stamford 2015 Wrap Up!
On April 12th 2015 the 4th annual Startup Weekend Stamford wrapped up its event with its judges announcing how impressed they were by the innovation and quality of the new business formed in one weekend! The weekend was a huge success! We were sold out on Friday and Sunday nights as people gathered for pitches, presentations, speakers Brian Anderson and Samuel Rockwell and a special presentation from comedic dancing trombonist Jonathan Arons! Click to watch our video
Startup Weekend Stamford 2015 Teams and Winners:
- FIRST PLACE SS SlipShare: “AirBnB for boats” An app to help seafarers find dock space and dining after days or weeks of cruising distant shores, led by Paul & Sherrie Norton
- SECOND PLACE CollegeXchange: An online exchange to help student-run businesses connect, led by David Quito
- THIRD PLACE Punctual Payments: Re-engineering business cash flow with an app to help small businesses collect invoices, led by Srikanth Palla
- MOST PATENTABLE PROCESS: CollegeXchange wins provisional patent drafting and application filing from Wasserbauer Law
- Jiffy: Social networking app for friends and family to connect based on proximity, led by Brandon Carione
- Tree’s Clothing: Online fashion platform to create and buy your own clothes, led by Tree McDermott
- Hawk: Doctor to patient communication using smart devices for chronic care, led by Vikram Bhandari
- Precious Plastics: Eliminating plastic waste by recycling it into biofuel, led by Josh Hudson
- Focus Point: An application to help people with reading disabilities such as dyslexia read text, led by Vincent Cretella
- Rate the Debate: A platform for open and honest debate among opinionated people, led by Eric Ross
SlipShare, the winners of this years #StartupWeekendStamford, will receive six months of co-working at the Stamford Innovation Center, Marketing Strategy and Brand Development from Launch Unlimited LLC with Founder Sharland Blanchard, Dinner hosted by angel investor Tracy Killoren Chadwell with the other judges, Management Consulting from Life in Mobile, and a Promotional Video produced by Hedgeye in their Stamford studios.
The second place team Punctual Payments won trademarking or provisional patent package from Jonathan Winter at SSJ&R (St. Onge Steward Johnston & Reens LLC), three free months co-working space at SIC, Brand Development Consulting from Launch Unlimited LLC. Promotional Video produced by Hedgeye.
Every team attendee receives 1 week of free co-working space at the Innovation Center. To redeem co-working space, please call 203-226-8701.
Participants made some new friends, created some fantastic companies, and learned a lot about building a startup from the ground up. Spending a weekend working hard as a team is a good bonding experience, and I love seeing what sorts of relationships come out of these events. We had 120 people attend Friday night kickoff. Nine startup teams ranging from 5 to 8 people in each team worked together all weekend to turn great ideas into viable businesses.
Opening Night Entertainment, courtesy of Jonathan Arons!
Many Many thanks must go to Grammy winning New York City comedic dancing trombonist Jonathan Arons for livening up our Friday night kickoff! Jonathan has backed up such R&B artists Aretha Franklin, Alicia Keys, Mariah Carey and normally charges a pretty penny to open up corporate events. He offered his services pro bono in support of Connecticut Innovation. My dreams of getting people revved for a great Startup Weekend Connecticut experience was quickly falling into place!
A Shared Vision made this Startup Weekend Unrivaled in Connecticut history!
I had a vision that the best way to serve innovators and give startup businesses a real chance at success, I needed to round up prizes in the form of in-kind professional services (to defer expenses that make starting a business tough). I also wanted to make sure new innovators had a chance to experience startup weekend, so we pursued many new entrepreneurial and tech communities and rounded up an outstanding line-up of judges, coaches and volunteer organizers for this year’s event. This could not have been accomplished without the shared vision of dedicated volunteer organizers Will Haire, John Malloy, Chris Higbie, Alan Tan, Bob Trinka, Susan Dallas, Marcela Guaman, Laurie Heiss, Larry Perlstein, Mia Schipani, Diana and Kristen Ackerly, and Lisy Pitruzella. I am particularly grateful for the many hours everyone put in to help push out communications, reach out to sponsors, and communities and commit their time and energy to forging such a positive atmosphere during the weekend.
The Judges – Wow!
As for the judges, Wow! This year, they were more engaged than ever. They were so impressed by the caliber of business models pitched on Sunday night that they stayed to give more feedback to the teams! Startup Weekend Stamford 2015 judging panel included Angel Investor Tracy Chadwell, CEO and co-founder of Madd Gear Brian Anderson, CEO of The Calendar Group and co-founder of Nothin’ But Foods Steve Laitmon, and Daryl Jones of Hedgeye and co-owner of the Phoenix Coyotes.
Contact StartupWeekends@gmail.com if you are interested in attending a follow up session on May 5th or 6th for more feedback and support moving your startup forward.
Coaches – Another amazing feature of Startup Weekend 2015
All of this year’s coaches were either serial entrepreneurs, successful founders of businesses that have scaled online, or become standouts in their industry. Every team had an opportunity to gain insights and guidance from coaches who’ve had to engage customers, gain market share, and scale their businesses online and off. They came from a variety of industries. We were so impressed by this year’s coaches Samuel Rockwell,
Josh Aferzon, Janis Collins, Linda Singh, Doug Campbell, David Tomczyk, Jerry Grammont, Allison Malloy, and Jonathan Yarmis who devoted their Saturday and Sunday to supporting these aspiring founders. We are so appreciative of your efforts. All weekend long we heard from attendees reporting how much they valued your input.
Thanks to the Sponsors for Great Food, Fun and Prizes!
We cannot thank our sponsors enough for believing in us and hosting our meals! Your generosity allowed us to keep ticket prices affordable and make sure teams were well fed and enjoyed themselves during the 54 intensive hours spent building businesses. During such an intensive weekend it is so important to be well fed and hydrated, and a little comfort food always helps. Your contributions made it so much easier to keep such a large group satisfied and we had many people thank us for the quality of the food. Clearly it brought out the best in them, because the ideas were flowing and they had the juice to shift gears when they ran into challenges validating or monetizing their ideas. Every meal was delicious and healthy!
The Top sponsors of this year were Launch Unlimited LLC and Stamford Innovation Center. Launch Unlimited LLC put their business on hold for several months to put together this event. Please contact them for your branding, marketing strategy and media development needs. They have been successfully helping business launch, accelerate and turnaround for over a decade.
The Stamford Innovation Center generously donated the venue and very generous packages of free co-working spaces to all attendees and handled the final cleanup. We can’t thank them enough for that and helping us get the word out to their following of active and aspiring entrepreneurs. The center is such a great place for events with large event space and sun filled break out rooms. Even more importantly, they offer educational programs and events to support startup businesses.
Platinum level sponsors included Damian Wasserbauer and Jonathan Winter of SSJR, who both hosted meals and contributed valuable in-kind intellectual property services to winning teams – Provisional Patent & Trademark Counsel, Search and Filing. At the gold level, we had Digi-Services, CT Innovations’ CTNext, and Quinnipiac University (sending us some student innovators), thanks for helping bring this event to the next level. Startup Weekend had some marvelous silver level sponsors as well. Half Brew donated beer for our Friday night kickoff.
Saturday’s hot eggs and bacon breakfast donated by Seasons’ restaurant was just the fortification teams needed to get them started with the next 40 hours of business building.
Sunday’s breakfast was an absolute treat thanks to WaffleWaffle donating fresh Belgian waffles and Whole Foods of Greenwich donating fresh fruit toppings. HedgeEye (whose founder was one of our judges), First Niagra Bank, Ohlandt Greeley Ruggiero & Perle LLP, Ron & Allison Malloy all sponsored meals and beverages as well. New Sun Cookies sent us healthy, figure friendly fiber and energy cookies.
Speaking of energy, UFC Gym Stamford hosted a special class for attendees in addition to their donation of 1-week passes to all attendees. Neighbors Fast Signs of Stamford and Sir Speedy supported this year’s startup weekend by comping a number of printed items and Hotel Zero Degrees gave attendees great rates on accommodations and a special in kind donation. Life in Mobile donated in-kind consulting to a winning team. The Ferguson Library opened access to their databases for team research.
We are so overwhelmed by the generosity of our sponsors and would like to thank you all on behalf of the attendees, who came up to us many times over the weekend expressing their appreciation. Many, Many thanks!
Event Organizers and Volunteers
As the lead orchestrator of this year’s event, I’d like to take a moment to thank my fellow organizers for give me so much support. I can’t begin to list the many ways you all contributed and made this event a success. Nevertheless, I want to thank you each individually for really coming through and doing such a spectacular job making this year’s event run so smoothly! Thank you John Malloy for the heavy lifting and lining up every meal and beverage setup with the help of Marcela Guaman and Lisy Pitruzella. Thank you Will Haire for showing his support by interviewing writing blogs and helping us rally Quinnipiac and other attendees offering social media and communications support. What would we do without Alan Tan who is such a pleasure to work with, always supportive of the vision, bringing technical support to online efforts, venue logistics and a team of volunteers that offer everything from coding to logistics support. Thank you Mia Schipani, Laurie Heiss, Larry Perlstein for their support reaching out to sponsors and the press. Thanks to Marcela Guaman for rallying volunteers and reachout out to campuses and tech community and for finding us Bob Trinka, who offered exceptional organizational support in the final weeks. Chris Higbie, Susan Dallas, Diana and Kristen Ackerly all were invaluable in helping us complete so many of the communications and outreach efforts required to draw and inform sponsors and attendees – an integral part of pulling together such a big event. Thank you so much for your tireless support in all the preparations and running logistics leading up to and during the event. You all really went above and beyond!
Photographers & Videographers
Many thanks to the photographers who covered this event and donated images: Jadu Durrans, Simon Silverleaf. In particular want to thank Videographer/Editor Eric Psihoules for working with me round the clock on Friday and Saturday to put together a video so we could broadcast our event worldwide within 24 hours. A huge thanks goes to videographers Christopher Spaide on that as well. Matt Szatkowski and Kyle Norton also contributed amazing video work as well!!! I couldn’t be more thrilled to have so much high caliber memorialization of this event. You all blew me away with your talent. flexibility and efficiency.
Thank you Derek Koch, this year’s Startup Weekend Facilitator! Not only did he spend all weekend leading the process, he made several introductions for us, leading to broader attendance of our event. We are so grateful for his support.
This was a Startup Weekend that cannot be rivaled. The vision, focus and endless hours developing this year’s event will not be forgotten. I am so appreciative of your passion and perseverance through many meetings and work sessions prepping to make everything perfect! Thank you for your hard work and most importantly your brilliant personalities. You really made Stamford’s 4th Startup Weekend event better than ever before – a truly exceptional experience.
Want a play-by-play of the weekend? Check out the official @SWStamford twitter account. The entire weekend was live tweeted, and many participants hopped on the #SWStamford hashtag to share photos and memories.
Press articles about this year’s Startup Weekend:
- CT Post: Startup Weekend for April 10-12
- CT Post: Startup Weekend Stamford Posts Prizes
- Stamford Advocate: Venture Capital Funding on Fumes
- Fairfield County Business Journal: Stamford Innovation Center Hosts Startup Competition
- Organizer recap video: Startup Weekend Stamford 2015
- It’s Relevant: Startup Weekend Stamford Comes to a Close
- CT Post: SlipShare Wins Startup Weekend
- Stamford Advocate: Startup Winners Already Facing Competition
Startup Weekend Stamford Hosts:
Launch Unlimited LLC • Growth Strategies, Branding & Media Development – Founder and Chief Strategist Sharland Blanchard 203-663-6640
Stamford Innovation Center • CoWorking Space & educational Center – Peter Propp or Sarah Robinson 203-226-8701
DigiServices, SEO Services Will Haire
Tan 2000 International, Alan Tan
VIDEO – CLICK HERE: Startup Weekend Stamford kicked off their weekend with a bang and a boom as dancing trumbonist Jonathan Arons kicked off the evening’s business Pitchfire. The hard work of Launch Unlimited LLC and a team of volunteer organizers culminated in an exciting start to a weekend of business building! 120 attendees gathered to hear from experienced entrepreneurs, to learn and participate in startup business model creation. Over 40 people pitched their own innovative business ideas and rallied teams together to help them build it in one weekend. They will present completed models and prototypes to a panel of judges tonight at 5pm. Come join us at the Stamford Innovation Center tonight at 5pm and watch for yourself how Connecticut innovation happens in 2015! Register for a ticket at swstamford.org. Angel Investors and serial entrepreneurs will give the teams feedback and distribute the long list of donated professional services.
I had a chance to reach out to Theresa Robbins of Mirror Books. Theresa dreamed of Mirror Books through the process of homeschooling her three children. She taught her boys to read through various methods, but found that using electronic media to keep the children’s interest was very effective. She graduated summa cum laude from Norwalk Community College and cum laude at the University of Connecticut with her Bachelor’s degree in English. She has over 10 years experience marketing for start-ups, a non-profit, and an established financial firm.
On her latest blog she reflects on 7 Lessons of a New Business Owner. Be sure to check it out and leave her some feedback!
By Will Haire
Follow us on twitter: @SWStamford
We have some Great News! Quinnipiac University is sponsoring Startup Weekend Stamford for the second year in a row. Not a surprise—after all, Quinnipiac made quite the impression last year with three student teams participating at the event: Pisces Place, Music Vault and Déjà You. Déjà You took home Silver with a second place victory with their idea. This year’s participants will have big shoes to fill! David Tomczyk is an Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship and Strategy at Quinnipiac University. He coached last year’s event and will be assisting teams again this year. Dave is passionate about entrepreneurship and mentoring students. He agreed to sit down with us for an interview:
Q: What made you decide to get into teaching entrepreneurship?
Honestly, it was pure chance. I had applied to George Washington University’s Ph.D. program to study organizational behavior, and the two people who interviewed me asked me what experience I had with it. I mentioned doing some work with an entrepreneurial lab when I was in my Masters program, and they both jumped on it. A half-hour later, I changed my degree to entrepreneurship and had both of them as mentors. I later found out that they were two of the people who helped found entrepreneurship as a field of study! They are two of the nicest people you’d ever get to meet, and they helped make sure no one got too big for their britches. They even let me create the first ever entrepreneurship undergraduate course at GWU, and I enjoyed every minute of it! (Well, minus the grading.) To this day, I keep in contact with them and thank them for putting me on the right track.
Q: What kind of businesses are students starting while in school?
I’m seeing a lot of digital businesses starting now. Digital businesses (websites, apps, video games, social media platforms, etc.) usually have pretty low startup costs, so people still in college are more able to launch them prior to graduating. Two we have launching at Quinnipiac right now are Unify Solutions (http://unifysolutions.co/), which helps companies integrate, manage, and track work orders, services, and deliveries, and Checkmate Creations (http://checkmatecreations.com/home/), which helps companies build their digital brands. Both of these required little more than a few computers, some programming and design expertise, and a whole lot of hard work—things college students can definitely pull together.
You also see a lot of niche businesses—businesses that meet the needs of a particular college or local community. Niche businesses also don’t often require much capital to launch, and students are so tuned into their communities that they have incredibly easy access to their customers for validating their idea and eventually selling to them. For example, Cronk Shop (http://cronkshop.com/) is a streetwear company that helps budding designers market and sell their products on a national level. The business grew from the owner’s passion for clothing (being an up-and-coming streetwear designer himself), and he already had some connections in the market who joined on almost immediately because they knew he understood their needs.
Q: What is the Department’s philosophy on teaching students how to be entrepreneurs?
Two years ago we redesigned the major, and the first thing to go were textbooks and tests. Entrepreneurship is about doing, and the best way to do that is by getting your hands dirty. If you want to learn about small business marketing, work with an actual small business. If you want to learn entrepreneurial finance, you need to create financial statements and sit on the other side of the table as an investor. If you want to launch a business, you need to go through the process—preferably multiple times! And the entire time, you need people cheering you on as you fail. Everyone already supports a success, but failure is an intrinsic part of entrepreneurship, so you need people pushing you to get up and try again if you fall.
Q: What is your philosophy on teaching students how to be entrepreneurs?
When I create a class, I have to be excited to take it. If I’m not imagining how much fun it would be to be in the students’ seats, then I have to redesign the class. That’s not to say my students don’t do work or that I give a whole bunch of A’s; in fact, my classes are regularly rated as some of the hardest in the school. I want the students to be motivated to do the hard work, and that means making the classes place they want to come to and have knowledge bombs dropped on them, often through exercises, workshops, and discussions.
Q: Can entrepreneurship really be taught?
If you’re talking about the inherent drive to launch a business, studies have shown that it can be enhanced. If you’re talking about the skills an entrepreneur needs, they can be learned and practiced. If you’re talking about the mentality entrepreneurs need to thrive, it can be grown. If you’re talking about knowledge of laws and financing and marketing and more, it definitely can be learned. The one thing that can’t be taught is passion. No matter what any educator does, unless you have that fire in your belly for your idea and figure out what makes you motivated to launch that business, they can’t make you passionate.
What direction do you see the E-ship program moving in the future?
We’re right now redesigning the program again. After two years with the existing program, we’ve identified some things that work awesomely and some things that don’t. And that’s awesome! We get to apply the same principles we teach in the classroom to the classes we teach. One thing we’re doing is loading a bunch of entrepreneurship classes into the final year of our students so that they can use all of them to help launch their businesses. This way, everyone’s learning about marketing, creativity, finance, negotiation, and more right when they need it!
Q: What did you think of the event last year?
Last year was a blast! The level of creativity and passion was through the roof, and I have even higher expectations for this year! People were generating ideas all over the place, and they wanted to share their ideas with the world. I remember one team disappearing for a few hours because everyone went out to survey people on the streets about the design and functionality. Another team left after midnight, continued working until around 4 am in their hotel room, and then came back at 7 am because they couldn’t wait to make more progress.
Q: Any advice for participants this year?
Startup Weekend isn’t about perfection or success. You’ll never achieve the former in 48 hours, and you’ll have plenty of the latter along the way in small amounts. It’s not about failure, either—failure is what Startup Weekend people call “in progress.” And your idea will definitely be “in progress” for the entire weekend! The goal of Startup Weekend is to thoroughly enjoy yourself as you work incredibly hard on an idea. It may be your idea, it may not. You may have to teach yourself about some things you never heard of before. You may see your idea blow up in your face or take an unexpected turn based on one crazy idea someone yelled out at 2 am. In short, it’s one of the best entrepreneurial experiences you can ever hope to have!
What do you think will be your biggest concern this weekend? Be sure to share your opinions or experiences below in the comment section!