Editions Month Spotlight: Beverage Innovation

Whether you’re a craft brewer, coffee connoisseur, have a great idea for a new product, or the next innovator for beverage products you’re welcome to join Startup Weekend Tampa for their Beverage Edition during Editions Month, to build, launch, and startup!


We interviewed Stasha Johnston, Digital Marketing Director at Monin; a gourmet flavouring company created in 1912 at Bourges, France, that was born because its founder started delivering orange syrups to bars and restaurants by car. Now the company focuses on premium cocktail flavours and exports to 45 countries out of Tampa, having presence in over 140 countries.

Their innovation comes along with the statement, “You can go from ordinary to extraordinary,” which they achieve by adding to your regular beverage one of the more than 150 flavours offered in different options– syrups, sauces, purées or mixes.  

Stasha believes that “‘beverage industry’ and ‘innovation’ are two words that have to go hand in hand, because everyone is drinking beverages, and if an entrepreneur wants to enter the industry they will need to deliver intriguing and innovative solutions for consumers to feel engaged with a specific product.”

She says consumers are getting smarter, so companies need to have more awareness on who they are selling to, what kind of products they are creating, as well as delivering higher quality in every sense– ingredients, packaging, promotion. Her final advice for entrepreneurs joining the industry is to identify something they believe is special and move forward with the execution of the idea before the bigger companies find that trend, product, or service.

One of the major changes happening in the industry is the shift from carbonated beverages towards the focus on healthier and organic products.

The opportunities to reinvent the industry are everywhere; on April 1st, the Daily UK, published an article about 11 year-old Mikaila, a girl from Texas, who got an investment of $11 million from Whole Foods to sell her lemonade sweetened with honey.

The organizing team of Tampa’s Startup Weekend Beverage Edition is partnering with some of the best in the beverage, tech, and business communities to give you all the resources and advice you’ll need to launch your business in 54 hours. You can learn more about the event below.

What are you most excited about for your upcoming event?

We’re excited to see Tampa’s beverage community come together for this event! We’ve got a blooming beverage community here in Tampa and I know that we’re going to have some incredible businesses emerge from this event. We’re hoping to see everything from craft brewers, to new health drinks, to beverage products, to beverage tech at this edition.

What makes this Edition interesting?

This event is going to be a hub for beverage startups in the US. There aren’t many places you can go to gain this kind of exposure to other beverage enthusiasts and established players in the industry so this will be the ideal place to come and launch a new beverage related company.

Organizing team members:

Expect a ton of free samples during our event! For more information and to purchase tickets click here.

Startup Weekend Judging Criteria



So you got out of the building & did your market & product validation. That’s awesome! You’re working on refining your MVP for Sunday’s final presentation, maybe you even had to pivot your idea based on the feedback you were getting. So now what? If you’re not aware the Startup Weekend judging criteria is broken up into three sections, teams are judged according to the following 3 criteria (weighted equally):

Business Model

    • How does the team plan on making this a successful business? Have they thought about (either solved or identified problems) competition, how to scale, acquiring customers, their revenue model etc?

Customer Validation

    • Are teams building something that people actually want? How well does the team understand their customer and their customer’s needs. Did the team get out and talk to customers? What is the value proposition to customers?

Execution & Design

    • Have they established a “Minimal Viable Product” for the weekend (software, hardware, etc.)? *Note: an MVP is the minimum set of features to be able to start collecting data. Does it deliver a compelling and captivating user experience? Were they able to demo something functional?

What is Global Startup Battle?

GSB Statistics

Startup Weekend & Global Startup Battle explained:

We’re all super excited for this year’s Startup Weekend and not only that, but also for the Global Startup Battle that is happening as well. That means that not only will you be able to try your skills against your local entrepreneurs, but also be able to compete for some awesome prizes in a number of different tracks against participants in over 100 countries! So what does this all mean? Let’s break it down.

But first you should take a look at this awesome infographic about the 2014 Global Startup Battle just to get an idea of what’s in store for this year!

OK. So what are the details you ask? Very simple:

  • In order to compete in the GSB 2015 you will need to attend a Startup Weekend event on either the weekend of Nov 13 or Nov 20 (Since you already signed up for the event this shouldn’t be a problem!)
  • After the end of the event you will need to submit a 90 second video of your pitch within 48 hours of the event ending
  • You can submit to as many Tracks as you wish, as long as your team meets their requirements
  • Please see the GSB 2015 Attendee Pack for additional information
  • Hashtag Battle: have a little fun during the event & tweet with #GSB2015 and #SWTampa to create buzz about Tampa Bay & Startup Weekend!

Tracks? What are these tracks you speak of?

  • The Champions Track: the top 3 winning teams from each Startup Weekend event are able to compete against other teams from across the globe.
  • Didn’t win, but still have an awesome idea? No worries, there’s plenty of Themed Tracks for everyone!
  • Great in the Making Track – Made great by Mr. Coffee: If you seek to make a difference (a great difference) in the lives of others, this is your track.
  • The Innovators Track – Powered by .CO: Calling all Startup Weekend teams that are launching their brilliant ideas on a .CO domain!
  • Disruptors & Big Ideas Track – Powered By Transpose: For the entrepreneurs setting out to change industries with visionary ideas.
  • Education through Video and Beyond Track – Powered by YouTube: How will you harness video to make great educational experiences possible around the world?
  • Mobile Growth Track – Sponsored By Branch: Calling all app developers and enthusiasts! Let Branch help you launch your next big idea!
  • Startup Women Track – Supported by Techstars Foundation: Join us and help create diversity in technology entrepreneurship around the world.
  • Open Track – Sponsored By Incorporate.com: A brand new way to compete! This Track is for teams who do not attend a GSB event and are in the early stages of launching their ideas.

This all sounds awesome, how do I start? If you have yet to sign up (really, why haven’t you signed up yet?) then just follow this handy link and register today!

Crafting the Minds of Youthpreneurs in Tampa Bay

Screen Shot 2015-04-23 at 3.17.55 PM

Startup Weekend Tampa Youth allows students to learn and practice the foundational skills of entrepreneurship while collaborating to reach a common goal, taking a business from idea to reality. It sheds a spotlight on the creativity we have right here in our community from an often overlooked source: KIDS. The youth here in Tampa Bay are filled with great ideas and if we can take a page from their book and learn a bit from them along the way, we will have done our job by creating and encouraging the kids’ appetites for entrepreneurship. 


The Startup Weekend Tampa Youth program is one of the first in the area to embrace this idea of collaboration and engages students in meaningful conversation around the topic of entrepreneurship. It reinforces collaboration, communication and problem solving during the weekend long event. We held our first event in September of 2014, and after the amazing experiences that our team and attendees shared; we knew it had to happen again in the community. One of the coolest experiences from our first event was how well students who barely knew each other formed teams around ideas they felt passionate about to create really unique pitches by the end of the weekend. Yes this happens at every Startup Weekend on Friday night – but seeing kids doing it felt extra special. They got over any fears they had and focused on the ideas and new teammates around them.

tampa3As an elementary school teacher who was introduced to Startup Weekend back in 2010, I have watched participants conjure up the courage to stand up in front of a room full of peers to pitch an idea they believed in. When we heard there was an editions event that focused on bringing this concept to kids, I KNEW I had to be involved on a bigger scale. By teaming with my fellow co-organizers, made up of a mix of educators and entrepreneurs, we found the perfect balance to engaging our younger audience while teaching about the fundamentals of entrepreneurship. Watching the kids take on roles that we normally see adults struggle with throughout the ups and downs of a Startup Weekend event and make great things happen along the way had to be the coolest part of all.

Some students in our area have access to entrepreneurship and resources, but we have made it our goal to find a way to incorporate a variety of learners and tap into their creative juices. By bringing entrepreneurship to the forefront of their academic experience, we are able to plant the seed in those who are yearning to evolve and foster their creative passions, regardless of demographic, background, or interest. Starting with students who are younger and sharing our knowledge from our experiences will allow them to be less limited in their thought barriers and provide them the big vision ideas they need to grow and mature into young adults. Exposing them to these ideas when they are young will exponentially impact our community as they begin to create and build these novel ideas.

tampa4 tampa5

This is the main reason we chose to tap into this unique demographic here in Tampa Bay. With Tampa emerging as a forefront for tech and entrepreneurship, we want our youth to be part of this evolution by helping guide them in becoming leaders of their generations. It was exhilarating to see budding “youthpreneurs” as we coined them, come to the table with legitimate problems that they had a solution for.

One of our former participants designed an app to help them keep track of how long the bus would take to arrive at their location. This is a problem for kids in our area because Florida gets ridiculously hot during the summers and the weather can be unpredictable during the winters. This app would allow kids to know exactly when to head to their bus stop, thus eliminating the awful and uncomfortable wait time they currently have to endure.


The group seen above was working on creating a robotic arm that would help lift heavier objects, thus eliminating the need for assistance with carrying things like groceries and other heavy loads. Working with the Youth Edition can be so rewarding when you see it in action. It’s moments like this that motivate us to organize these events.


When we began the process of organizing these events, our goal was never to make all attendees become entrepreneurs by the end of the weekend. We hoped to see kids become comfortable with other kids who had similar interests and collaborate as they worked through their different problems. We knew we had done something right when students AND parents left wanting more. Right after the final pitches, a Dad from the audience came up and congratulated our team on a job well done. Additionally, he offered to serve as a local sponsor for our next event, which we had not even discussed yet. Seeing support from the parents in the community gave us extra motivation to keep holding this type of event. It gave extra validation that it is a valuable program to families and the community.

Tristan Crawford, a thirteen year old and one of our winners at our first Startup Weekend Youth event said it best: “If you have a business idea and need help with understanding how to start a business, then I know the Startup Weekend Youth course will teach you how to bring your product or business idea to market, and provide you with the support you need after the course. I encourage you to go to the Startup Weekend Youth event when it comes to your town. It is a great learning experience. You will not be disappointed!”

tampa7Our team is excited and ready to hold our next Startup Weekend Youth in Tampa this May. We can’t wait to see the kids that are impacted and the ideas they create over the weekend!

They say “it takes a village to raise a child,” and we are proud to be a part of this village by teaching kids what is truly possible in this world.



– Nicholas Catania
Startup Weekend Tampa Youth Organizer


"Live Warfare": How One 15-year-old Surprised Everyone at SW Tampa

15-year-old Nathan Eyal recently attended Tampa Startup Weekend. Despite being the youngest at the event, Nathan surprised everyone – including some who had doubted him initially – with the most successful startup at the end of the weekend. He shares his story below.


 I came out of Startup Weekend standing up taller and knowing now that just because I am 15 doesn’t mean I can’t have a kick butt idea and a real business!

Sweat dripping from my forehead, I made a split-second decision to push forward toward my opponent.   With my finger on the trigger, I quickly kept shooting as I dove through the air, landing behind the next bunker.  The referee rushed in to check my opponent and as I watched, he signaled that I had hit my opponent and he was out.  My team had won the paintball competition!

As we drove home, I sat in pure exhaustion thinking about how much I loved paintball; the tactics, the physical challenges, and the pure rush of the game.  I sat there wishing there was another way to experience the same things that make me love paintball but without the long distance commutes and expensive costs of the sport .  My brother and I had laser tag guns, but they didn’t register hits properly and the easy cheating took the fun out of the game (and would nearly cause WWIII between my brother and me).  Airsoft had similar problems with no way to verify hits and the expense.

The search was on for a paintball style mobile application.  I searched, but virtually no apps existed in this field, and the few that I found were inaccurate and impractical for real play.  They used inaccurate hit detection such as shirt color which caused many false hits and wouldn’t pick up head shots or other body hits outside of the torso area.

So I went to my dad and we started brainstorming about various ways to make a practical paintball-style app.  This evolved into app ideas for a real-life FPS game with many functions and game styles.  “Wouldn’t it be great,” I said, “to be able to play games like Call Of Duty and Battlefield with friends in real life instead of sitting around playing video games for hours (like my friends and I often got yelled at for doing).  “Go outside and play and get some exercise,” my parents would say.   How could my dad resist helping me with my idea now if it would get me to do exactly what my parents always yell at me to do?!


I became obsessed with this idea and spent every waking moment outside of school working on it, except for some food and breaks and when nature called.  I was lucky enough to attend a forward thinking school called the Ampersand school where the teaching method enabled me to weave my interests into my curriculum.  Eventually, I had an opportunity to enter a school entrepreneurship competition set up much like the popular TV show, Shark Tank.  I ended up winning my division which inspired me more to continue my pursuit of the idea.  My dad was helping me when he had time outside of work, but I now needed a team that could help create a minimum viable product to test the idea further.  My dad and I believed in it so much that we signed up for Startup Weekend Tampa with the goal to find a team to help us.

Friday afternoon, we reached the USF campus and started feeling the hussle and bussle of the competition with a line of cars being directed by pink-shirted college students.  As we entered the hall to sign in, the atmosphere was electric. I was nervous, but very excited.  Everyone is a college student or a business professional.  I was by far the youngest person in the room.  The fact that I have a baby face just exacerbated the problem.

As we waited for the event to kick off, I chatted with the people around me, hoping to find an app developer who may be interested in helping our cause.  Wouldn’t you know it, the person to my left is a developer who graduated from Harvard, “you know, the one in Cambridge, Massachusetts,” he said.  Luckily he wasn’t extending his bottom chin as he said it and left out the “dear boy” from his sentence.  He placated me with a few words after hearing my idea, then engaged in a discussion with a competing team in the row behind us.  “Guess I’m too young or too green for him,” I thought.

In the front of the room sat a poster-sized paper pad with a list numbered 1 through 30. People were signing up to present their competition ideas.  We had never seen these types of presenters so we signed up for position number 25 thinking it would give me more time to fine tune the pitch by watching the others.  Position 29 was open, but we were afraid they might flip the list and make the higher-numbered positions go first.  That concern evaporated as the list kept growing longer.  As more people signed up, the list grew to 40, then 45, before it finally wrapped up in the low 50’s.

“Welcome to Startup Weekend,” a vivacious college student announced.  “This is it, we’re starting,” I said to dad.  Then they put up a slide with a few bullets about what the pitch should include.  This isn’t the way I rehearsed it. Watching the other presentations was like riding a roller coaster.  It was entertaining, exciting, and scary.  “We should change the pitch,” I told dad.”  “It’s a slightly different format, but the same basic information,” he said.

As our position grew nearer, my excitement turned into nervousness.  With the new format, the pitch got muddy in my head.  They called our number to the line where we’d have a few more minutes before the pitch. My excitement from before now started turning into anxiety.  “You know your stuff,” said dad. “Just tell them about you and your idea.”

We took the stage and the iPad timer started counting down.  “I’m Nathan Eyal, and I love playing paintball,” I started.  The crowd responded with some reassuring cheers and “Woohoos!”  That took some of the tension off, and helped me crank through the rest of the pitch.  The clock ticked down to zero and we were done.  As we walked off the stage, the crowd’s cheers and applause made it sound like people really liked it.  I didn’t know if it was just a nice group of people being supportive of the “little kid” or if they really liked the idea, but either way, it made me feel great.

After the initial round of cuts, we were still in!  Now came the time for the various people there donating their time and talents to choose which business idea they were going to work on.  Obviously, being that our idea was an app, programmers were critical to its continued development. As we sat at the table, just my dad and I, waiting and hoping a programmer would choose us, my dad said, “You know, Nathan, if we don’t get any programmers on our team, it will be impossible to make any real progress and win Startup Weekend.”  I looked at him and said, “I’ll be right back.”

As he tells people, “out of only a handful of app programmers at the event, that little stinker came back with not one, but two programmers he had convinced to work on his business idea!”  Once we got two programmers, three more support people ended up joining.  It was a grueling weekend of hardcore work from morning till night.   Seven of us brainstormed and worked on the app in the same room all weekend, only stopping for bathroom breaks and a few hours of sleep.  Even meals were brought in to us so we could continue working.   We only had until Sunday evening to get the Live Warfare prototype app and business model developed and tested enough for the final presentation.

Sunday evening came quickly and the team pushed for me to be the primary presenter.  Matt, one of the developers, presented the two slides on the backend structure, dad presented a couple of slides on our pivots, and I presented the rest.  At the third or fourth slide, I tripped up a bit, leading to a mini internal panic.  I turned toward the slide pretending to address one of the points, but really trying to gather myself quickly.  Soon I was back in stride and pushed through the rest of the presentation relatively comfortably.

Then came the question and answer period.  I could tell my dad was eager to answer the judges questions, but I made sure to jump in since I definitely knew the answers to their questions.  After the last question, we got a huge round of applause and walked off the stage to a line of high-fives from audience members sitting by the isle.  What an amazing feeling of support and camaraderie!

Like most teenagers, the money and prizes were initially exciting, but the connections we made, the quality feedback we received to improve the idea, and the validation I received were worth far more than any money or prizes. 

The presentations wrapped up and we waited impatiently for the results.  Luckily my team members had a great sense of humor that helped ease the tension of the moment.  The judges returned and started announcing the winners.  When we didn’t get 3rd or 2nd place I thought, on one hand, “who would really pick a 15 year old kid’s idea over all these adults, including Harvard graduates’ ideas?”  But then I thought, who wouldn’t?!  Everyone in this room would want to be playing this game right now if they could.  “And in first place,” the man announced…my heart pounding hoping to hear my company’s name…”Live Warfare!”  We did it!  We had won first place!  We won some money and prizes, but mostly we won validation!  Like most teenagers, the money and prizes were initially exciting, but the connections we made, the quality feedback we received to improve the idea, and the validation I received were worth far more than any money or prizes.  I came out of Startup Weekend standing up taller and knowing now that just because I am 15 doesn’t mean I can’t have a kick butt idea and a real business!


Learn more about the next Startup Weekend Tampa or find a Startup Weekend in your area!  Don’t see a SW in your city? Learn more about Organizing one here