Second Startup Weekend Fuels Entrepreneurial Spirit

February 2013

54 Hours. That's all the time Startup Weekend teams had to create a business model from scratch. The 151 participants in the intensive workshop, held February 8-10, were given a crash course in how to turn business concepts into viable business realities. Students worked in teams to come up with product ideas, conduct field studies, and present their findings/models before a panel of judges.

"This event threw you into the middle of real hands-on experience," said Brandon Holvey, accountancy sophomore. "I love hands-on activities and solving problems, which is exactly what I got to do. I learned more in one weekend than any other class could possibly teach."

Startup Weekend is an international movement with events designed to give young entrepreneurs a template for launching businesses. Mark Lacker, John W. Altman Clinical Professor of Entrepreneurship, heads up the Miami workshop: "We're trying to train people to become the start-up workforce—young companies with money that are growing. They want students that have been through stuff like this, think like this, can deal with ambiguity, and are comfortable with a fast-paced environment."

The products that emerged from the experience proved as inventive as they were grounded. At the end of the weekend, three finalists were chosen out of 26 teams. The first prize went to team Transfill for their adaptable water bottle filtration product. Second prize was awarded for a product that will laser project basketball court lines and other game patterns onto driveways. Third prize went to Storum, an app that keeps track of locations.

One of the four MU Startup Weekend judges was Ravi Pandey, a 2005 Miami grad who works as an Investment Analyst with West Virginia Jobs Investment Board: "I was greatly impressed by the creative business ideas that many of these students had— not all of them were social media applications, but were actual stand-alone businesses. What surprised me the most was the level of participation; it was great to see a strong team effort and presence during their presentations. This made my job as a judge extremely difficult."

The Startup Teams were not entirely alone. They received guidance and support from 17 Startup Weekend mentors, all seasoned entrepreneurs: "On average, each entrepreneur had started two, which means the students were receiving advice collectively from people who had started more than 34 businesses," said Lacker.

What's the next step for the new businesses? Transfill team members, Samantha Von Hoene, Steven Zid, Justin Fox, and Brandon Holvey, are ready: "We need to first get support from investors and then develop a working prototype for our product," said Fox, a business sophomore. "The design and filtration technology is already out on the market so we know our idea is possible. Creating a physical realization of our filter will be the true launch point of TransFill and I for one could not be more excited."

Holvey agreed: "They say the sky's the limit, and I want to see this project through till the end." Find out more about Startup Weekend at