Startup Weekend: Impossible task yields impressive results

October 2018

Jay Murdock

It wasn’t Josie Dalton’s first time at Startup Weekend, but as a recent graduate and a new mentor, it was the first time that she experienced it from the outside looking in.

“I got a little bit frustrated at the fact that I couldn’t join a team because I found myself getting really invested in some of them. But it was so much fun,” she explained. “I’m really, really proud of all the teams and really excited to see how far they came.”

Those student teams were formed from scratch, worked to come up with a startup business that would solve an existing problem, figured out how the business would be funded and operate, then presented their ideas to a group of industry judges, all in a little more than two days. Dalton said that short timeframe is key to Startup Weekend, in part, because it’s crazy.

“Part of the novelty or appeal of Startup Weekend is that it’s completely absurd to conceptualize starting a business or forming a business model in 48 hours. So the fact that it starts with such a ridiculously aspirational premise in the first place makes it really fun and exciting,” she said.

More than two-dozen ideas were pitched, of which 14 received enough participant votes to begin work. Of those, 12 survived to make the final presentation.

“It was a good time. Frustrating at some points, very rewarding at others, especially Saturday, which was the hardest day. 20 hours of work, 2 hours of sleep,” sophomore finance and entrepreneurship major Chris Irby said. “It has its ups and downs, gains and pains.”

“We kept pivoting our idea; we had the one idea and we kept changing it over and over again. And then really late Saturday, we decided to go back to our original idea,” junior interactive media studies major Deniz Tektas said.

That idea, a wearable device called Walk Along for summoning assistance from friends, won the top spot in the competition. The group that Irby was part of, a crowdsourcing app for choosing songs at parties or events called Q’ed, came in second, while a pet-vetting online service call Fur-Ever Home took third. Q’ed also won the People’s Choice Award.

“It was really cool to see that people were actually interested in our idea and that they’re interested in pursuing it after this weekend. We’ve had people connect with us and say ‘We want you to pitch to this group of people,’” Walk Along’s Madison Krell, a junior IMS major, said. “So it’s really exciting that this idea can actually go farther along, hopefully into Miami’s campus culture.”

Startup Weekend judge Rahul Bawa, CEO of two Cincinnati-area companies and a board member or chairman of four more, said he liked the scope of the ideas presented.

“I’ve judged a few of these, and this one I was impressed with because it had so many ideas that aren’t just insular to college campuses,” he pointed out. “That these ideas were appropriate not only for Miami or college campuses was impressive to see.”

Bawa said he hopes the participants will pick up on the importance of teamwork and walk away with an idea of what it takes to really start and grow a business. “This is a compressed exercise of everything that it takes -- it’s a lot harder than people think. But the satisfaction that you get when you actually go through the pivots, when you create a bond with your team members, makes up for it.”

Winning teams:
1st -- Walk Along: Deniz Tektas, Madison Krell, Peyton Krell, Bea Newberry, Andy Newman, Matt Rodriguez, Abby Porter

2nd -- Q'ed: Patrick Shannon, Susy Jaramillo, Danny Condron, Zachary Williams, Chris Irby, Duncan Thomas, Jeewon Lim

3rd -- Fur-Ever Home: John Pozzi, Yufei Chen, Jake Bertog, Jiazhen Zhou, Lena Rutherford, Sami Podolyan

Startup Star Award: Megan Warner

See photos from Startup Weekend
Group photo of Startup Weekend participants Group photo of Startup Weekend winning teams Competitors pitch their idea to the judges and crowd Student works out ideas on a whiteboard Michael Markesbury mentors a student team Students vote on their favorite projects to join A student pitches his idea on the first night