2019 Techstars Startup Weekend stokes passion for entrepreneurial thinking

Group photo of Startup Weekend participants

The 10th Techstars Startup Weekend by the John W. Altman Institute for Entrepreneurship at the Farmer School of Business was one of the largest so far, as more than 150 students signed on for the event. The event starts with 60-second pitches from participants on Friday evening, followed by participants voting for the best ideas, then participants forming teams around those ideas.

What followed was two days of intensive work as the teams brainstormed to further their ideas, talking to other people to find validation for those ideas, and meeting with industry mentors to refine their ideas, before making a four-minute presentation to groups of judges. The top teams then competed in a final event before all the participants, mentors, and judges.

First place went to Skitch, an app to help students needing rides find students willing to provide them:

  • Ethan Mack      
  • William Crompton         
  • Avery Schmidt  
  • Jake Berger     
  • Ben Chronister 
  • Alexander Freund

Second place, and the People’s Choice award from participants, was won by Life With, a platform for helping those with chronic diseases to find support from one another and potential treatments:

  • Olivia Wyles     
  • Claire WIlliams 
  • Andrew Gherlein          
  • Sophia Fisher 
  • Brent Reichert

Third place went to Loaded Laundry, a laundry service aimed at students living in residence halls:

  • John Greenbury
  • Diana Chudnovsky
  • Nicholas Schooley
  • Jaap Sarkaria
  • Jeff Voss
  • Michael Burns

“We had a vision, we executed from the beginning and it was pretty clear that a lot of people had this vision, too and really wanted to see it come to reality,” freshman economics major and Skitch creator Ethan Mack said. He explained that validating the team’s idea was probably the most difficult part of the weekend. “Gathering the statistics to prove it. We talked to a lot of people, but we had to get the numbers to match what we had been hearing,” Mack recalled.

“I thought it was one of the most amazing experiences, especially as a freshman, since I had no ‘real world experience.’” freshman Diana Chudnovsky explained. “So the fact that I got to go out and do my own project without having to worry about anybody else's statistics or anybody else's input on it, was probably one of the most amazing experiences I've had in my life so far.”

For Mike Scott, CEO of Bluecoats, Startup Weekend was a new experience as well. “This was fantastic. It's really cool to see so many college students putting their heads together and being forced to think entrepreneurially, whether it's an idea that they've had forever or an idea they put together for a weekend, because that's such an important life skill,” he said.

But for Joe Englehart, CEO of Cincinnati Capital Corporation, this wasn’t his first Startup Weekend – he’s been part of all of them. “The sophistication of the kids and the ideas that they come up with are far more advanced than in the early days. It's really remarkable to see,” he noted. “A lot of that has been a function of the technology that has changed over the past couple of years. They've adapted to all of the technology changes, they implemented it and included it in their ideas. Technology's changing things and these kids are embracing it and making it happen.”

“They're getting a fire hose of information being shot at them in 48 hours, but they've done pretty well. They do really well and embrace it, but it's stuff that has to happen when you start a business and they just learned it,” he said.

Kolar Design CEO Kelly Kolar-Eyman explained, “It's so energizing. It's innovative. The students are brilliant, the judges are curious and out-of-the-box thinkers and I just think Miami University is just on top of all of it.”

Over the decade of Startup Weekends, some of the ideas generated during the weekend, such as OROS in 2013 and Zandaland last year, have gone on to become real businesses. Mack said Skitch is going to be one of them. “This is going all the way. A lot of companies start in colleges. You hear about Elon Musk and PayPal starting in college, Facebook starting in college. Who knows? This could be the next Uber.”

More photos from Startup Weekend 2019

Skitch group photo

Life With group photo

Loaded Laundry group photo