Startup Weekend is a global grassroots movement with more than 400 past events in nearly 100 countries around the world that unites creative and intelligent minds together for an unforgettable weekend of ideation and new venture creation. In September, Gainesville hosted a Startup Weekend that attracted more than 150 entrepreneurs who pitched their best business ideas. David Whitney, managing director of Energent Ventures, and John Spence, local author and one of the top 100 business thought leaders in America, served as judges for the event. Here are their reflections on what made the weekend so successful.
John: I was overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and engagement of the students and local entrepreneurs who showed up for the event. I was also so pleased to see that the Kauffman Foundation, an internationally recognized leader in entrepreneurship, was eager to support the weekend and help run the competition. And I was deeply impressed by the quality of the 40+ startup pitches that were presented – really innovative, creative and cutting-edge.
David: The collaboration among participants – and the “collision” of ideas – was amazing. I was inspired by how much progress was made by teams over the weekend; most teams went “all in” and delivered presentations that made me, an investor in Gainesville’s startups, want to invest. All of us judges were thrilled by how expertly teams developed minimally viable products (or services) in such a short period of time.
John: I agree completely, David, the Startup Weekend was a perfect example of the kind of collaboration and innovation that will establish Gainesville as one of the leading entrepreneurial communities in the country. It is so exciting to me to see the University of Florida, Santa Fe College, the Chamber and so many local businesses working together to foster the entrepreneurial movement in our community.
David: Spot on, John, Gainesville is doing a tremendous job to support and develop entrepreneurs and Startup Weekend was proof positive of that effort. In the span of 54 hours, 13 teams formed and the judges chose four of those teams as winners. However, we know that everyone who participated was a winner. That’s because the teams described viable business concepts and they built/tested prototypes; they spoke with prospective customers, noodled on business models and presented ideas that many of the judges believed could very well lead to commercial success. From Friday afternoon to Sunday evening, Gainesville’s “weekenders” stepped out of their comfort zones and transformed themselves from sideline sitters to active players in Gainesville’s entrepreneurial community.
John: Yes, a huge success for all involved and just one more step forward in establishing Gainesville as a leading hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. It is truly a great time to be in Gainesville!
* John Spence is the author of “Awesomely Simple – Essential Business Strategies for Turning Ideas into Action,” and has twice been recognized as one of the top 100 business thought leaders in America.
David Whitney is the managing director of Energent Ventures, LLC.
Third Place: Nurses’ Report – the doctor/medical professional rating service populated/rated by registered nurses.
Second Place: Shark Fin Helmets – technical solutions to improve motorcycle safety through specially outfitted helmets.
First Place: Tie between DropBeat – a smart phone app to help people with poor rhythm learn to dance better and Mobile Vet – a smart phone app to allow mobile veterinarians to efficiently track their appointments, services rendered and billing.