By: Austin Collins
Startup Weekend Athens is one of many events held around the world that show support for upcoming entrepreneurs. Attendees will arrive on the first day of Startup Weekend and will give a short pitch about a possible startup idea. Then, the attendees will form small groups around the top voted pitches. After forming their groups, the attendees will work with coaches and mentors to help refine their initial ideas, and then will give a final presentation before a panel of judges on the final day of Startup Weekend. This year’s Startup Weekend Athens was held from Friday, October 21st to Sunday, October 23rd at the Ohio University Innovation Center.
Kicking off Startup Weekend here at the Innovation Center, Daniel Johnsen helped bring together the crowd with a rousing introduction. Johnsen has participated in over 30+ Startup Weekends, ranging from a competitor to a judge, and now as a team coordinator. Johnsen challenged the idea of “Fail Fast” and proposed his own idea of “Speed to Outcome.” Instead of trying your hardest to fail, he suggests that individuals work their hardest to head towards an outcome, whether it be a good one or not.
“The importance of this idea,” Johnsen said, “is that you learn from your failures and successes to become a better entrepreneur overall.”
Johnsen then introduced Dr. Christopher Crawford, Assistant Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship at the Ohio University College of Business.
“If you don’t dare greatly, you don’t achieve greatness,” Crawford said.
Crawford challenged the attendees to avoid being normal and expect greatness from themselves. The main topic he wanted the attendees to take away from his speech was “Expectation drives actions, and actions drive outcomes.” Crawford believes that you must expect outlier outcomes to achieve them. You must do things differently from the normal to receive abnormal rewards.
After our guest speaker concluded, Johnsen moved into the pitch stage of the weekend. Various attendees volunteered and pitched a variety of different ideas, which they voted on later that evening. Groups then formed around the top voted pitches. David Stroud lead off the pitches with the idea of a solar shade canopy. Another idea pitched was by Michale Adams, who came up with the idea of a mobile t-shirt shop.
Over the weekend, some of the initial groups that were formed on Friday night pivoted from their initial idea, while others remained the same.
Hunger Hacked, a group formed around the idea of a “User Contributed Cookbook”, were this year’s Startup Weekend winners. Overall, the judges were impressed by the amount of work that each team put out over the past few days. Each team showed promise and loyalty to their project.
Let’s start with the group that came in third place. Hop Runner, formerly known as Oooo Beer, is an idea focused on the delivery of beer to its customers. They wanted to provide beer to the consumers in a safe and fun environment, not only at Ohio University, but also at other universities throughout Ohio. Hop Runner also wanted to help create a sense of community by partnering with the local businesses. The judges agreed that the business model was well made and that the loyalty program would help against competition. One of the reasons that caused the judges to make Hop Runner the third-place winner, was the concern about competition for this startup. The judges felt that this industry would have heavy competition and didn’t quite feel that Hop Runner would be able to provide an answer for it. Still, the members of Hop Runner learned valuable lessons, ones that they could bring back to a future Startup Weekend.
The group that placed second at this year’s Startup Weekend was Eleven Fifty-Five Creators. This group came up with the idea for the Personal Well Being Tracker. This concept was designed to pair with devices that currently monitor the health quality of people. The tracker would record surrounding air quality and then correlate that data with the person’s health quality. Once the data had been correlated, the device would then give suggestions to the individual about how they go about visiting an area. Alex Hurley, the person who originally came up with the idea, wanted to give this information to people who wanted it, in an easy fashion. Overall, the judges agreed that Eleven Fifty-Five Creators had a very well made market validation. One slight concern that the judges addressed was more focus on the core relation between air quality and the customer’s health. Still, this group was very proud of coming in second, especially since this was their very first Startup Weekend experience.
Hunger Hacked, the winning group from this year’s Startup Weekend, focused on an idea for students to interact more with the dining halls. Bethany Ungar, the person who originally came up with this idea, wanted to bring to light some of the concerns voiced by students that attend the dining halls here at Ohio University. She felt that making an app to voice these concerns would be a great idea. This app would let students create and share their own ideas for a recipe that could be used at the dining halls. Hunger Hacked focused on competition between users, especially over social media, to drive their business. The initial labor required to test out an app design would be done for free, via the user competition, thus negating a large portion of the startup cost. The judges all liked the creativity that the members of Hunger Hacked presented. The judges also agreed that their idea was very applicable, especially in a college setting. The only concerns voiced by the judges were longevity and a revised revenue model. The judges felt that only relying on user created content could be very dangerous, due to the fact that some user could start repeating ideas for recipes. Even with these concerns, Hunger Hacked came out on top, winning the top prize for the weekend.
Hunger Hacked, the winning team from this year’s Startup Weekend, show off their prizes.
Although each group won some tangible prizes that would benefit their startup idea, they also learned some very valuable knowledge. The group learned the importance of team work and the benefit of shared skills among teammates. They also learned how to balance the work load throughout a short amount of time. All of these teams, whether or not they won, can take the skills and information they learned and directly apply it throughout their life, whether it be through their startup or through their school work. Startup Weekend has come to a close, be sure to purchase a ticket for next year. Even if you don’t plan on participating, it will be a great way to meet new people and share great ideas.