SHERIDAN — During a Startup Weekend, contestants have 54 hours to develop, design, gain support and pitch a business to a panel of judges. This April, the Sheridan community will get its chance to participate.
Startup Weekend has held events in more than 160 countries with the aim of giving entrepreneurs a chance to develop a product or company with the help of a team and while under the mentorship of local business owners.
Sheridan College instructor Jill McGraw is using the event as a teaching tool in her management and organization class by having her students plan it.
“It’s a project that is great for them to learn how to plan and execute a project,” McGraw said. “So on the academic side it’s great for project management experience, but it’s also a wonderful event that benefits the community, so it’s basically a win-win.”
And though there’s no cash at the end, McGraw said the event will bring entrepreneurs together with mentors and possible backers, and that it’s completely possible for some ideas to turn into something more.
The event will start on April 7 with a reception dinner and preliminary pitches. Each participant will have one minute to pitch his or her idea, after which audience members will vote on their favorites.
The top ideas will become teams for audience members to join. McGraw said the person pitching doesn’t need to be an expert in the field they’re pitching and can ask for team members to fill in areas in which they’re not as knowledgeable.
For example, a participant can pitch an idea for an app with no technology experience or knowledge. He or she can then ask for team members who do have that experience.
McGraw said the next step of the weekend is for each team to develop a small version of the product, schedule meetings with mentors and validate the product by reaching out to the community to see if a market exists for it.
On the last day of Startup Weekend, each team is allowed five minutes to pitch its final idea to a panel of judges. McGraw said that in past events there’s been a first-, second- and third-place winner.
Kimble Hendrickson, a student from McGraw’s class that’s organizing the event, said while there won’t be a cash prize, there will be a prize pack from the various sponsors.
Hendrickson attended a Startup Weekend in Fort Collins, Colorado, to see first-hand how the event will play out. He said that he was surprised at how relaxed it was.
Hendrickson said that the Fort Collins event was relatively small, and that they’re planning for 60 to 75 people for the Sheridan event.
“It’s definitely a cool event that attracts a lot of passionate people,” Hendrickson said, “people that really want to make a difference and get things done.”
Startup Weekend will be April 7-9 at Sheridan College. Tickets range in price from $15 to $40.
Information and tickets for the Sheridan College organized Startup Weekend can be found on the event’s website or Facebook page, facebook.com/StartupWeekendSheridan.