High-energy ideas, coaching come together
Startup Weekend provides a forum for bringing business concepts into reality
It’s advertised as “all action — no talk.” All over the world, groups of hopeful entrepreneurs are getting together for intense three-day sessions designed to give them a taste of what it takes to be successful in the business world.
give entrepreneurs a leg up
Roseburg has hosted the event twice. The event, officially called “Startup Weekend powered by Google,” is designed to inspire communities and give entrepreneurs a leg up on the arduous process of launching their own business.
In Douglas County, Startup Weekend is hosted by the Umpqua Community College Small Business Development Center. At last spring’s event, about 70 local entrepreneurs, UCC students, faculty and business people gathered for three days of high-energy ideas and coaching.
“Startup Weekend brings people of all ages, education and experience together and provides a forum for working an idea into reality,” says organizer Kemberly Todd. “It demystifies the entrepreneur experience and provides real-time feedback to teams to focus their business plan, while keeping excitement high for the product or service being developed.
“Ultimately participants walk away more connected to area resources, people and know-how for how to develop a business idea.”
The weekend starts with a fast pitch session, where participants are given 60 seconds to describe their idea for a business product or service. The Roseburg group’s ideas ranged from online health clubs and emergency apps to power-generation systems and a healthy fast-food delivery service, as well as such futuristic inspirations as drones, robotic limbs and hover-boards.
Once the pitches were made, participants voted on their favorites, and teams were formed around the top eight ideas. “Then the real work began,” Todd says, “because the next 54 hours were filled with coaching experts, speakers and a lot of caffeinated work.”
Coaching categories supplied to each team consisted of Patent and Trademark Law, Finance and Accounting, Operations, Creative Media Marketing, Technology Startup Consulting, and Business Planning and Consulting.
Local businessman Sam Gross served as one of the coaches, traveling between groups as they worked on refining the idea. “If they didn’t have questions, I would drill into them about viability of revenue streams, where they thought they could make money, how they could improve their business plan.”
Gross, the owner of Roseburg’s Loggers Tap House, knows what he is talking about. A Roseburg native who returned to his hometown after military service and graduate school, Gross is also involved with several technology start-ups. He serves as a business adviser for the SBDC, where he talks with a lot of entrepreneurial hopefuls.
In the last several years, he has seen the quality of applicants increase. “People coming through have more of their ideas formed, and they are having better success than folks did before,” he says. Gross credits the development to more support for entrepreneurs in the area, including events such as Startup Weekend and groups such as the Roseburg Area Investment Network, the Young Entrepreneur Society of Umpqua Valley and SBDC. “The different pieces are starting to come together,” he says.
Still, there is work to be done by the community at large. “When you look at places like Bend and Eugene and Portland, folks are much more small-business-oriented,” Gross says. “In Roseburg, the first places people think about are the chain stores. Whatever we can do to help people support local business is hugely important.”
The Winner: TreeShields
John Blackwood, a UCC Computer Information Systems faculty member, and his team were the winners at Startup Weekend for his “TreeShields” idea, a sheet-metal product that would wrap around the base of trees to keep animals from climbing and damaging trees. The judges cited his product as the one most ready to hit the market in 30 days.
“What was learned here could not be learned in a classroom,” Blackwood says. Students had to speak in public, and consider time management, profit and loss, and cash flow. They had to present their final project in front of judges and potential investors, and learn how to accept and use criticism.
“They had to learn how to become flexible in problem solving, and to just generally get along with a group of people previously unknown to them,” he says.
View a short video on the weekend: https://youtu.be/DJtN0ZTsfbo