Startup Weekend non-profit event generates business ideas at Madison College West Campus

George Treviranus, Editor-in-Chief

Entrepreneurs gathered throughout Madison at Madison College’s West Campus to do one thing: Create and spread great ideas. From April 5-7, the event followed a strict schedule for its participants.

Startup Weekend is a global event encouraging budding entrepreneurs—creative-, code- and business-oriented—to create a product that hasn’t been created before to be competitive in today’s market. Participants create their own product idea, and everyone will vote on which ideas they think work best.

Lorin Toepper, Executive Director of Economic & Workforce Developent at Madison College, said that when he started the event last year, he wanted to make sure a real start-up theme was kept, where even the food is only from local vendors.

These products typically consist of websites or mobile phone apps,” said Toepper. On the first day of the event, there were 44 pitches made out of 100 individuals present and only 12 made it through. They’re given just 60 seconds to complete the pitch.

Once their ideas were finalized, individuals could choose to be a part of a particular group to help an idea they really liked, or individuals from the groups sought out team members that might benefit them.

Toepper said that for a team working on a mobile app, if they were short on software engineers, they might look for them at the event and recruit them.

During the second day, teams went through customer validation, a process where teams ensure their product could be well received by their audiences. This can take all day, but the sooner the better.

“The goal is really to have an MVP, or minimal viable product, by the final day,” Toepper said.

Some groups may end up going through pivot points, however, resulting in a change in direction. One such group creating a product called InMadison, did just that. InMadison is a concept that allows Madisonians to ask questions about local events.

Originally, the concept was a question-and-answer platform for cooking, but after discovering it already existed, they had to try and individualize themselves somehow.

Tim Kessler, a member of the group, said they were just one step way from being an exact replica of the product already out there. Another member, Don Vaernz, says that it’s really just about having fun. Small tweaks can be made in the product description to really stand apart.

Other groups at Start-Up Weekend included MyMeterMaid, a mobile payment system for parking meters; DiarWe, a group storytelling platform for various media; and DropShop, a web platform to combine information from other stores and shopping cart sites in one place.

On the final day, participants finalized and prototype their products by 5 p.m. in order to give a presentation. The product will be crafted enough so the product’s execution and user experience is clear to the judges. The prototypes should be a functioning app, web site, or other media. The judges were founders of various companies from Madison, as well.