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Entrepreneurs square off during Startup Weekend

Scott Olson
November 15, 2012
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Entrepreneurs, get ready to rumble!

The eighth Startup Weekend in Indianapolis begins Friday, when dozens of potential business owners pit their plans against each other in the fast-paced event that spans three days.

The Nov. 16-18 session at the Speak Easy, a gathering place for the startup community on the southern edge of Broad Ripple, will be one of hundreds held around the world. The not-for-profit event was founded in 2007 by brainiac Andrew Hyde, who runs the seed-capital firm TechStarts in Boulder, Colo.

The events typically culminate Sunday with a panel of judges selecting a winning venture. The victorious team then will compete against other winners from cities worldwide in an online contest for the overall top prize.

Organizers of this year’s local Startup Weekend expect between 50 and 75 participants. Participation may be down a little this year because of competing events. Bloomington and Lafayette both held their startup events last weekend, said Lorraine Ball of marketing firm Roundpeg Inc., an organizer and sponsor of Startup Weekend.

“Two or three years ago, Indianapolis was the only event,” she said. “Now you’re starting to see this domino where people who came from those cities went back to those cities and became organizers in those cities.”

The festivities begin Friday evening with a “pitch” session in which the entrepreneurs attempt to sell their business plans. The ideas receiving the most votes from fellow entrepreneurs advance, while those whose plans were not selected link up with the winners to form teams of at least two people each.

Teams are likely to stay up late Friday to map out strategies and return Saturday morning to continue fine-tuning their ideas.

Sunday culminates with presentations to a panel of judges who select a winner. Ball is one of the judges along with Jeb Banner, who owns locally based SmallBox, which makes and markets Web sites; Andrew Clark, vice president of business development at Right On Interactive, a marketing automation software firm; and Dr. Tony Ratliff, a Noblesville dentist and angel investor.

The winning team will create a 60-second video summarizing its idea, which needs to be submitted within 24 hours of the end of the Indianapolis competition. The video, along with those from winners in other cities, will be posted at www.startupweekend.org.

Ball expects about a dozen ideas will become viable businesses. And even if they don’t, “it is a great opportunity to meet and network with other entrepreneurs and professionals,” she said.

Previous Startup Weekend events in Indianapolis have launched companies such as Pocket Tales, which turns reading books into an interactive game, ShoutNow Inc., an automated messaging system, and StatsSquared Inc., a Twitter analytical tool.

Last year’s winner, Awesome Controller, developed and commercialized a technology that enables older video games to be played using modern Bluetooth controllers.
 

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