With Startup Weekend Des Moines kicking off in a few hours (and some in Omaha kicking themselves for not making the trip), I think this post is just in time. Startup Weekend will be coming to Omaha, March 19-21 at What Cheer (1111 North 13th Street).
I caught up with its organizer, Corey Spitzer, by email to learn more.
Corey is a software engineer at SKAR Advertising, but he enjoys getting his hands into almost all aspects of science and technology and has a deep interest in the areas of artificial intelligence and cognitive computing. In addition to his involvement with Startup Weekend Omaha, he contributes to techomaha.com and participates in a variety of user groups in the area.
Silicon Prairie News (SPN): What is Startup Weekend – both on a national and local scale?
Corey Spitzer: Startup Weekend Omaha is a non-profit, community building event that brings together entrepreneurs of all backgrounds including software developers, marketers, graphic designers, social media gurus, and other enthusiasts to start companies in just 54 hours. This is Omaha’s first Startup Weekend, but the event occurs all over the country throughout the year and they have been very successful.
SPN: Recently, you dropped the price on the event, from $75 to $45, and changed up the location. Please share with us the latest details.
Corey: Absolutely! The generous folks at What Cheer have graciously donated the use of their space for the event; this allowed us to drop the ticket price which a lot of people cited as a reason for not signing up. We are still looking for additional sponsors to help pay for food, tables, chairs, etc.
SPN: What’s the schedule for the weekend?
Corey: Friday night kicks off with networking and dinner. Around 7 p.m., anyone who has an idea for a new venture is encouraged to pitch it to the group. The ideas are voted on by the attendees and whittled down to the best ones. Teams form around the ideas and then spend Saturday and Sunday building the concept, with an end goal to actually launch on Sunday. The event culminates on Sunday night with demonstrations from each team in front of an audience of potential investors.
SPN: Who should attend Startup Weekend?
Corey: The event is for anyone who wants to launch or has something to contribute to a new startup. This includes, but is not limited to developers, marketers, designers, PR/social media gurus, legal professionals, existing/aspiring entrepreneurs, etc.
SPN: Why should they attend?
Corey: You get a whole weekend of networking, learning, eating, innovating, working on a cool startup idea, and an audience with real investors. I honestly think it’s an experience that everyone should have at least once.
SPN: Can any attendee pitch an idea Friday night?
Corey: Anyone can pitch an idea.
SPN: Do you have to pitch an idea?
Corey: Pitching an idea is totally optional. If you have an idea you want to throw out there and see if others will rally around it, great, but many people also just come to be inspired and join up with a team formed around someone else’s idea.
SPN: Can you pitch an idea you’re already working on?
SPN: How do you respond to those who hesitate sharing their ideas in fear of them being stolen?
Corey: This is something I was concerned with myself when I participated in Kansas City’s Startup Weekend last year and I have since realized that innovation really occurs in the execution of an idea. Having said that, one shouldn’t pitch an idea that they aren’t comfortable revealing. I think a lot of people have had ideas in their pockets for months or years, but don’t know the right people or aren’t sure how to get started. They should view this as an opportunity to share their ideas with other innovators and possibly take real action towards making it a reality.
SPN: What types of ideas are most-often pitched and chosen to execute?
Corey: Historically, the ideas that are pitched are generally IT-related (web services, mobile phone apps, etc.) as it’s relatively easy to get such a product launched in a single weekend. Though there have been some businesses that have come out of Startup Weekends in the past that weren’t IT-related. A pillow business, for instance. Honestly, anything goes.
SPN: How are details like legal, ownership, members, etc. handled?
Corey: If a team decides to continue working on a venture or project after Startup Weekend (which we hope they will!), they will need to figure out these issues on their own. Startup Weekend, a nonprofit organization, does not retain ownership of any company coming out of the weekend and does not issue any shares. If you have questions, we generally have attorneys present at each event and we can help you find one to ask!
SPN: Are there any stories from past Startup Weekends that might help someone decide whether or not they’d like to attend?
Corey: I would suggest you check out startupweekend.org/past-companies for a list of recent companies to come out of Startup Weekend. Also, just recently, Twitpay, a startup from Startup Weekend Atlanta was infused with $1 million in new capital.
SPN: Where can someone sign up?
Corey: Go to startupweekendomaha.eventbrite.com.