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3 Day Startup comes to Hawkeye State May 2-4 at University of Iowa

Next month, 3 Day Startup will bring its weekend-long event to Iowa. The international organization, focused on building entrepreneurial communities on college campuses, will select 40 students from around the region to participate in the first Iowa-based 3 Day Startup event. The event is 4 p.m. on Friday, May 2 to 10 p.m. Sunday, May

Next month, 3 Day Startup will bring its weekend-long event to Iowa. 

The international organization, focused on building entrepreneurial communities on college campuses, will select 40 students from around the region to participate in the first Iowa-based 3 Day Startup event. 

The event is 4 p.m. on Friday, May 2 to 10 p.m. Sunday, May 4, at the University of Iowa’s Pappajohn Business Building. While 3 Day Startup is only open to accepted participants and a small group of mentors, the final pitches—scheduled for 7 p.m. on Sunday—will be free and open to the public. However, pre-registration is required.  

We asked 3 Day Startup program manager Maia Donohue about the event and why they brought it to Iowa City.

Silicon Prairie News: How does 3 Day Startup work?

Maia Donohue: We carefully select 40 University of Iowa students to participate. They come in with ideas, which are democratically narrowed down to about eight ideas that will be worked on throughout the weekend. Students are encouraged to make something people want. How do they know this? At 3DS we have them go into the real world and talk to real customers and stakeholders. This helps determine whether they are solving a true need or just playing with a cute idea.

Every night students will deliver practice pitches, with the final pitches happening before investors and panelists. Mentors will also be on hand to guide students along throughout the program. Many students also work on software. It is quite common for a team to develop an MVP (minimum viable product) by Sunday. This MVP is a non-flashy product that does what it’s supposed to do—no bells and whistles.

SPN: What’s the benefit of students participating in 3DS over another event like a hackathon or Startup Weekend?

MD: First, 3DS is entirely designed toward the university experience. Our program is about maximizing students’ ability to found a company, and we have the benefit of 100-plus programs to refine our ability to build a unique startup experience for college students.

3DS also is free to students, and they are selected based on merit, not based on who buys a ticket. We turn down applicants who we feel won’t be a great fit for our program. Hackathons don’t focus on want or market fit. We love hackathons, but the winning concepts are often things that nobody wants.

SPN: Why should students sign up for 3DS?

MD: For starters, they should sign up if they have an idea for a startup. 3DS is a great starting point for students who are interested in entrepreneurship, but haven’t written a business plan and don’t have rich family members to loan them thousands of dollars. 3DS also emphasizes a lot of skills that are heavily valued in the workplace. Participating in this program is the type of thing that should go on a resume. Finally, we regularly have students tell us 3DS was the most fun they had all semester. Seriously, writing code, giving presentations and working on a business model was the most fun you had all semester? That’s pretty incredible.

SPN: What’s the most important thing to know before showing up at the event?

MD: People who bring in an idea should be ready to challenge that idea, and get excited about other people’s ideas. We tend to turn down students who think they have all the answers without really challenging themselves. Experienced entrepreneurs know better, and we want to deliver this experience to students.

They should also do as much research as possible on their idea—know who their customers would be, have a basic idea of what the market is. Is somebody doing this already? If so, they shouldn’t get discouraged, but they should have an answer for how they differ. This can be tricky. In the early days, people told Twitter they couldn’t differentiate themselves from Facebook. Obviously those people were wrong.

Interested in attending 3 Day Startup? Apply online through April 19.  

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