Collaboration Rules at Startup Weekend

COURTESY STARTUP WEEKEND DC MSB professor Eric Koester, right, spoke during the third annual Startup Weekend, where teams collaborated to develop products.

COURTESY STARTUP WEEKEND DC
MSB professor Eric Koester, right, spoke during the third annual Startup Weekend, where teams collaborated to develop products.

The third annual Startup Weekend welcomed 50 participants to the McDonough School of Business for three days of entrepreneurial collaboration from Nov. 4 to Nov. 6.

The event, which was one of many are sponsored worldwide by the entrepreneurship catalyzing company Tech Stars, kicked off on Friday night, beginning with a dinner and networking segment for the participants, who pitched their business ideas to the rest of the group. Attendees then voted on pitches and formed teams accordingly.

At the end of the weekend, first place was awarded to a team with an app idea called Musetory, which introduces a way to incorporate augmented reality, such as the technology used in Pokémon Go, into museums to make the experience more entertaining and interactive.

While the Startup Weekend organization does not encourage the use of “prizes,” a Swiss participant sponsored an award allowing the first-place team to go to an entrepreneurship conference in Switzerland.

Second place went to a team with an idea that would allow students to sell personal equity based on future earnings and a number of other variables for a given time frame to finance their education rather than take out a loan.

Team member Paula Bejarano (MBA ’18) gave an example of how the online platform would function.

“Say I need $20,000 for school. You go to this website and you match with an investor who also has a social concern. And basically that person will invest in you by giving you the cash with the agreement that, after you finish school, you would give him or her 2 percent of your salary for the next five to 10 years,” Bejarano said.

At the event, teams included a mix of Georgetown undergraduates, Master of Business Administration students, the George Washington University students and other members of the community.Once the teams were solidified, the event organizers encouraged participants to go off campus and speak to potential customers as part of the four-step process: identifying a problem, validating the problem, coming up with a solution to the problem and validating the solution to the problem.

Barry Goldsmith (MSB ’17), one of the Georgetown event’s organizers, said the process was essential to any successful startup.

“I could build a solution to a problem I think exists,” Goldsmith said. “But I won’t know if it’s a problem if I don’t talk to the customer, and I won’t know if my solution is worth anything if I don’t talk to the customer.”

Eric Koester, an adjunct professor and entrepreneur-in-residence in the MSB, has participated in 60 Startup Weekends worldwide and gave a brief presentation on the role of these four steps in developing a minimum viable product — a rough first iteration of a product.

“The final goal of the weekend is to expose the participants to what it feels like to be an entrepreneur in 54 hours,” Goldsmith said. “But it’s a crazy goal — we give them 54 hours to go through what takes most entrepreneurs months, if not years.”

Throughout the weekend, mentors, including some Georgetown entrepreneurs-in-residence, provided guidance to the teams. On Sunday evening, the teams presented their final products and received feedback from a panel of judges, which included successful entrepreneurs, two entrepreneurs-in-residence and investors.

“Determining the winner wasn’t about which company you would invest in or which idea you liked best — it was really about which team went through the [four-step] process,” Goldsmith said. “The team that went through the process the best also tended to deliver the best.”

Jeff Reid, event organizer and founding director of the Georgetown Entrepreneurship Initiative, said the weekend provided an experience for those who wanted to start a company without having to go “all-in.”

“You might start a company. You will definitely learn a tremendous amount. And you will definitely leave with new friends and business contacts,” Reid wrote in an email to The Hoya.

Goldsmith also encouraged other students to participate in the event and learn about entrepreneurship.

“I think a lot of students on campus automatically associate entrepreneurship with starting a business, and that’s not necessarily the case,” Goldsmith said. “If you’re interested in innovative problem solving or thinking differently about problems and solutions, entrepreneurship is really for you.”

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