Startup Weekend Returns to Georgetown

Startup Hoyas and the Georgetown Entrepreneurship Initiative will host a “54-hour Startup Weekend” program this weekend in the Hariri Building, which will begin at 6 p.m. tonight and continue through Sunday evening.

“Startup Weekend is basically a hackathon for entrepreneurs,” student organizer Barry Goldsmith (COL ’17) said. “The idea of the weekend is not so much to start a company, as it is to have fun and learn the basics of entrepreneurship. It’s awesome when they do end up starting companies but that’s not really the entire point.”

Startup weekends are volunteer-organized events that are overseen by UP Global, a Seattle-based organization dedicated to helping grassroots leaders within the entrepreneur community. On any given weekend there are about 14 Startup Weekend events happening around the globe, most of which take place in communities rather than on college campuses. More than 13,000 startups originated in the weekend program since 2007.

Though the Startup Weekend organization provided logistical support for this weekend’s event, three members of the university community planned everything. According to the Startup Weekend Website, the average weekend event cost just under $6,000 in 2011. The event’s price tag is paid for by sponsorships and participation fees.

Startup Weekends kick off with an open-pitch session where anyone can pitch an idea in front of his peers in 60 seconds, then all the participants vote on what they think are the best ideas. The topics are narrowed down to the top eight to twelve ideas, around which teams form organically. Over the next 54 hours, each team must create a business around the chosen idea.

This includes doing customer research as well as talking to potential customers and investors with the help of mentors. The event culminates in a pitch presentation on Sunday, which is free for all students to attend.

“It’s one of those events where if you have an idea you’ve been thinking about for a while, this is the perfect opportunity to see if it’s real,” event organizer Victoria Schramm (COL ‘12) said. “It puts you through a lot of understanding what your customer base is, if it’s a validated idea, this is really the thing to jump-start that. If you have a specialty that you want to put to work in the ‘real world’ then this is a good opportunity for that.”

Startup Weekend marks the start of events put on by the Georgetown Entrepreneurship Initiative, led by founding director Jeff Reid. The Entrepreneurship Initiative aims to grow the entrepreneurial ecosystem at Georgetown through the events it hosts.

“Specifically with Startup Weekend, a little over a year ago, one of our alumni [Schramm] approached me and said, ‘Why don’t we bring this to Georgetown?’ With her help, we ran our first Startup Weekend specifically geared to Georgetown students a year ago in September,” Reid said.

Though most Startup Weekends are geared toward adults, Georgetown’s Startup Weekend is open to all: students, alumni, faculty, students pursuing post graduate studies and university staff. This sense of strengthening community initially drove Schramm to bring Startup Weekend to Georgetown.

“At the time, I was still working [at UP Global], and I wanted to be able to do what I did for a living at the place where I went to college because working, I saw the benefit of what it was like to go and do this over the course of a weekend,” Schramm said. “So many people learn so much and meet great people. It’s really a community event.”

For Goldsmith, Startup Weekend Georgetown fits perfectly with the university’s culture and student body.

“Georgetown is a place where entrepreneurship should be thriving on campus and it is thriving on campus, but it doesn’t really get enough attention right now,” Goldsmith said. “Entrepreneurship really vibes with not only a lot of the Jesuit values but with what Georgetown students want out of their experience. They want to change the world, and that’s pretty much what entrepreneurship is all about— thinking of different ways to change the world and different ways to solve problems.”

Reid said that many participants at first Startup Weekend Georgetown in September 2014 found the event “life changing.”

“Entrepreneurship is something that many students are interested in, but until you roll up your sleeves and start working on something, you often don’t know how fun it can be,” Reid said.

Tickets to participate in Startup Weekend Georgetown cost $60 for Georgetown students, but students using the promo code ‘StartupHoya’ can purchase tickets for $45. Tickets for non-students cost $99. The price of a ticket covers six to seven meals and 54 hours of intense entrepreneurship experience.

“If there’s some part of you that just wants to think about the world in a bit of a different way or go out and do something meaningful, give Startup Weekend a try,” Goldsmith said. “See if you can somehow unleash that inner entrepreneur of yours. At the very least you’re going to get free meals out of it.”

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