Startup Weekend, a speed-networking and ideas event for entrepreneurs held over a period of 54 hours, is to expand to Melbourne in May.
Olga Titarenko, event organiser for Startup Weekend Australia, says the event aims to bring together entrepreneurs from a variety of fields including software developers, marketers and designers.
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“Beginning with open mic pitches on Friday, attendees are encouraged to bring their best ideas and inspire others to join their team,” Titarenko says.
“The participants that attend have 60 seconds to make a pitch. The pitches are whittled down to the top ideas, and then teams form around the ideas.”
“Over Saturday and Sunday, teams design and develop business plans while constantly streamlining their start-up vision.”
“Finally, the weekend culminates with demonstrations in front of an audience of judges and potential investors. Teams demo their prototypes and listen to judges’ feedback.”
Titarenko says Startup Weekends are specifically designed for entrepreneurs interested in receiving feedback on an idea, looking for a co-founder or wanting to learn new skills.
“We also welcome anyone looking to test the entrepreneurial waters. Startup Weekends are risk-free environments where everyone is expected to roll up their sleeves and dive into the exhilarating world of start-ups,” she says.
The event will be held over the first weekend in May. Titarenko says while it is Australia’s first Startup Weekend, the event occurs throughout the world and is highly successful.
Startup Weekend was co-founded in 2009 by Marc Nager and Clint Nelsen, who sought to develop the concept throughout the world.
In September 2010, Startup Weekend received a grant from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, allowing it to enhance its offering.
By the end of 2010, Startup Weekend had built a network of more than 25,000 alumni, 150 ambassadors and 60 certified facilitators across 30 countries.
According to Nager, there is a need for programs that focus on tangible results by merging the networking aspects of a start-up with real world applications.
“Building a start-up ecosystem isn’t rocket science, and all too often I see what seems to be a broken, over-engineered system for delivering money to individuals and teams that are willing to kill themselves to reach unrealistic goals,” he says.
“It is not some complex machine, but rather it is a way of thinking and acting… A simple paradigm shift and network of community support that instills that ‘Yes, you can start today’ – not in a few weeks, or when you save enough money or when the time is ‘right’.”
An event spokesperson says on average, half of the Startup Weekend participants come from business backgrounds and the other half from technical backgrounds.
“Local tech and start-up leaders participate in Startup Weekends as mentors and judges [so participants can] get some one-on-one time with the movers and shakers in their community,” the spokesperson says.
“Roughly 80% of participants plan on continuing working with their team or start-up after the weekend, and over 36% of Startup Weekend start-ups are still going strong after three months.”