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Start Me Up: Entrepreneurs of all ages pitch, incubate ideas during Startup Weekend Fargo

Start Me Up: Entrepreneurs of all ages pitch, incubate ideas during Startup Weekend Fargo

This isn’t just a startup guide.

This is a startup guide on steroids.

That’s exactly what 60 or so entrepreneurs of all ages discovered during the community’s first-ever Startup Weekend Fargo March 8-10 in downtown Fargo. The event exposes participants to a turbo-charged startup experience in which they are expected to create, develop and execute a business venture in the span of 54 hours.

It kicked off Friday night at Ecce in Downtown Fargo with participants giving 60-second pitches for business ideas, ranging from a sock-subscription (sock-scription?) program to a mobile-based program that game-ified physical therapy.

Teams then organically formed around the top ideas (as determined by popular vote), followed by two marathon days of business model creation, coding, designing and market validation. Sleep became a precious commodity as entrepreneurs — ranging from aspiring to experienced — huddled together in the historic Loretta Building to brainstorm, design, build prototypes and troubleshoot. Entrepreneurial coaches also were brought in to provide advice and act as sounding boards.

The weekend was capped off Sunday evening with participants presenting their ventures to a panel of entrepreneurial leaders in efforts to win the honor of top startup project.
“The entire experience was incredible,” said participant Bryan Leininger. “Being in that environment with that group of people had a huge impact on me. I made some great connections that could possibly turn in to lifelong friendships.”
Leininger belonged to the team that took home first place at Sunday night’s competition. His team produced EATHOS, a restaurant app that allows managers and servers to immediately receive and assess customer feedback.
The brainchild of Minneapolis law student Sukhneet Singh, EATHOS allows restaurant patrons to easily and quickly rate their service experience, which can then be accessed by the eatery’s manager and server. In the process, restaurants can more efficiently correct problems and give performance reviews, servers can receive helpful feedback that helps them work their way up the food-service ladder, and patrons can ensure that their concerns are heard and addressed, Leininger says.
This immediate feedback could be a lifesaver for certain restaurants, especially at a time when online review communities like Yelp! can make or break a business. Singh told the crowd that an increase by just one star on a Yelp review can help a restaurant increase its annual profit by $12,000 to $22,000.
“Managers love this because they get to see a profile of their servers and how they’re doing,”Singh told a crowd of 250 or so audience members Sunday night in the Fargo Theatre. “This gameifies the service industry.”
Singh’s team was one of eight teams that competed last weekend. Other award-winners included:
–Best design: New York Sock Exchange, a “sock-scription” program in which sock-scribers receive new, high-quality socks every month, then donate the clean, gently used socks to charitable organizations.
–Best pitch: TherApptainment, a mobile-based program that gameifies physical therapy, while making it easier and more affordable for physical therapists to monitor clients remotely.
–Second place: SwiftMaker, a system that creates a network of available 3-D printers so materials and machines can be connected with new manufacturing orders more quickly and efficiently.
–Third place (tie): Shirt Roulette, a website that allows you to swap three T-shirts for three cool ones from someone else living anywhere in the world, and Kickin’, an online fundraising website that adds full social integration to the donation experience.
Founded in 2007 by Andrew Hyde in Colorado, Startup Weekend was originally intended as an event where a group of individuals would brainstorm a single business idea and work to bring that business to fruition over one weekend. It has morphed into an organization with a global presence and sponsorships from global organizations like Google, Microsoft and the Kauffman Foundation.
As of last fall, 672 events had been held, involving 57,000 entrepreneurs from more than 300 cities in over 300 countries. Overall, the event has spawned 5,000 startups.
Greg Tehven, one of Startup Weekend Fargo’s organizers, said he was pleased with the turnout for the community’s first such event. “It’s about connecting talent, implementing ideas and supporting the entrepreneurial ecosystem,” Tehven said. “We were grateful for all who participated and supported the efforts to support our region.”
To connect with the Startup Weekend Fargo community and learn about future events, go to:
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All photos used by permission of Jesse Hoorelbeke of J. Alan Paul Photography, 
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