In LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman’s recent book “The Startup of You,” he recalls a billboard in Silicon Valley that asks passers-by – many of them presumably being startup founders – a simply question: What makes you so special?
By way of answering that question over the weekend, a group of entrepreneurs with ideas for new companies involving everything from web apps to elder care to music education pitched a group of mentors and judges on their concepts and vied for cash prizes as a part of Startup Weekend Memphis.
The weekend’s winners included CoachSpeak, a social network like LinkedIn for sports professionals; CaptaVita, a service that acts like a digital time capsule for users; and Buyers Unite, which flips the Groupon model around and forms the buyers group first rather than Groupon’s method of first getting a daily deal and then looking for buy-in.
The three finalists get $1,000 cash, nine hours of free legal services from Butler, Snow, O’Mara, Stevens & Cannada PLLC and nine hours of free financial advice from local accounting firm Collins, Thomas & Associates PC. The grand prizewinner – CoachSpeak – also gets consultation services from Southern Growth Studios.
The weekend’s national sponsors contributed free cloud-based services, including the use of Amazon Web Services. The University of Memphis provided the prize money, and Baby Jack’s provided food.
This year’s event also was covered by Nibletz.com, which advertises itself as “the voice of startups everywhere else.”
It’s a thrill to witness Memphis’ startup scene growing.
Chief brand officer, Launch Your City
2008 saw Memphis’ the first officially sanctioned Startup Weekend event, which is the local stage for a global grassroots movement of entrepreneurs who want to learn about how to found a startup. This year, Startup Weekend was spearheaded by James Ruffer, along with Chris Przybyszewski and Amanda Lewis.
“Our goal was to facilitate passionate people with an idea and help turn it into something amazing by Sunday,” said Ruffer, who works in social media security, financial security and online security. “We achieved this with seven out of the 17 ideas pitched on Friday by giving them a location, food, mentors and prizes.”
Przybyszewski has founded several biotechnology and technology companies, the most recent being RESOLUTE Interactive, a mobile application development company. Lewis works with Sullivan Branding as a public relations coordinator and focuses on national retail, nonprofit, commercial business, and medical and chemical sciences industries.
The weekend, which was packed with activities like business model creation and coding, culminated with presentations in front of local entrepreneurial leaders.
“It’s a thrill to witness Memphis’ startup scene growing,” said Launch Your City chief brand officer Elizabeth Lemmonds, who attended this weekend’s events. “I want to see Memphis entrepreneurship and innovation on the map, and Startup Weekend and the several startups developed contribute significantly toward that mission. Kudos to the organizers and mentors. I saw some exciting teamwork and entrepreneurial talent reflected and look forward to watching their progress.”