Startup Weekend pairs up aspiring entrepenuers


Photo: Clark Colby/Iowa State Daily

Adam Reineke, senior in computer science, pitches a business idea for an application he called Social Accountability at the Des Moines Startup Weekend held March 4-6. Entrepreneurs from around Iowa pitched business ideas and worked together to develop future business plans.

Sarah Binder

Some entrepreneurs dream of starting a business for years. Startup Weekend prompts them to get it done in 54 hours.

On Friday evening, dreamers, techies and builders will gather at StartupCity Des Moines to pitch ideas. By Sunday, those ideas will be developed in the 4th annual Des Moines Startup Weekend event.

Usually around half of attendees at the Des Moines event are students. Meals and snacks are provided throughout the weekend — and participants do not actually have to work the whole 54 hours.

Levi Rosol, one of the organizers of the event and chief technology officer at Eliason Media, said that ideas range from quirky little projects to heavily researched concepts. Between 10 and 15 of the ideas pitched will be chosen.

Then, the matchmaking begins.

“They might have 80 percent of it, and someone else in the room will have that other 20 percent,” said Christian Renaud, principal at StartupCity Des Moines and Startup Weekend judge, “That’s the benefit of Startup Weekend.”

Launched last fall, StartupCity Des Moines mentors upcoming tech companies and hosts several events per week. Renaud described it as a “clubhouse” for the Des Moines tech community. He said that hosting Startup Weekend in that established environment will add to the event.

“A lot of the energy and community of what’s going on in the entrepreneurial community right now is happening here,” he said.

Any type of business idea is welcome at Startup Weekend, but it tends to be heavily technology based because those concepts are easier to execute in a short time.

On Sunday evening, the startups are presented and a winner is chosen by the panel of five judges. Renaud said viability of the business plan is a major factor when he judges. Nationally, more than 36 percent of Startup Weekend businesses are still going after three months.

Even more often, the relationships formed over the weekend continue. Rosol referred to the process as an “extended interview.”

“A lot of people get the assumption that on Sunday I’m going to leave with a new business,” he said, “One thing that everybody can expect is that they will meet new people.”