A Weekend That Could Last A Lifetime

Peoria’s first ever Startup Weekend took place over the past weekend. For those who haven’t been following this blog, or the startup world, there is a strong tech movement that is emerging in Peoria.

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What the heck is a Startup Weekend? Startup Weekend is a global network of passionate leaders and entrepreneurs on a mission to inspire, educate, and empower individuals, teams and communities. It’s where people can openly come share ideas, form teams, and launch startups. Don’t believe me? Learn more.

Startup Peoria, which has been promoting the idea of a more tech-focused Peoria for almost a year now, has been connecting people to the movement. In conjunction with Bradley University, they hosted the event as bellwether to see where opportunities and what ideas exist in the local community. The results were pretty amazing.

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As someone who just volunteered to help out what I see to be a major component in what it takes to build a resilient city, I was not only pleasantly surprised, but reminded that there is so much untapped potential just hanging out in Peoria.

The event kicked-off on Friday with dinner, debriefing, words of wisdom from guest speakers Dan Reus and Anna Palmer, followed by pitches from the attendees. While many great ideas were presented, the audience of fellow entrepreneurs narrowed things down by a vote of post-it notes to a field of nine. With many ideas not making it passed the first round of cuts, these competitors became peers helping build onto others potential startup.

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After a whirlwind first night, a long day was ahead for the newly formed teams. Once they got themselves prepared for moving their concept forward, they sought advice and assistance from “coaches.” The coaches ranged from seasoned professionals in their field all the way to young entrepreneurs and people looking to push the best out of raw talent. I had the pleasure to stand in as a coach and moving from room to room you could see that this is the moment some have been waiting for.

Indeed, it became apparent that each concept had great energy and on sheer will alone, they were going to make the best of this weekend even if their idea wasn’t the one picked at the very end.

A statement that I’ll remember for a long time to come came from Jimmie, a man with a plan to create an entrepreneurial magazine. I phoned a friend who has the longest running set of print magazines in the area, and somehow convinced him into spilling some advice to Jimmie. You could see his wheels spinning in his mind as he said to the room,

I’ve been waiting for this opportunity to talk to people and build my idea.

To me, that’s what it is all about. While a competition in theory, Startup Weekend functions more like a collaborative think-tank on steroids. By the end of Saturday, you could see that this workout of the mind had pushed some to their limits. It was a totally exhaustive process that I can honestly say I was jealous of. I’ve had plenty of crazy ideas, but no team of like-minded people to cultivate them with.

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As the gut-check of Sunday began, it was time to ask any last minute questions and polish the pitches the teams would be giving to the team of judges.

WAS THIS IDEA GOOD ENOUGH TO WIN?

Hours of thought, energy, and resources have gone into every ounce of idea that came before the judges. Stacked with more support than they have previously ever had, and combined with more knowledge than they had before the weekend started it was time to finally see which team would shine.

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One by one, the pitches were delivered and the bar was set higher with each one. From top to bottom, the field of startup contestants was stacked. Here is a quick glimpse at the teams and their ideas:

Pitch #1: Real Entrepreneur Magazine – an online entrepreneur magazine with a local focus, bolstered by a monthly print magazine.

Pitch #2: James Learning Center – a study space with in-house child care for students with children.

Pitch #3: Global Talent dot com – a job recruiting website that shuns résumés and pays job seekers when companies view their profile.

Pitch #4: MuzMee – a band and venue connector site that limits promoter involvement using fan demand and crowdfunding, mitigating cost.

Pitch #5: Let the Games Begin – a mentorship program for young students to keep them on the STEAM path. Paid for by corporations.

Pitch #6: My Car Angel app – connects automatic vehicle diagnostics to a phone app that the average driver can understand, act upon.

Pitch #7: TagUp – an activity meetup app for displaced young professionals.

Pitch #8: Bonica Spice Ltd – a spices-of-the-month subscription service.

Pitch #9: SoCo – a connector app based on common individual interests. Website already in beta.

kudos to @startuppeoria on the live play-by-play!

The judges definitely had a tall task ahead of them by deciding who would triumph. Ultimately, a winner had to be chosen, and the award of the first ever Startup Weekend went to MuzMee. Second place went to TagUp, and Third place going to SoCo. Recognition for great ideas is one thing, but what each and every participant of Startup Weekend received was a full-tilt, fast-paced crash course on teamwork and what becoming an entrepreneur is all about.

The MuzMee Team

The MuzMee Team

It was the first of its kind, but certainly not the last. Myself and many others look forward to the next day, weekend, or month of Startup. For MuzMee and those who participated this past weekend, it could be the event that changes their lives. Pretty cool that something positive like that can happen over a weekend.

 

Watch out for our camera phones! Photo credits to Randon Gettys, Jake Hamann & Erik Reader.

This post also appears on The Whiskey City Collaborative check it out here:

 http://www.thewhiskeycity.com/blog/2013/11/19/a-weekend-that-could-last-a-lifetime

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