In June, I embarked on a journey that would change my life and the entrepreneurial ecosystem at CSU. This is my story.
Over February 19, the Institute of Entrepreneurship wrapped up hosting the first 3 Day Startup Weekend in the state of Colorado. Forty participants were selectively chosen out of an applicant pool of 80 and forced to create a foundation for an early stage start up, all over the course of the weekend.
My role in the program? I was the lead organizer bringing the accelerated program to CSU, with a global alumni base all over six continents with a collective capital investment of $79 million. I reached out to them over the summer and then to the College of Business, where I worked closely in writing grants to garner funding. The process to plan the weekend took seven months, but the prestige of being the first program in the state of Colorado and the Rocky Mountain region to host the program was extremely beneficial to the startup community of Fort Collins.
Forty students ranging from a diverse background of freshmen majoring in business to PhD candidates in aerospace engineering from CU Boulder checked in to the Bohemian Auditorium February 19, to execute practice over theory in starting a company.
“I think that the most beneficial thing was that it was a different point of entry for students we did not have programs for,” said Jessica Rawley, assistant director at the Institute of Entrepreneurship. “We had programs for students who already had ideas. But if they didn’t have an idea or know how to get started, 3DS was a program that allowed students to explore entrepreneurship without getting too committed to it.”
The participants were given a rundown of how the weekend would look like. Then we broke them into groups of eight where they would choose the two best ideas out of that group that they would like to pursue. Flown in from Austin, Texas, was Alexis Taylor, a program manager for the startup based nonprofit who facilitated during the weekend.
Participants learned the concepts of agile development, minimal viable product, customer development, lean canvas, and how to pitch to investors over the weekend. On Sunday when they pitched to an esteemed panel of judges, entrepreneurs and innovators in their own right, they went from an idea that was barely developed to a solid business concept. It was inspiring to say the least.
“3DS created an energetic entrepreneur environment to network with motivated individuals and build connections with potential business partners, mentors, and resources,” said Jasmine Nejad, biomedical engineering PhD student. “I think that gave me a solid foundation and direction in pursuing my business ideas after the program.”
BriteBulb, Blue Penguin, Laborjack, Dizo, the Space Research Company, and PocketPass are the companies that came out of the weekend. As with participants, the diversity of their purposes are astounding. Comparing PocketPass, a new tailgating game for fraternity brothers with the Space Research Company, an innovative microgravity experimental platform, just shows how broad of a spectrum entrepreneurs can fall on. Most are now pursuing investor options and beta launches.
The program is a really great experience as many people don’t know how to start, and the program really reinforces the idea of starting, something I can speak from experience.
Since the summer of 2015, I have became an executive of a small startup called Local Athletix, which was started by two friends, was flown to Colombia by Club El Nogal and the Universidad Del Rosario to guest lecture a 3DS program down there, and consulted businesses while working to launch my own.
The project I personally am working on is called The Blubird Collective, which would be an multi-faceted creative platform highlighting athletic, art, travel, and leisure. Part of it stems from my experience writing for Rocky Mountain Student Media and my duties for marketing at Local. These are no boast; far from it actually. I am still far from where I want to be. But, it goes to show how if you are willing to put in the work and force yourself through a process, as the 3DS motto illustrated, it pays off.
“It was an opportunity for our network to get connected with CSU on another level. We have usually longer time commitments,” said Rawley, “This was a real opportunity for our mentors to see a new group of students, different engagement, and different ideas.”
3 Day Startup was a weekend that really provides people with the motivation to get them going.
“The students were really open to the business model canvas, especially if they weren’t business students,” said Mark Madic, student coordinator at the Institute of Entrepreneurship. “The customer discovery segment was the most important part of the weekend.”
The Institute offers a plethora of resources for anyone looking to get into entrepreneurship. Coming up is the CSU Collegiate Challenge, a business pitch challenge taking place in the symposium with 14 student-led companies pitching to win $20,000. This gives students the opportunity to showcase their ideas and have a chance to win money to make it a reality.
With the success of this start up weekend, there is no doubt that it will come back next year for the next round of eager entrepreneurs to get the push they need to make their dreams a reality.