Startup Weekend invites ideas for innovative entertainment

Graham Shapley

Building a business takes a lot of work, but more than anything, it takes time. The Fort Collins Startup Weekend sought to accelerate that process.

Six teams worked over 54 hours to create a viable business idea and plot it out to the point that they could feasibly create it for real. They were given access to mentors already working in the business world to share their own experience, and by the end of their allotted time, they had to pit their ideas against one another.

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On Feb. 23, the Nancy Richardson Design Center played host to dozens of enterprising entrepreneurs and industry professionals to see what they’d come up with. 

“Basically, if you’ve ever thought about entrepreneurship and want to start your own business, this will give you a really wonderful crash course,” said Rachel Roberts, the assistant director of the Institute for Entrepreneurship with the CSU College of Business. 

Each of the teams poured all of their effort into their pitches, apparent by the shadows under the eyes of many participants.

Mitchell Peterson shows off his team’s app, Love Gram, at the Fort Collins Startup Weekend. (Graham Shapley | The Collegian)

“Everybody basically powered through the entire time,” said Mitchell Peterson, a member of the team that created Love Gram, an app intended to help people give meaningful gifts by connecting them to artists who could be commissioned to paint, write or perform music for their loved ones. “One of the people staying in my hotel room went out after midnight last night to get even more interviews. I’m working on three hours of sleep.”

Of course, these pitches were not going to be complete in any way. Fifty-four hours is a short time to take a business from idea to pitch, but the event was more intended as a jumping-off point.

“They’re giving a demonstration of what their idea could be,” said Mark Madic, a Colorado State University graduate who acted as the facilitator for the event through Techstars, a business that coordinates entrepreneurship events around the world. 

The pitches were judged on how possible the businesses might be, both in the current market and as a plan for a future business, as well as the execution and design work that went into the pitches.

“You’ve got to have the dedication and the organization,” Peterson said. “You’ve got to have the focus to not be too ambitious.”

The theme of the event was music, food and beverage, prompting participants to work their businesses into the theme. However, it wasn’t strictly necessary for the competition to stay on-theme. There was a great deal of diversity in the themes and problems.

Everybody basically powered through the entire time. One of the people staying in my hotel room went out after midnight last night to get even more interviews. I’m working on about Three hours of sleep”  – Mitchell Peterson, entrepreneur

One team pitched GRWTH, a mental health journaling app intended to provide customized journals tailored to the users’ liking, whereas another group created Drink Drop, a program that would have bars using drones to deliver drinks.

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Cow Tipping created a way to feel less guilty about eating meat by providing a method of donation for every burger eaten, while Hideouts helped travelers find hangout spots that a non-local might not know about.

Justin Schroeder lowers a drone from the second floor of the Nancy Richardson Design Center as part of the pitch for his team’s business, Drink Drop, at the Fort Collins Startup Weekend. (Graham Shapley | Collegian)

“If you put yourself out there and make yourself vulnerable, really good things happen,” said Josh “Shirty” Shirt, a voice-over artist and musician who works in Colorado and spoke at the event. “There’s a whole life and a whole world out there.” 

Putting oneself out there wasn’t as easy as it might sound, though. The teams went through extensive processes of customer discovery, gathering data through real-world interactions with strangers.

“(Customer discovery) is probably the most troubling thing,” Roberts said. “It’s really uncomfortable to just get out there and randomly talk to people on the streets. However, when people get out there and make those first few connections, you can really see the light bulbs go off.”

The winner of the competition was the group who created Su Chef, an app for cataloging and using the ingredients bought at the grocery store that otherwise may have gone forgotten in the back of the fridge. They were given four free tickets to any event at the Mission Ballroom in Denver, as well as access to mentoring through Google Cloud and the Institute for Entrepreneurship.

Techstars will also sponsor the Fort Collins Startup Week, an event promoting entrepreneurship in Fort Collins from Feb. 24-28.

According to Roberts, this event has been quite successful in past years, even for those who didn’t win. In 2019, of the five groups competing, four of them went on to pursue their ideas and build them into actual businesses.

It might be worth keeping an eye out for flying cocktails in the near future.

Graham Shapley can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com and on Twitter @shapleygraham