“Startup Weekend” Creates Excitement on the Hilltop

By Ken Klotz, Director,

Turner Center Programs

Seventy-two aspiring entrepreneurs participated in Startup Weekend November 15-17.  The Turner Center, Startup Peoria, and Bradley’s Turner School of Entrepreneurship and Innovation co-hosted the first Startup Weekend event held in the Peoria area.  Student and non-student participants with varied skill sets attended the event, including software developers, web designers, marketing specialists, graphic artists, and business managers.   

Startup Weekend is a worldwide phenomenon, with events having been held in more than 1,000 cities and more than 100 countries. These 54-hour events start with idea pitches during the Friday kickoff dinner.  Participants had 60 seconds to explain their idea, hoping to interest others possessing the skills needed to develop their concept.  The remainder of Friday evening involved building teams that work throughout the weekend.

Saturday and Sunday were devoted to creating business models, customer identification, idea validation, and building a minimum viable product.  Participants were given short training sessions on Lean Startup Methods, Business Model Canvas, and Pitch Essentials.  Experienced business coaches were available on Saturday to guide teams through challenging tasks. 

All of the hard work was showcased on Sunday evening where teams gave a 5-minute pitch to a panel of judges.  Prizes given to the three best teams included professional services from attorneys, accountants, and marketing consultants.  The winning team also received free office furniture and printing services.  MuzMee Startup Weekend winner

The winning team was “MuzMee”.  Their idea was to develop a social media/crowdfunding website where the community decides what musical acts it wants to see, instead of event promoters.  Team members included Bradley students Maggie Hunter, Katie Jousma, and Harsh Shah.  The team was able to demonstrate the website and smartphone application they built during the weekend. They already have investors in discussions with them.

The second place was “TagUp”, a social media website that facilitates finding new friends with similar interests for those new to a city.  Third place was awarded to “SoCo”, a social connectivity website where users can meet and learn from others who have indicated their areas of expertise on the website.  Both TagUp and SoCo were concepts created and led by Bradley students.