Judges assess student business pitches at EDGE

photo+courtesy+of+Alexa+Rosenberg
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Judges assess student business pitches at EDGE

photo courtesy of Alexa Rosenberg

photo courtesy of Alexa Rosenberg

photo courtesy of Alexa Rosenberg

photo courtesy of Alexa Rosenberg

Halle Bonner, Contributing Writer

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Kelly Kent, a freshman majoring in business, has had trouble determining the worth of her business ideas or products in the past, but she left Startup Weekend with tips to sharpen her ideas.

Techstars Startup Weekend is a way for aspiring entrepreneurs to present their ideas for new products or solutions to a problem to a team of people and get feedback from a panel of 10 expert judges. Judges included entrepreneurs, professors, business advisors and co-founders, among others.  

“What has always been an obstacle for me is not knowing whether or not my ideas are good enough, especially just being a freshman,” Kent said. “Attending the Startup event was a way for me to get feedback from people who are experienced in this field of study. The experts there also gave me helpful critiques that would make the presentation of my product and the product itself better and more valid in the market.”

From March 1-3, Startup hosted its sixth weekend in Tuscaloosa at The EDGE. The event is hosted by The University of Alabama Culverhouse College of Commerce’s STEM Path to the MBA program.

“Startup Weekends happen all over the world, and the first one was held in Tuscaloosa back in 2014,” said Josh Sahib, program manager for Alabama Entrepreneurship Institute. “This was the first time the event was held with Alabama Entrepreneurship Institute, serving as lead organizer and hosting the event at EDGE.”

The weekend began on Friday night with mic pitches, which is where attendees presented their best ideas to the other attendees, trying to inspire them to join their team. Over the course of the weekend, the teams focused on developing customers, market validation and building a working product.

Wrapping up the event on Sunday evening, teams presented their products to a panel of local judges who decided which idea would be the most likely to succeed in the real world. The winners received prizes, feedback and support from experts in the surrounding area.

“We had roughly 30 participants who pitched over 15 business ideas,” Sahib said. “After participants voted on Friday evening, these ideas were formed into six teams that competed over the weekend. Throughout the weekend, our facilitator and group of coaches provided guidance to help the teams further develop their business ideas. The winning team was FRNDQuest, an app that seeks to promote more meaningful conversations.”

This event was not limited to UA students. Anyone in the community who had an idea or wanted to be a part of developing a new product was welcome to attend.

“All Techstars Startup Weekend events follow the same basic model: anyone is welcome to pitch their startup idea and receive feedback from their peers,” according to the Startup website. “Teams form around the top ideas (as determined by popular vote) and embark on a three-day frenzy of business model creation, coding, designing and market validation. The weekend culminates with presentations in front of local entrepreneurial leaders with another opportunity for critical feedback!”

“I think what students can gain the most from this weekend if they attend is hands-on experience and connections,” said Mitchell Long, a freshman majoring in business. “Students are actually presenting product ideas to judges and are getting feedback from them. This will familiarize students with working on a team while also hearing from experts in the business industry.”

The Startup coordinators and the winning teams from the weekend are already looking to the future.

“Most of the Startup Weekend teams will be moving forward with their ideas and plan to pitch at the upcoming Aldag Business Plan competition,” Sahib said. “This will be a great opportunity for these ideas to transition into more formal businesses.”