First, I would like to apologize for not writing in a while. I know you guys check in every day, just waiting on the edge of your seat for us to post something new about the cool things going on in Tampa. Well– your wait is over, we are back and ready to divulge. So dig in.
One of the reasons we’ve been taking a brief hiatus is because of this glorious event called Startup Weekend Tampa. I want to preface this post by saying that I’m a little biased when it comes to this event because Ryan is one of the organizers, but after volunteering for the past 2 Startup Weekends- it is definitely worth telling you guys about.
Startup Weekend is a global movement dedicated to teaching entrepreneurs the steps it takes to found and launch a startup. This year’s event was held at Keiser University on Waters Ave. Having already volunteered at a Startup Weekend I kind of knew what to expect, at least on the volunteering end. I am in no way equipped with skills necessary to create and develop a startup, but I am equipped to sit in the audience and listen to the awesome ideas these individuals had come up with. But I am getting ahead of myself.
Friday night was the kick off to Startup Weekend. This year the event was held during Global Startup Battle Week in which over 100 cities all over the county would be holding an event. One aspect of the weekend I could participate in was the #hashtag battle. This meant every tweet with the hashtag #swtampa would be counted in an effort to have the most tweets of the weekend. So we became tweeting and instagramming fiends for 3 days straight. The entire event took 54 hours from start to the final pitch.
Each person with an idea gave their pitch, after, the people whose ideas had the most votes formed teams. Some teams ranged from 2 to 8 people and in the end 13 startups made it to final pitches. During the weekend the teams were treated to meals from local favorites like Datz, Beef O’ Bradys, Buca di Peppo and Buddy Brew kept the teams going with coffee all weekend. Also, a number of speakers came in to tell their stories of failure and success, give advice and answer questions. Besides the helping hand lent by the speakers, teams were also able to spend time with a number of different coaches that were available all weekend. Mayor Bob Buckhorn even stopped by to see what the teams had in the works.
Once 5pm on Sunday hit, it was time for the final pitches. They would be judged by 6 judges based on customer validation, business model and execution. Being that it was my first time hearing the final pitches (last event I was unable to volunteer on Sunday) it was amazing to see how in just 54 hours their original ideas had become real. The pitches ranged from very serious to quite humorous and each one was great. In the end it was EXMO (Experience More) who came out on top. Their idea is “an interactive and engaging platform facilitating communication between event organizers, vendors, sponsors and attendees” They even did a skit as part of their final pitch to help the audience better understand their idea.
I was only a volunteer and I thought it was a long weekend, so I can only imagine how the teams felt. Despite spending almost 24 hours of my weekend at the event it was a great experience. Even though 70% of the weekend I had no idea what anyone was talking about, the other 30% I learned a lot- including the meaning of “pivoting”, how to do some improv exercises and all the hard work that goes into planning and executing an event of this magnitude. I was so lucky to be a part of the event and can’t wait to see what the teams come up with next time!