Ideas tested at Startup Weekend

Teams of entrepreneurs tested 47 ideas Friday through Sunday at Startup Weekend – Milwaukee, a 54-hour workshop hosted at Marquette’s Engineering Hall.

About 120 participants gathered to develop start-up ideas under the guidance of experienced mentors in the field. A panel of judges assessed final presentations for awards based on each team’s business model, execution and customer validation.

Matt McCordio, co-organizer of Startup Weekend – Milwaukee and 2012 alumnus, said 15 to 20 Marquette students participated.

Startup Weekend, which was created three years ago, is already a global grassroots movement of entrepreneurs – the largest community of its kind with 400 events in 100 countries globally in 2011, according to the organization’s website. Of the 60 other Startup Weekends hosted worldwide this weekend, Milwaukee’s event was one of the biggest, McCordio said.

The top award went to the team that pioneered groupmyfunds.com, a website concept that allows a group of people to pool their finances to avoid any single person fronting large costs, such as hotel rentals. The team earned reduced-price legal services from event co-sponsor Godfrey & Kahn, S.C., the chance to pitch their model to local business accelerator Gener8tor and the opportunity to apply for the Global Start-Up Battle, according to McCordio. Of the 15 teams that advanced to the final awards round, one Marquette student qualified – Jesse Maier, a graduate student in the College of Business.

McGee Young, an associate professor and entrepreneur faculty fellow at Marquette, said he mentored several teams this weekend, including the one that created Dineintime, a smartphone app that monitors waiting list times at restaurants so that its users may go shopping or wait at a bar in the meantime. When the team did research in the Historic Third Ward to gauge potential interest from restaurants, Young said the management responded favorably.

“When you have such a short time frame and you want to deliver something by the end of the weekend, we try to help the teams focus on the best product they can deliver in that time frame and allow others to imagine what might come next,” Young said.

Matt Howard – event judge, co-founder of UConnect, Inc. and founder of BrewCityBites.com – said he was impressed that the third-place team, an error-tracking software engineering program called Debugged.io, was able to secure an account during the three-day event.

“Entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone – you’ve really got to go for it and put your mind to it,” Howard said. “A lot of people talk about good ideas, but they don’t go for it.”

Howard said he worked 40 hours each week to start his company as a full-time student at the University of Wisconsin – Madison in addition to working a part-time job.

“It’s easier to do it in college because not as much is on the line,” Howard said. “College is kind of the perfect time you can do a startup on the side.”

McCordio started skillspipeline.com, a professional services firm that trades referrals and contact resources, after he graduated.

“My first company failed, as most startups do, and I learned a lot from it,” McCordio said.

Young’s experiences as founder of H20 Score and co-founder of VeloCause led him to a similar conclusion.

“Don’t be afraid of it – a lot of times, we are afraid to get it wrong and that if we don’t get it right the first time, we won’t get another chance,” Young said. “[During Startup Weekend], we can start a company and end it in three days and take that experience and go to the next level with it. The successful company will come along – you have to try and try.”

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