Techies craft dreams over the weekend


Plenty of would-be entrepreneurs think they have the next great business idea.

The third Las Vegas Startup Weekend, which begins today and runs through Sunday , is a 54-hour event designed to put those ideas to the test.

"Startup Weekend just encourages people to fix problems and stop complaining," said event organizer Shavonnah Tiera. "That's the essence of Startup Weekend: Do something. Fix something. Build something."

Some 75 techies will meet, mingle and get down to business at the Switch's new InNEVation Center, with the mission of taking their ideas from pitch to launch by Sunday evening. Entrepreneurs with varying skill sets (coding, marketing, finance, etc.) team up and turn ideas into companies.

Startup Weekends take place all over the world. Las Vegas shares this weekend with events in Seattle, India and Poland. According to statistics compiled by the Seattle-based parent organization, more than 36 percent of startups that compete in Startup Weekend after three months are still working together to launch their companies.

The event is not exclusively focused on technology companies, but the two previous Startup Weekends drew mainly those involved in the Vegas Tech scene.

Smartphone applications Rumgr and Counterless successfully launched after Startup Weekend, though neither company won their respective competitions. Rumgr even picked up $500,000 from in-seed funding from Zappos.com CEO Tony Hsieh; Zappos' Fred Mossler; Zappos technology chief Arun Rajan and Resort Gaming Group CEO Andrew Donner.

While there's no guarantee that a Startup Weekend company will attract investor interest, this time around, startups will be competing for more than just the cash prize and free legal advice past winners have received. Crowdfunder.com and the Vegas Tech Fund, a $50 million investment pool backed by the Downtown Project, are putting an up to $500,000 investment prize on the table.

Entrepreneurs competing at Startup Weekend will create profiles on Crowdfunder.com, a Los Angeles-based crowdfunding platform that is preparing to launch when the Securities and Exchange Commission finalizes its rules on equity-based crowdfunding. The public will vote on the best startup profiles. The five top-rated companies on Crowdfunder.com and five companies selected by the Vegas Tech Fund will pitch at a Sept. 14 live event for the investment.

The winner of Startup Weekend will not necessarily win the ultimate prize. But Crowdfunder.com CEO Chance Barnett said they will get a boost with a profile built out by the Crowdfunder team and a high-end video pitch produced by the site. Barnett will also provide mentorship to the Startup Weekend winner, which will give the company a leg up in the contest.

"The contest is really a way to galvanize excitement and work and focus on the Vegas community so the startups can enlist the support and get the attention of people in the community and compete for an up to $500,000 investment prize from the Vegas Tech Fund," Barnett said.

Entrepreneurs interested in attending and competing at Startup Weekend can register for $99 at lasvegas.startupweekend.org. The event kicks off at 6:30 p.m. today at the Switch InNEVation Center at 6795 Edmond St.

Contact reporter Caitlin McGarry at cmcgarry@review journal.com or 702-387-5273.

 

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