Start It Up
College campuses for decades have been hotbeds for innovation. Did you Google something today? Or use FedEx to ship a package recently? Both were conceived on a college campus. And as almost everyone knows, a dorm room was the birthplace of Facebook. Ideas with a desire to push the limits, combined with energy for long hours and caffeinated nights, can result in extraordinary business success.
CSUMB is kindling this spirit of innovation with events like the Startup Weekend, an annual event that brings together community and student entrepreneurs from CSUMB and other institutions to the University Center for a 54-hour, intensive, hands-on experience in entrepreneurship. The event was held earlier this year.
Startup Weekend began with open-mic pitches on Friday night, where attendees are encouraged to bring their best ideas and inspire others to join their team. Teams then formed around the top ideas (as deemed by popular vote). After that, it was a marathon of business model creation, coding, designing and market validation. The Red Bull and coffee flowed as student entrepreneurs brainstormed their projects.
“It's about learning by doing – and a great way for students to experience the chaos of creating a new business from scratch,” said Brad Barbeau, associate professor in the CSUMB College of Business and the executive director for The Institute for Innovation and Economic Development, which organizes Startup Weekend.
This year at Startup Weekend, 85 participants pitched 38 business ideas. Twelve of those ideas received the popular vote and were worked on through the weekend. Teams formed around these 12 surviving ideas to create the business prototypes for the Sunday night pitches in front of local entrepreneurial leaders, which provided critical feedback.
The following prototypes were evaluated:
• College Car - a student based Air B&B car rental service
• Our Sommelier - wine pairing mobile application for millennials
• My Releaf - connects medical marijuana patients with ideal strains for their symptoms and tells where it can be found locally
• Tinker – allows users to learn how to build hardware interactively for free
• Front Man - app that forms a network connection between venues, bands and fans for scheduling of gigs
• Stop Slop - app for connecting the community to local government to identify hazardous environmental areas for locals
• JamCloud - social voting app for music at parties
• GreenSuite - sustainable student home setup that is convenient, time saving, and affordable
• FITNEX - a fitness scanning machine
• Solar Rail: MAPR - personalized public transportation by rail
• Verbose Lingo - specialized online language training for businesses large and small
• StyleHit - artificial intelligence for men's fashion advice
A panel of four judges picked the top three business prototypes. First place went to JamCloud, followed by My Releaf and Solar Rail. The crowd favorite was Stop Slop.
JamCloud is the brainchild of Brandon Geoffroy, who led a team that included four CSUMB students that finalized the concept and technical details. The social music app would allow anyone attending a party or gathering with music to instantly create a playlist for everyone present to add, vote, and listen.
“The Startup Weekend experience is invaluable for student entrepreneurs, allowing people with entrepreneur mindsets who lack opportunity to dive into the start-up world to meet like-minded people and begin their first venture,” said Geoffroy. “This incredible event also provides networking opportunities and promotes building relationships with people who share similar interests in specific industries.”
Startup Weekend was the first step for several business prototypes. JamCloud and three others, My Releaf, Solar Rail and Tinker, went on to become finalists in the Startup Challenge, which follows Startup Weekend in May of this year. Tinker, the online interactive platform for learning computer hardware, took first place in the student division of Startup Challenge, with a prize of $1,500.
Startup Challenge, like Startup Weekend, is organized by the College of Business’ Institute for Innovation and Economic Development. The Institute focuses on the need for more job opportunities in the region and offers programs that work toward developing entrepreneurs and supporting innovative ideas that lead to new business opportunities.