RVA Startup Weekend 2013

It’s about trying your hand at building a business from the ground up.

Do you think you have the grit for 54 hours of nonstop business building? That’s what over 80 entrepreneurs, designers, coders, and marketers will be doing beginning Friday night, July 26th during RVA Startup Weekend. And even though there are lots of great prizes (including 804RVA coworking memberships, legal advice, logo design, and branding assistance to help get your startup off the ground) success isn’t just about winning.

“It’s not like you’re going to definitely build a business in 54 hours, but you’re going to get really good practice at seeing if this is worth doing,” said Larkin Garbee, co-chair of this year’s event and owner of 804RVA. “You’re in a room full of other people who are crazy enough to spend 54 hours working on ideas for a weekend.”

Startup Weekend, a global nonprofit that sponsors hundreds of weekend events like the one in Richmond, helps empower local entrepreneurs to develop the startup community within their city. During the event, teams organize and develop a business design and work towards a five minute pitch presentation that could turn into a successful business down the road.

Over a thousand startup weekends events have been conducted across the country in 478 cities. Over a third of Startup Weekend startups are still operating after three months, according to their website, and over 80 percent of participants say they plan to continue working with their team after the weekend.

RVA Startup Weekend debuted in Richmond last September with the help of Garbee and a few friends.

“For anyone that has an early stage idea it’s one of the best things you can do because an idea will stay an idea forever until you actually execute it,” Garbee said.

After attending a Startup Weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia in early 2012, both Garbee and her partner, Greg Hofbauer, were revved up and ready to bring the concept back to their own Richmond community.

“More than anything this event is about building your network in the startup community; while the entire event is around the concept of coming up with an idea … the bigger goal is really helping these participants know they have a network [in the community],” said Hofbauer, this year’s event chair and CEO of Nimblepitch.

With only a few months of planning and a small handful of volunteers, the weekend was able to bring over 80 participants and set the bar high. Several projects went on to create actual companies including Speakeasy, last year’s winner. The company’s smartphone app (to be publicly debuted soon) helps restaurants and customers communicate with one another. The team’s concept placed in the Tech Challenge Hanover last fall, won the Greater Richmond Chamber’s second annual i.e* Start-up Competition this past April, and recently completed the Lighthouse Labs accelerator program.

“For me, is all about the experience,” said Speakeasy co-founder Jacques Fuentes.

But the technology-focused event isn’t just for coders and developers, Hofbauer said. “It’s really about proving you can work as hard as the weekend asks you to work. It’s about digging in and especially for people who’ve been on the fence about ‘I’ve got this idea I don’t know if I’m a good fit for startup world,'” he said.

This year’s event will be held at the offices of CRT Tanaka and expects to draw over 80 participants. Registration is open till the day of the event and participant tickets cost $99, with $20 tickets for the Sunday night pitch presentation at the University of Richmond.

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Tips for surviving a Startup Weekend:

1. Pitch an idea. Any idea

“I think you should pitch something, not just because you think you have a good idea … it’s kind of a way to get used to pitching yourself. Because if you do build something you’re going to have to do that a lot,” Fuentes said.

2. Be open to evolution

“You should realize that the idea can easily change into something else and that’s generally what’s going to happen. You might start out with a poor idea and it changes a little bit as you guys talk through the weekend … So don’t be as close-minded to the initial idea, be willing to accept that it will change,” Fuentes said.

3. Meet new people

“I think finding a good team or good people to work with is incredibly important while finding a good idea that you’re interested in…Talk to people before they start doing pitches to find out who you gel with,” Fuentes said.

4. Get out of your comfort zone

“It’s just a really exciting event. I would encourage folks to step out of their comfort zone and give it a try. I’m not going to sugar coat it, you work your butt off throughout the weekend but it’s unlike anything you’ve ever done before. You are so exhausted by the end of the weekend but on such a high from what you were able to accomplish that for the next few days you’re going to be giving some serious thought on how you can do the next great thing,” Hofbauer said.

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