I attended because I wanted to support this great event in whatever way I could. It was also an opportunity for me to learn more about startup events and to see Coe students in action. An additional benefit was learning about NewBoCo, which is an incredible resource for Iowa, based in Cedar Rapids, with a mission to accelerate world-changing ideas from Iowa. I was really impressed with the mentors who volunteered their time to assist students in developing their ideas, including Sumit Nijhawan '93, CEO of Ruffalo Noel Levitz, and David Mehaffy '76.
In the initial pitching round, I participated and gave a one-minute pitch for a product idea (a magnetic back-up camera for older cars which transmits to a phone app). I discovered soon after I had pitched that this product had already been invented. That was one of the great things about the event: you could pitch an idea and get instant feedback from the group. Then, if you decided to go forward with the idea, you had to convince a team (at least one other person) to work with you. This format provided a chance to view your own idea objectively and to compare it with others' ideas.
As a librarian, the research phase was great. I chatted with each of the eight teams about some of the questions they were struggling to find the answers to. I tried to find each group an industry report from our new IBISWorld Database subscription (you'll need to login or be on campus to use it). Then, in the time I had left, I started looking for other resources--scholarly articles, dissertations, patents, etc. One day isn't enough time to dig deeply or read thoroughly the published research, so the time constraint really added a new dimension to the work. The students were also encouraged to complete some original research as part of the process--go out and survey their target consumers, for example. One group cut up pens to calculate the weight of the plastic being wasted in disposable pens. Another group surveyed 55 students about the ride-sharing services they currently use. A third group reached out to Iowa's Secretary of State and got positive feedback about their voting app. A fourth group 3D printed a prototype of their fitness tracker in the Library's MakerStudio. It was incredible what they were able to achieve in less than 24 hours.
I told a couple of groups that I would be first in line as a customer. I'm really looking forward to having a device on my bike which tracks how many miles I'm riding without me needing to get out my phone to start a tracker. I'm also excited about a restaurant ratings app which learns from your ratings and will suggest a local restaurant each month where I can get a free meal for a low monthly fee (I get paralyzed by choice and hate wasting time reading reviews, so I usually eat at the same place over and over). And I'd love an app which simplifies the process of doing research about local candidates before I go to the polls.
Overall, the inaugural startup weekend was a fantastic success and the Center for Creativity & Careers hopes to offer the event again next year.
More details about the eventOn October 26-27, Coe College's Center for Creativity & Careers co-director's Andrea Kann & Barb Tupper organized a 24-hour innovation event "designed to infuse entrepreneurship into the Coe Experience". The event was lead by David Tominsky '98, the Accelerator Managing Director at NewBoCo (or New Bohemian Innovation Collaborative). Students were able to attend at no charge thanks to funding from David Mehaffy '76, with support from Coe College Center for Creativity & Careers and the Coe College Alumni Association.
Friday evening started out with some practice pitches before students, mentors, and audience members had one minute each to pitch real ideas. Twenty-two ideas were pitched, voted on, and winnowed down to ten ideas. Participants could then choose a team/idea to work on, which resulted in the formation of eight teams.
The teams worked together Friday evening and all day Saturday to put a plan into action. They received coaching from alumni who served as mentors, and research help from a librarian. They created prototypes and presentations of their products and were encouraged to go out and survey their target market. Starting at 4 PM on Saturday each team had 5 minutes to pitch to a panel of four judges.
The Teams & their Ideas
Promoting Genius (Dominic Slouca, Yuulin An, Anushree Dhawan, Donald Bell)
A platform for employers to search for employees
ScoopMe (JT Henry, Brooke Ransom, Joshua Gonzales, Kyle Goranson)
A free ride service for students, by students
Safe Haven Coffee Shop (Leah Shaffer, Erika Perlewitz, Ha Nguyen, Morgan Hendricks, Karly Arnaiz-Palacios)
A study space to study safe, stress-free, 24-7
PenLess (Derek Benavidez, Quincy Markham)
A refillable ink pen mail-order service designed to reduce plastic waste from disposable pens.
New Age Communication (Haley Luna, Matthew Siegel, Jeremy Lewis, Grant Finneman)
Service to facilitate intergenerational communication in the workplace
PolPlace: Revolutionizing the way you vote local (Sabrina Gallardo, Bailey Finken, Stephen Green, MacKenzie Gustafson, Jalisa Hunter)
A user-friendly app to explore non-partisan information on local elections and candidates
LOOP or Live Optimized Online Partner (Christian Chiffy, Collin Flynn)
A one-button route/mileage tracker for your bike
Ratings for You (Ian Slagle, Tomo Takebuchi)
A restaurant review platform
David Tominsky shared that his least favorite part of the weekend was announcing the judges choices for prizes. He believes that all teams did a great job and just because they aren't named as "winners" doesn't make them losers.
- $1,000 was awarded to ScoopMe
- $500 was awarded to PolPlace