Participants from around the globe ‘build’ companies in 54 hours
Sacred Heart University hosted the first virtual Techstars Startup Weekend in April, a 54-hour event with 25 participants from around the globe developing business ideas from concept through a final company presentation.
Originally, the event was scheduled to take place on Sacred Heart’s West Campus in March at its Jack Welch College of Business & Technology. The pandemic and need for social distancing changed that, so the event was moved online. The virtual nature of the weekend enabled entrepreneurially minded individuals from around the United States, Bangladesh, Peru, Nigeria and the Ukraine to participate.
I’ve been a Startup Weekend facilitator since 2014 and have traveled to support events across the U.S. and beyond. The largest accomplishment and question proved with this virtual event was that an online program is capable of producing the same spectacular results as an in-person event.
-Chris Chang, Project Manager of Techstars.
Thirteen ideas were pitched at SHU, ultimately breaking out into seven teams to work with mentors and develop companies. Those teams and projects were:
- No Surface Left Behind—a UV light-based disinfection technology and tracking system for use in K-12 classrooms
- Level5—a gamified mobile/web platform that would encourage users to support local businesses
- iVOTE—a platform that would provide political accountability.
- Tashua Financials—a Generation Z-run proprietary education and trading firm
- Virtual Science Labs—digital systems like virtual reality and augmented reality that enable virtual learning in classrooms
- Travel Booster—a way for users to upgrade hotel, flight and car rentals for a monthly subscription fee
- EQ—a learning studio and consulting agency that would provide targeted emotional intelligence training
After company presentations on April 19, the judges awarded No Surface Left Behind first place, Tashua Financial second place and Level5 third place.
“I’ve been aware of Startup Weekend for a long time,” said Brian Romansky, group leader of the winning No Surface Left Behind. “The commitment of tying up your whole weekend was always a bit of a hurdle, but doing it virtually seemed like a great opportunity.”
“Having the time and the intense effort around it helped shape an idea from a vague notion that I’ve had in the back of my mind to something actionable and specific,” Romansky said. “I have reached out to a personal contact to see if there could be funding for such a system.”
Despite the late hours and hard work, Romansky said he would highly recommend this event to others. “The energy and focus are invigorating. It’s refreshing, and it renews one’s interest in innovation,” he said.
“Entrepreneurship will be more important than ever to our business graduates in the coming years. This pandemic is causing so much economic destruction, and it is natural to feel sad about that,” said Martha Crawford, dean of Sacred Heart University’s Jack Welch College of Business & Technology. “But as business people, we must also recognize that this destruction will translate into new business opportunities for the savvy entrepreneur. At the Welch College of Business & Technology, we are partnering with TechStars to give students and young entrepreneurs the opportunity to hone their skills. This first online startup weekend was a great success.”
Sacred Heart and Techstars plan to conduct more Startup Weekends during the shutdown. “There will be another one later this month,” said Crawford. “We hope that even more budding entrepreneurs will participate. Join us! Become a Pioneer!”Register here for the next Startup Weekend on May 29-31