Traditionally kicking off 43North Week, Buffalo Startup Weekend is an intense, 54-hour event where local entrepreneurs, developers, designers, marketers, product managers, startup enthusiasts, and anyone interested in building a business come together to share ideas, get inspiration, form teams, and launch a startup.
The event, which begins Friday, Sept. 29, and lasts through the final judging on Oct. 1, has been the launching pad for several successful Buffalo startups. Photos of the 2016 event can be seen on 43North’s Facebook Album.
Heads Up, which has recently raised an undisclosed seed round, refined its idea for a wearable safety communications system at the event. “We came into Startup Weekend with an idea for our Heads Up indicator product, we had no clue what it would be used for in particular, how we would build it, or sell it,” says Brendon Dever, founder of the company.
In addition to pulling together teams to inspire startup ideas and companies, Startup Weekend also provides experienced entrepreneur coaches to help the teams. Dever found their advice invaluable. “The mentors provided valuable insight into how to make a business case for this product. Identifying costs, and potential markets to sell into,” he said.
Today, Heads Up has sold its solution to multinational corporations and distributors, and has raised additional funding from private investors. Dever offers advice for those thinking of attending: “Come to Startup Weekend with your ideas on your sleeve. We are often scared into thinking that one needs to protect their ideas, and only discuss them under confidentiality. In my experience, nothing could be more false. You need to have the input of as many other people as possible so you can ensure your product or service is going to be received in the way you intend.”
Other companies launched from Buffalo Startup Weekend include The Atinga Project, social activists partnering with Rwandan artisan shoemakers; and Buffalo Automation Group, which was voted the top information technology and software startup in New York state in 2016.
This is organizer Matt Hostetler’a second Startup Weekend. He noted that “previous participants have also gone on to other startup businesses and 43North winners such as ACV Auctions, CoachMePlus and 19Ideas.”
“This year we are focusing on the importance of community when it comes to taking an idea to the next level,” Hostetler continued. “We want entrepreneurs to feel the momentum of the people and resources around them to feel empowered taking their idea to the next step. This is such an important part of building an ongoing startup community, and we feel Startup Weekend is uniquely positioned to provide that energy.”
Hostetler also has advice for people who may be thinking about seeing what it’s all about. “Just show up! Taking the first step is always the hardest, but once you arrive, you will quickly find that all talents, abilities and experience levels are needed! Startup Weekend is a very rewarding event for the participants. And register early! It is very important for organizers to make sure we get the right mix of idea generators, developers, creative professionals, and business-minded entrepreneurs; signing up is the best way for us to track and organize the right mix of people.”
On a personal note, I was a coach at last year’s event, and the overall energy, enthusiasm, and excitement was inspiring. It was an ideal environment for people to form teams and brainstorm on a deadline, which is part of the captivating nature of Startup Weekend. I’ll also be coaching at this year's event, and hope to see you there!