Got an idea for a new business?
Can you make a compelling pitch for it in three minutes?
Two dozen aspiring entrepreneurs gave it their best shot Friday evening at the kickoff of the South Sound Entrepreneurs’ Weekend, a fast-paced workshop designed to take businesses from dream to launch in just 54 hours.
“It’s a very relaxed, but intense weekend,” Andrew Fry said Saturday afternoon, rushing from room to room at the University of Washington Tacoma’s William W. Philip Hall. “I’m not sure what will happen, but we’re hoping to get two or three businesses to launch by Sunday evening.”
Fry, the assistant director of industry partnerships at the university’s Institute of Technology and the originator of the idea, said about 60 people signed up for what he hopes will be an annual Tacoma event.
The participants included a wide range of entrepreneurs, from inexperienced students with just a glimmer of an idea, to those already in business but wondering how to take it to the next step.
Their ideas were heavy on high-tech applications but otherwise varied widely – from remotely controlled gardens set up in shipping containers, to a computer game design consortium and a national on-line debate forum that would lead to a final, hopefully compelling smackdown in what would be called “America’s Ring.”
There to help them were a cadre of pros with specialized knowledge – financing, marketing, business law and information technology – to offer guidance and share war stories.
“People want to know, ‘How do I take this beyond me, sitting here plugging something into a computer, to a productive enterprise?’” said Derek Young, a visiting speaker who helped start the global marketing firm, Seasonal View, which counts Alaska Airlines and Nokia among its clients.
“One of the hardest things is meeting people with the right skills and getting a good working relationship with them,” Young said. “This seems like a great way to get things going.”
After Friday’s pitches, participants divided into teams to work on the most appealing ideas. UW Tacoma student Stefanie McCallister seemed a little surprised that 10 people signed up to work on her idea – a company designed to bring existing businesses up to date in their social media presentations.
On Saturday, McCallister’s group came up with the name Facelift2Go.com, but were disappointed to find the name already taken. Fry gently suggested it might not be that big a loss.
“People could mistake it for a mobile surgical clinic,” he said.
Otis Alexander, a computer science specialist focusing on control systems, acknowledged that creating vegetable gardens in shipping containers was not a brand new idea.
His company, which he wants to call Boxcrop, would be different, he said, because it could be completely autonomous, except for the harvest. All the irrigation, lighting and “nutrient control” would be done remotely, he said, and owners, possibly groups of apartment dwellers, could watch the progress with interactive web cameras.
“That’s our plan,” Alexander said. “We’ll see how it turns out.”
Succeeding every time is not so important, said Young. What’s important, he said, is the creative drive and the willingness to adapt and move on.
“I have very little fear of creating things, and I have a high risk tolerance,” he said. “It forces you to drive forward.
“You can’t get hung up on details like fixating on the fonts on your website,” he said. “What you have to ask is, ‘Do people want this? Is this something that’s useful?’”firstname.lastname@example.org 253-597-8693