Startup Weekend comes to Charleston

By Liz Segrist
Published Aug. 13, 2014

Calling all entrepreneurs: Startup Weekend is coming to Charleston this fall.

Startup Weekends give entrepreneurs a chance to pitch their ideas and work in teams to hone in on their business plan before presenting to a panel of judges. Startup Weekends are held in more than 750 cities, but this will be the first in Charleston.

Sometimes people launch a business from Startup Weekend, but generally it provides entrepreneurs with an environment to meet future collaborators for their current project or a future one, said Joe Dwyer, the founder of Startup Weekend Charleston and the president of MakeLab Charleston.

Anyone interested in the process of creating a new product or service and turning it into a business should attend, Dwyer said, including makers, programmers, marketers, designers, builders, entrepreneurs and writers.

“You come to Startup Weekend to test the waters and take entrepreneurship for a test drive,” Dwyer said. “If at the end it validates that it’s what you want to do with your life and you have what it takes, you’ve probably just met five to 10 people you’d want to co-found a company with or pull into your next project.”

Dwyer attended several Startup Weekends in Charlotte, Raleigh and Georgetown before deciding to bring one to Charleston. Startup Weekends usually host around 100 attendees.

It will take place Sept. 12 through Sept. 14 at the Lowcountry Tech Academy in downtown Charleston.

Startup Weekend begins Friday night with attendees giving one-minute pitches on their idea for a new business, product or technology.

Teams are formed organically around the ideas that get the most votes. Generally, teams have a mix of developers, designers and business developers.

Upon forming, teams get to work immediately on developing and enhancing the idea into a viable business plan. Through the night on Friday, all day Saturday and through much of Sunday, the teams collaborate and prepare to present. Volunteer coaches with experience in business and technology will mentor the teams during the weekend.

The weekend culminates with each team giving a seven-minute presentation on their idea and doing a question-and-answer session with the judges. Judges will then decide on a first and second place winner.

Startup Weekend’s judges and speakers:

-Steve Swanson, founder of Automated Trading Desk

-Gray Somerville, CEO of Telogical Systems

-Eric Bowman, co-founder and CEO Sparc

-Michael Knox, managing partner at Silicon Harbor Capital Management

-Rich Yessian, Owner, Blue Ion

-Prag Shah, SVP at Zubie

-Gavin McCulley, Angel Capital Group – Charleston

“To be able to get in front of this group of judges for seven minutes and show off what you can do is a very big deal for startups and entrepreneurs,” Dwyer said. “It gives them great exposure.”

Prizes are still being determined, but they often include free consulting with an intellectual property attorney, free co-working space or free design and marketing work, for example. The Harbor Accelerator is considering giving the winner an automatic spot in Round 3 of its 14-week accelerator program, Dwyer said.

Local tech companies and The Harbor Entrepreneur Center have helped to organize the event. Registration is now open.

“We’re in the middle of a renaissance of startup and tech energy here, and it’s really exciting,” Dwyer said. “The whole Silicon Harbor momentum is happening, and a Startup Weekend caters to all of those elements. It adds some more fuel to the fire.”

Reach staff writer Liz Segrist at 843-849-3119 or @lizsegrist on Twitter.

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