Startup Weekend Hermitage - Energy
This past weekend we had the pleasure of helping out with Startup Weekend Hermitage (through our partner Sorgatron Media). Although this event was amazing for so many reasons, I will try to narrow it down to the top three in an effort to keep things concise.
For those of you who may be unfamiliar with Startup Weekend, it is a weekend-long event where individuals come together to pitch startup ideas within the event's theme. Startup Weekend Hermitage had an energy theme. Therefore, the startups were focused on concepts surrounding energy use, maintenance, tracking, etc. Once the ideas are pitched, the group votes for the top 8 or 9 concepts, and the individuals who pitched the winning ideas then mingle and try to build a team to work with throughout the weekend. The teams do some preliminary work Friday evening, and regroup Saturday morning to get as much work done on the project as they can. At the end of Day 2, the participants head home. They return on Sunday morning to complete their tasks and prepare for presentations. Throughout the weekend they have access to a panel of designated mentors - business people with varied backgrounds who can offer advice to the teams. Teams also cultivate market research for their concepts and work toward accomplishing a set of goals to pitch to the panel of judges Sunday afternoon. This is a very small nutshell of the weekend, but it works to give you an idea of the fast-paced and micro-organization for the weekend. It basically takes what a start-up does over a span of 6 months (or more) and compresses it into 54 hours. The winners of the event are then given the opportunity to take their weekend company forward through their prizes. The prizes for Startup Weekend Hermitage - Energy included 3 months of co-working space, co-working passes at Radius, lunches with investors, legal and IP consultations, e-marketing sessions. t-shirts, laptop bags, and global prizes such as a web domain and website hosting.
Needless to say, the winners of the event walk away with some great opportunities, which leads me back to my thoughts on the weekend.
For starters, I was blown away by the fact that Hermitage was hosting a Startup Weekend event. This is a big deal for a community like Hermitage. Living and working in Pittsburgh, it seems that there are Startup Weekend events rather regularly. I participated as an attendee at one such event. Hermitage, however, is no Pittsburgh. It isn't even an Erie. Which makes it that much more amazing, because I was unable to even find a Startup Weekend event for Erie! Ketaki Desai and her amazing team of volunteers did an outstanding job. The event was well attended - especially for a first event, and everything appeared to be smooth (minus a slight technical hiccough during the Sunday evening presentations, but even that issue was rectified rather quickly and we were able to keep rolling). The organizers even did their own energy-inspired startup presentation which had the crowd laughing to the point of tears. You really should check it out on the event YouTube over here.
Going back to how blown away I am with Hermitage. The eCenter@LindenPointe is a stupendous addition to the Hermitage community. Located just off of I-80, I-376, and not far from I-79, the center is conveniently located to some of the highways and byways accessible to Pittsburgh, Youngstown, Erie, and Buffalo. Any of those locations are within a reasonable distance to get to and from Hermitage for purposes of visiting and/or using the space. Forget the design and resources the facility offers for a moment - I find it hard to believe that Hermitage has a business incubator. Hermitage has a business incubator. Wrap your head around that for a moment - because it took me a little bit of time to do the same thing. And, they have 12 companies - 12. I find it truly amazing to think back on Hermitage as I knew it when I was at Thiel College. There is no way I could have ever imagined Hermitage as a mover and shaker on the technology front. (I'm so glad they proved me wrong.)
My final takeaway from the weekend is that it doesn't matter how old or young you are to make a difference. During the Friday night brainstorming event, a young girl stood in the line to pitch a business idea. Hannah was 12 or 13 years old. She came up with her idea from a lesson she learned in school. She wanted to find a way to use carbon dioxide (CO2) from a water treatment plant for a community garden to grow vegetables to help homeless and those in need. For starters, this girl stepped up in front of a group of 50+ adults to pitch her idea. Secondly, she wanted to help the homeless and those in need through utilizing CO2 emissions from a water treatment plant to grow crops. I can tell you right now that when I was 12 years old, I was certainly not thinking about standing up in front of a crowd of adults. As an adult, I do not generally like to stand in front of a group of strangers (though I do it on a regular basis, it doesn't mean I necessarily like to do it). And, this girl stood in front of a group to pitch an idea to create something to help those in need. I honestly wanted to be a participant in the event at that point - just so I could join Hannah's team. Suffice it to say that I was glad when her idea was chosen to move forward. Although Hannah's team didn't win, Green Go, did make it in as an honorable mention - an amazing accomplishment in and of itself.
Again, congratulations to Ketaki and her team for an amazing event.