Startup Weekend Returns to Detroit, Offers New Incentives to Win


Startup Weekend, a grassroots movement for entrepreneurs to acquire funding to launch their ideas, will return this weekend to Detroit with several first-time incentives to attract more entries.

“We’re working with Bizdom (a startup accelerator in Detroit), which is offering our first place team the opportunity to apply and pitch for their Winter 2014 Accelerator program, which could lead to mentorship, training, and a shot at winning up to $125,000 in seed money should they be accepted,” says Brandon Chesnutt, local organizer for the event.

In addition, the winning team will receive 30 days of free office space at Grand Circus, a business incubation, training, and co-working center in the David Broderick Tower in downtown Detroit, and 10 hours with Campbell Ewald’s creative team, says Chesnutt, social media director at Identity, an integrated public relations firm in Bingham Farms.

Also new this year: The top two teams will advance to the fourth annual Global Startup Battle, where teams representing more than 200 cities will compete for prizes from companies including Coca-Cola and Amazon Web Services.

Prizes aside, Startup Weekend Detroit 5 at Grand Circus serves as a recruiting and networking opportunity, Chesnutt says. “What better way to find great talent than to put them in a high-pressure, deadline-driven situation and see what they create? It’s a little bit different from the typical networking event — you’re actually building something and showcasing your expertise. That can lead to great opportunities, and there’s a lot of excitement that comes with that,” he says.

Following the basic model for Startup Weekend events, the event begins Friday with participants pitching startup ideas. Teams form around the top ideas and spend the following 54 hours brainstorming, developing business plans, and building basic prototypes. The event culminates with five-minute presentations on Sunday night, when a team of judges — including Paul Czarnik of Compuware and Nick Pudar of GM Developer Ecosystem— will select the winners.

“We really preach the idea of minimum viable product,” Chenutt says. “(A participant) may say, ‘I’ve got this app idea, and it does these 16 things.’ But you can’t do 16 things in a weekend.

“(We tell them to) focus on the one problem they can solve and what they can get excited about. We’re teaching these folks a lot of crash course topics in entrepreneurship that could apply to their current business or the next business they work on.”

Last year, one of the event’s participants, Sandy Barris, continued with his idea and launched “Sales Goals on Fire” in the ITunes store this year.

“(The weekend) isn’t necessarily about who’s going to go on to raise funding,” Chesnutt says. “Our approach is show participants what it’s like to work with a great team. A great team can do amazing things even with a mediocre idea. They can accomplish a lot, and if we can give them the tools and resources to explore that idea, who knows what could come of it?”

While registration remains open for the event, the non-technical roles, such as marketing or business development, are currently on a waiting list. Demo tickets, priced at $25, are also available to the public for the presentations on Sunday. For more information, visit