Elizabeth Trice: "Anybody who wants to, as a participant, pitches a business idea on Friday night. And, then, there's this networking moment where everybody scrambles to find people to join their team, join onto their idea. And then what happens is teams form around the best ideas," Trice says. "Then those teams race all weekend to develop those raw ideas into functioning business models. And they get all of the possible support they could magine during the weekend - from food and drink, to coaching and deadlines and whatever they need. Then on Sunday night they unveil their presentations of what they've been working on, and they're competing for prizes and recognition."
Startup Weekend is being sponsored by Idexx Labs. Mabel Ney, an Idexx employee, is a startup weekend veteran.
Mabel Ney: "I was invited by a friend who is a user-experience designer looking for other designers to join in. And, I wasn't quite sure what I was getting into, but, by the end of the weekend I would do it over again."
Irwin Gratz: "What did you learn from that experience?"
Mabel Ney: "There's so much I learned. I felt like I got an MBA in a weekend. I totally changed the way that I do my job today because of the weekend. I went from someone who needs to be incredibly plan-full, and see the full vision to be able to work in steps, to someone who can shift to knowing just enough to run with it, try it out, test it, and refine it."
Irwin Gratz: "Elizabeth, is this the way it's supposed to work?"
Elizabeth Trice: "Yeah, Absolutely. I mean, the whole thing about this that's really fun is, you know, all of us have had business ideas . We all have ideas, but then, it's like, 'OK, but I'd need help with this element.' And, 'I've got this other job and I, um, I don't know - this person might be interested in helping me but they cost money and, I don't know if I trust them, and, I don't know if this idea would work.' So, this forces you to put all of your doubts aside, and just commit for two-and-a-half days to work on an idea with the team. There's no commitment after the fact."
Irwin Gratz: "Now, Mabel said she came away from this with a whole new set of skills for her existing job. I'm curious as to whether, in the experience from the earlier Startup Weekend, whether people have actually come away with an idea that they've moved into a new business?"
Elizabeth Trice: "Well, nationally, about 30 percent of the teams that form at Startup Weekends are still working together six months later. So, we found the same. So, we had nine teams form, and six months later three teams were still working together."
Mabel Ney: "I'm actually on one of those teams."
Irwin Gratz: "OK. So, what are you doing?"
Mabel Ney: "So, we're working on a corporate wellness platform, if you will, so that people can set goals for themselves, ask friends and co-workers to join them in those goals, and they compete against each other using an application. They can do virtual high-fives, they can talk 'smack' to each other, if that's what motivates them. And along the way, the wellness director can see who's participating, what their level of participation is - information that they don't get today on the spreadsheets that they use to track that data."
Idexx's manager of business communications, Betsy Richards, says the company likes Startup Weekend too.
Betsy Richards: "This is a great fit for Idexx, to be sponsoring this event, in that our foundation is built on leadership in the community and innovating with intelligence," Richards says. "And we are continually encouraging leadership to find new opportunities to innovate, and to gather ideas and apply those, both in their personal life and in their professional work environment."
The next Startup Weekend begins a week from Friday, on Oct. 25. Anyone interested can register at portlandmaine.startupweekend.org.