Startup Weekend Kickstarts Students’ Entrepreneurial Dreams

Thursday, November 02, 2023
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Entrepreneurial-minded first-year students took a variety of creative business ideas from concept to pitch before a panel of alumni and small business consultants during Techstar’s Startup Weekend on campus.

Students across a variety of engineering and science majors cultivated their passion for innovation and creating something new to take business ideas from concept to pitch, and possibly eventually a product launch, during Techstar’s Startup Weekend on campus this fall.

The 32½-hour event proved to be an intense crash course in entrepreneurship. The 40 first-year students gained hands-on experience in ideation and validation, business modeling, and presentation skills. Many plan to stay connected and continue developing their ideas as part of the ESCALATE learning community’s Introduction to Entrepreneurship course. 

That mix of skills and energy made this year’s Startup Weekend a breeding ground for such new award-winning ventures as the Park Savvy, an app that makes finding open parking spots simple; Caddy King, a shower caddy designed specifically for college residence halls; and the Fidgit Pen, a pen that helps fidgeters better focus their attention on tasks.

The range of practical to whimsical products developed over the weekend also included an idea for a scented vacuum cleaner for pet owners, facial recognition software to accentuate door camera surveillance systems, a restaurant data management paging system, and an app that helps keep track of perishable items inside a household refrigerator.

Startup Weekend is not just about building a business over a weekend—it's also a chance to connect with passionate, driven people and potentially meet future collaborators.

“You get a group of people together who are very driven and creative, and you’re going to get some really neat ideas,” said first-year computer engineering student John Webster, a member of the first-place Park Savvy team. Other members of the team were mechanical engineering majors Jonathan Reid and Ahaan Kothari along with computer science student Hollin Glaze.

Throughout the event, there were opportunities to network and find mentors, customers, or investors in a startup idea. For those looking for feedback on their ideas, it was an invaluable chance to bounce plans off seasoned entrepreneurs and get their insights.

The second-place Caddy King project already has a preferred sales contract with a college client, a fact that impressed the team of five judges consisting of Rose-Hulman alumni and Indiana small business consultants.

“We quickly identified our potential market and provided a product with an unique solution that addressed a need for that market,” remarked mechanical engineering student Joshua Bumpus.

Fellow team member Deven Wells, an engineering design major, added, “We’ve got a long way to go (to have a product for the marketplace) but we’re off to a great start after less than a week of hard work. We’ll see what develops from here.”

Other Caddy King team members were computer science student Ethan Schurr and mechanical engineering major Josh McManus.

Mentoring sessions with Techstar Facilitator Sibi Murugesan, program director for the gener8tor startup accelerator, and technologist/entrepreneur John Wang were a key part of tapping into the knowledge of those who have successfully built startups. These experienced guides provided insight about critical topics like how to assess the viability of a product, building financial models, crafting a persuasive pitch, and strategizing an effective go-to-market plan. Walking through these exercises with a mentor provides an immersive education into the world of entrepreneurship, says ESCALATE Director and Professor of Engineering Management Tom James, PhD.

Members of the third place Fidgit Pen product development team were computer science majors Aaryan Singh and Sanil Maheshwari, engineering design student Harrison Boerner, and mechanical engineering student Arpita Mishra.

Helping organize this year’s Startup Weekend were members of the Rose Innovative Student Entrepreneurs (RISE) organization, a club dedicated to promoting innovation and entrepreneurship among Rose-Hulman students.