/ Entrepreneurship

Startup Weekend Provo: A Great Conversation Starter

A lot of what makes Utah’s startup community unique was on display this past weekend at SWProvo.

There’s something exciting happening in Utah. We may not have the established entrepreneurial ecosystem of a Silicon Valley, New York City, or Boulder, but it’s impossible not to feel the surging energy coming from the Beehive State’s startup community.

At a recent event hosted by Alex Lawrence at Startup Ogden, the Founder of Techstars, David Cohen, said, “You want to know why people think Boulder’s startup community is thriving? It’s because it’s all we talk about wherever we go. We’ve managed to get people to believe it.”

We have something to talk about here in Utah. There’s no need for us to impersonate other startup communities, or purport to be something we’re not. It’s important to remember imitation is only flattering to the one being imitated. As a community, we should be touting what makes this state unique to anyone who will listen.

In a recent interview with Beehive Startups, Gary Jackson, Managing Director of Silicon Valley Bank’s Salt Lake City branch, expressed a similar sentiment.

“It’s hard to compete with a Silicon Valley,” said Jackson. “It’s hard to compete with a New York, and some of these other major population centers. That’s not where Utah has its advantage.”

Jackson believes Utah’s advantage lies within the quality of life it can offer, and the homegrown talent this state is beginning to sprout.

“It’s a very favorable economic environment due to just the community,” said Jackson. “You have major research universities that are putting out incredible science, and you have a culture of boot-strapping entrepreneurs building, in particular, software companies. What makes it great is also what makes it unique.”

A lot of what makes Utah’s startup community unique was on display this past weekend at Startup Weekend Provo. Entrepreneurs throughout the state gathered to pitch ideas, mingle with peers, and work on a team (meet the SWProvo teams) to hopefully build a minimum viable product by the end of the weekend.

The event culiminated on Saturday night with each of the 12 participating teams delivering a five-minute presentation in front of their fellow participants, interested members of the community, and a panel of judges.

The judges were required to base their decision on three key areas: business model, customer validation, and execution.

After hearing each team’s pitch, and asking questions at the end of each presentation, the judges deliberated for a short period of time and then announced their decision:

First Place:QuotADeck

Second Place:Castr

Third Place:Draw-My-Doll

QuotADeck is a platform for freelance sales people to connect with companies within their niche.

“We want to build a marketplace where companies — startups, mid-market, and enterprise — can go online and find great sales people who have specific expertise in their industry,” said Bubba Page, CEO and Founder of Launch Leads.

As the only business-to-business app in the competition, Page was surprised his team won the event.

“I am totally shocked,” said Page.

The crowd picked Nom-Nom Finder, a food truck locator app, as their favorite SWProvo startup.

It will be interesting to see how many of these startups continue beyond SWProvo and become legitimate companies. One thing we know for certain is the event provided attendees with a great conversation starter to help promote Utah’s startup ecosystem.

The more opportunities we have to come together to strengthen our already burgeoning community, the better off we’ll be in our quest to get more people talking about what makes this state such a unique place to launch a startup.

Published 2/24/2014