Here comes the pitch: Teams develop ideas at startup competition

Phil Castle
Phil Castle

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Three Western Colorado residents who’d never before met formed the winning team at an event that challenged participants to develop ideas for business startups.

But all the participants were winners in the sense they learned about the startup process, met people and made connections that could lead to new businesses, said Josh Hudnall, co-founder of the Launch West CO initiative in Grand Junction that helped host Startup Weekend.

“I think the event was an unqualified success,” Hudnall said.

A total of 37 participants from throughout Western Colorado competed in the first multi-city Startup Weekend in the region, Hudnall said. Over the course of three days, participants pitched ideas for startups, formed teams to develop the ventures and then presented their efforts to a panel of experts that determined the winners. The teams had to create either virtual or physical products or services as well as business models, revenue projections and marketing plans.

Bryan Wachs from Grand Junction joined with Mike Guess from Montrose and Nikole James from Cedaredge on the winning team. The three presented their idea for SnagHub, an online service in which people list equipment, tools and other items available for rent and set their own prices. Users who need something can search for local providers. SnagHub facilitates the transactions, keeping money in escrow until the transactions are completed and providing insurance.

The second-place team presented its idea for Stamp Labs, a service that enables ski resorts and other destination businesses to promote their operations by adding their brands to photographs visitors take and post on social media.

The third-place team presented its idea for Axis Bindings, a binding system for snowboards that allows riders to partially detach their snowboards to more comfortably ride chairlifts. The team used a three-dimensional printer to create a working prototype during the competition, Hudnall said. Axis Bindings also was selected as the “crowd favorite,” he said.

More than 2,000 Startup Weekend events have been conducted in 135 countries and attended by a total of more than 480,000 people, Hudnall said. Teams often pursue their business ideas following the competitions and raise funding to do so. And it’s not always the winning teams that turn concepts into reality, he said.

Launch West CO joined with the Business Incubator Center in Grand Junction, Proximity Space in Montrose and Telluride Venture Accelerator to host the Startup Weekend at the Proximity Space.

All six teams presented what Hudnall called “strong ideas” — concepts that could lead to new businesses. There’s already been some interest in Axis Bindings, he said.

If nothing else, participants learned they could come up with ideas for new businesses and work with others to develop them, he added.

Hudnall said he expects additional Startup Weekend events will be conducted in different locations in Western Colorado.

Grand Junction also serves as one of five locations for a statewide competition billed as Go Code Colorado. The competition challenges application developers, designers, programmers and entrepreneurs to develop business applications using state government data. The next regional event is set for early April, Hudnall said.

Launch West CO was established in January to create a community for software developers, designers and entrepreneurs who might not know each other or are even aware there are local people doing that kind of work, Hudnall said. There are about 200 people on a mailing list, and 20 to 40 people usually attend meetings conducted the second Thursdays of the month, he said.

One Response to "Here comes the pitch: Teams develop ideas at startup competition"

  1. Bryan Wachs   October 16, 2015 at 11:54 am

    Thanks Phil for the mention. is already getting inquiries that we never could have imagined. All from 54 hours of intense and fun teamwork (and almost 2 years of market research). We hope that with the help of some talented individuals here and the burgeoning entrepreneur movement, we can nurture other ventures here in GJ like ours.

    The value of the, and hopefully a downtown co-working space cannot be overstated in creating an environment that is not only nurturing to entrenpenerhip in the Grand Valley, but also providing experience and job opportunites for local residents and CMU students. We can build upon the successes of their combined curriculums and cultures to enhance the economy of GJ.

    After months of research and 25 years of living in Vail, GJ was our choice to move to grow our technology outsourcing company to, and grow with the community. Key word here is community.

    We are honored to have won the competition, but more importantly, to have been a part of such a vibrant and stimulating event. Congrats to everyone who participated as we are all richer from the experience.