Startup Weekend promotes new ventures

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Josh Hudnall knows from personal experience the value of participating in what’s billed as Startup Weekend.

Hudnall joined in a Startup Weekend in Philadelphia and ended up competing on the team that won. In the process, he said he learned about developing and pitching ideas for business startups as well as the teamwork involved in that process. “It’s a pretty incredible event,” he said.

That’s why Hudnall, who now serves as co-founder of the Launch West CO initiative based in Grand Junction, is excited about the upcoming Startup Weekend in Western Colorado.

The event is set for Oct. 9 to 11 at the Proximity Space in Montrose. Over the course of three days, participants will pitch ideas for startup businesses, vote for what they consider the best ideas and then join in teams to develop their ventures. The event concludes when each team presents their startup to a panel of experts and the winners are announced.

Launch West joined with the Business Incubator Center in Grand Junction, the Proximity Space and Telluride Venture Accelerator to stage what Hudnall said will be the first multi-city Startup Weekend in the region.

Hudnall said he expects a total of 30 to 40 participants from the three cities as well as other cities on the Western Slope to attend. While participants might include software developers, graphic designers and marketing enthusiasts, prior experience with technology or entrepreneurship isn’t required, 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.

Along with encouraging the creation of new ventures, Hudnall said he expects Startup Weekend in Western Colorado to bring together people from various locations to create the connections and foster the collaboration that could lead to a more regional effort to promote business and economic development.

That fits in with the goal of Launch West CO, which was established in January to bring together 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. “You’re not alone. There’s a community here for you.”

There are about 200 people on a mailing list and 20 to 40 people usually attend monthly meetings, Hudnall said.

Launch West CO also serves as an advocate on issues affecting startups, Hudnall said, including access to high-speed Internet, commercial air service and tax incentives.

There are opportunities for developers and entrepreneurs to work together to provide services to regional industry sectors, including energy development, health care, manufacturing and outdoor recreation, he said.

Moreover, there are opportunities to create regional partnerships that will better position Western Colorado to compete with Denver, Boulder and Fort Collins for high-tech development, he added.

One place to initiate some of those efforts could be the Startup Weekend, he said.

A developer who operates a mobile application and Web development company, Hudnall said he was a member of a team that won the competition at a Startup Weekend in Philadelphia. Hudnall said his team worked on an idea for developing a way businesses could take advantage of smart phones and other mobile devices to tailor the music they play to the preferences of their customers to create a more inviting environment.

While the team never turned the concept into a commercial enterprise, Hudnall said the Startup Weekend was educational, exciting and fulfilling.

“It’s a really hard event. But it’s a really fun event,” he said.

Registration for the upcoming Startup Weekend Oct. 9 to 11 at the Proximity Space in Montrose is open through the beginning of the event at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 9. Registration is $75. Students from Colorado Mesa University and Western Colorado Community College may participate at no charge. Assistance also is available to students for securing lodging for the weekend. To register or obtain more information, log on to www.westerncoloradostartupweekend.com or send an e-mail to josh@launchwestco.com.