Organizers want a startup weekend for students: Bend entrepreneurial event being pitched for spring

Organizers are planning an event for spring that would give teams of students and entrepreneurs a chance to take a business concept and turn it into a full-fledged company in just 54 hours over the course of three days.

While details are still being ironed out, the event, known as Startup Weekend, would be the first of its kind in Central Oregon since 2013.

“This is largely a chance for young entrepreneurs to flex their entrepreneurial muscle,” said Chris Kraybill, chief technology officer of the Bend company Amplion and one of the judges at the proposed event.

The event, initially titled Oregon All-State Education + Entrepreneurship Startup Weekend, was originally scheduled for the weekend of Oct. 23. However, Steve Curley, director of the Small Business Development Center at Central Oregon Community College, said Wednesday that it had been moved to spring 2016 to improve the quality of the event.

“We want to have the best event possible, and we thought it made sense to move the event back,” Curley said.

Pam Stevenson, business adviser for the Grow Oregon program at COCC’s Small Business Development Center and one of the mentors for the proposed event, said Startup Weekend is an international organization, with events scheduled on six continents.

The Startup Weekend organization is sponsored by the Kansas City, Missouri-based Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. Stevenson said Bend has held Startup Weekends before, most recently in October 2013.

Curley added that he wants the upcoming Startup Weekend to emphasize students more than previous events, and that the organization has reached out to several local high schools.

“Typically it’s focused more on community members,” Curley said. “This is the first event that caters to students.”

Startup weekends usually begin Friday evening.

Stevenson said anyone with an idea for a business on the first night can pitch it to the assembled audience. From there, the attendees break into groups of five to seven, and each group spends the rest of the weekend developing business plans and building prototypes in preparation for a second pitch Sunday evening.

Kraybill said the judges evaluate companies for elements like the quality of prototype models and the ability to identify customer segments.

Stevenson said startup weekends have spawned companies, including Perfect Menu, the brainchild of Aviv Hadar’s group and the winner of a Startup Weekend in Bend in 2012. Hadar, the current co-owner of the Bend marijuana dispensary Oregrown Industries Inc., had only a vague notion of what the company would entail before the event started, but he said the Startup Weekend process helped him refine and solidify the idea. Hadar sold the company, which allows restaurants to distribute their menus digitally, in 2014.

“It’s a 72-hour grind session,” Hadar said of the weekend. “Within 72 hours, you go in with a concept and come out with a company.”