Many brilliant minds have come out of Wisconsin.
Orson Welles revolutionized the entertainment world. Frank Lloyd Wright changed the way we think about architecture. And even today, Marisa Mayer is making waves in the technology industry.
You might be yet another Wisconsinite with an innovative idea. But you’ll never know what you can do unless you put it out there into the real world.
Now you’ll get that chance at the first-ever Startup Weekend in Green Bay.
What is Startup Weekend All About?
Starting on Friday, February 21st, entrepreneurs, freelancers and people from the area with all sorts of skills and connections will gather together and form teams. Then those teams will spend 54 hours launching legitimate ideas, turning them into something real.
Startup Weekend got its start in Boulder, Colorado in 2007. Now events are being held all over the world. (Read more about how Startup Weekend began at Entrepreneur.com)
The weekends are intensive, hands-on workshops that include special speakers, coaching and networking with people from all over that city’s local startup community.
It works like this…
Anyone with an idea can make their pitch in front of those in attendance. It has to be a brand new idea that you can start from scratch. Everyone provides feedback before voting for what they feel are the best ideas. Then teams form around each of those concepts.
Working and Coaching
After you have a team of people with the right skills to make that idea a reality, you get busy making things happen. At the same time, coaches with various forms of expertise are available for advice and guidance.
Presentations and Judging
On the final day of Startup Weekend, teams deliver presentations based on their ideas and the work they’ve accomplished. Then each project is judged and winners are chosen.
Startup Weekend Green Bay Details:
- When – February 21st – 23rd, 2014
- Where – St. Norbert College, Bemis Hall
- Special Speaker – David Troupe: CEO/founder of DMI Stuidos, MailFoundry and others
- Special Speaker – Kurt Brenkus: CEO/founder of Aver Informatics
- More info – Visit SWGreenBay.com
- Find Startup Weekend Green Bay on Facebook
There are different types of passes for developers, designers and non-technical attendees (such as marketing and PR) as well as sponsorship opportunities. You can also choose to attend only the end of the event to see all the presentations.
Who is Behind the Event?
A group of nine people with diverse backgrounds and talents are organizing the Green Bay area’s first Startup Weekend.
Leading the group of organizers is Chris Schmitz, a local tech developer and startup enthusiast. Schmitz is the Chief Technology Officer at WeMontage, which specializes in creating removable, adhesive wall art out of personal photos and other imagery. He is the cofounder of charitibli, an app to support local fundraising efforts as well as donors, He was also co-owner of The Creamery, a coffeehouse and bakery in De Pere, which the original owners sold late in 2013.
Schmitz grew up with parents who owned their own business. He says entrepreneurship is in his blood, and he gets up every day excited to start working.
“I love working with startups because of how quickly things move,” Schmitz explains. “Startups aren’t afraid of change like a lot of established businesses are. They’re always looking for ways to improve and they survive by listening to customers and adapting to their needs. Figuring out a way to build something that people want is a game to me, and I love playing it.”
Other Startup Weekend Green Bay organizers include Perry Sieber and Jason Gegere who have both attended Startup Weekends in other cities (Madison and Chicago, respectively). They also had the experience of being on winning teams.
Gegere was the first person to arrive at Startup Weekend Chicago in 2012. He says everyone starts out a little nervous. Then, as people start bouncing different concepts off each other – the magic starts to happen.
“At first you enter all slow and calm, slowly starting to learn about all the other adventurous strangers”, Gegere says. “Next you have an idea that starts taking shape.”
Gegere joined a winning team that created CareContent.com – a service that provides content marketing strategies to companies in the health care industry.
Sieber says he had some personal doubts about how things would work out when he attended Startup Weekend Madison.
“I realized that in my excitement, I hadn’t really thought about what I was getting myself into. I really didn’t know what to expect. Was I in over my head? Would I be able to contribute anything of value? What was I going to be doing for three days?”
Sieber’s winning team worked to create an app for Disc Golfers called Bushwack.
However, you don’t have to win to start a business, create a product or develop an idea that continues after Startup Weekend.
“I’ve been to Startup Weekends where people have gone off on their own as a one person team and created their product,” Schmitz says. “If you’re determined to work on an idea, no one is going to stop you.”
5 Reasons Why You Can’t Afford to Miss This Opportunity
1. It Forces You to Get Off Your Butt
Talk is cheap. But fear can also be crippling. When something like this comes along, it encourages people who have dreams to stop dreaming and start doing.
“Ideas are a dime a a dozen, but what’s actually worth something is execution”, says Chris Schmitz. “That’s what I love about events like Startup Weekend, they create a safe environment for people to dig into ideas and see if there is an opportunity for a legitimate business behind it.”
Gegere describes it as a “crash course in business failure without serious consequences.” Failure is something you have to be prepared for if you want to be an entrepreneur. In fact, it’s something you need to learn to love – because it’s the fastest way to improve.
2. You’ll Make Valuable Connections
Even if your idea doesn’t get picked, even if you don’t have an idea at all – perhaps the most valuable part of the Startup Weekend is the chance to create professional relationships and partnerships.
Schmitz, Gegere and Sieber all agree.
“If I hadn’t attended SW Madison in 2012, I would not have met hundreds of people over the last two years, or had had the opportunity to help build several startup-type businesses firsthand,” Sieber writes in a blog post for Startup Weekend.
The people you’ll meet at Startup Weekend Green Bay include developers, designers, marketers and business leaders. It’s a little like speed-dating for people looking to be part of a vision that is fresh and inspirational.
3. You Are Guaranteed to Learn Something New
With that many different types of people spending that much time together – exchanges of priceless knowledge and important information are guaranteed to happen.
Plus, you’ll be able to hear from and talk with people who’ve already gone down this road. Schmitz says the brain-power at Startup Weekend Green Bay will be impressive.
“We have some of the most talented, successful entrepreneurs, designers and developers in the area who are going to be donating their time to help aspiring entrepreneurs,” he says. “I think we have an amazing lineup of coaches, judges, speakers and sponsors and it’s going to be a great networking and learning opportunity for anyone interested in technology or entrepreneurship.”
4. You Just Might Create Your Dream Job
Very few of us can honestly say we love our jobs. If you had your choice – would you be doing something else? Something you were passionate about? Something that energized you instead of drained you?
The best way find your ideal job is not to simply wait for it to fall in your lap. You have to be the one to make it happen. It probably won’t be easy – but Schmitz says the payoff could be huge, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I love having the flexibility to work whenever and wherever I want, and even though I end up working a lot more than if I had a 9-to-5, I really like what I’m doing and I’m excited to get up and start work every day,” he says.
5. You Can Help Improve the Startup Environment in Northeast Wisconsin
Maybe you don’t have a burning desire to start your own business. But perhaps you are the kind of person who truly believes in the importance of unique small businesses and innovation in our community.
Attending and supporting an event like Startup Weekend Green Bay is an excellent way to make a change in Northeast Wisconsin. The folks behind Startup Weekend Green Bay all believe there is a lot of room for improvement in our area.
While working in Madison, Sieber noticed a drastic difference in support for the startup community compared to the Green Bay area. He admits that the team behind Startup Weekend Green Bay is doing this for themselves as much as others.
“There is no support community for people who are interested in starting or joining a startup-like business,” Sieber says. “In true entrepreneurial fashion, Chris and I identified a personal problem of ours and decided to do something about it.”
Startup Weekend isn’t the only effort Seiber, Schmitz and others have taken on to promote the startup culture. They are also two of the founders of Digital Fertilizer – a monthly meetup of tech enthusiasts, aspiring entrepreneurs and investors.
Schmitz says it may have been easier to pack up and leave Northeast Wisconsin – but he believes we can transform the culture here at home. Startup Weekend and Digital Fertilizer are part of the master plan.
“Starting a business is really hard and I don’t think there are a lot of good resources for entrepreneurs in Northeast Wisconsin,” he says. “I wish I could move to somewhere like Boulder or San Francisco where technology and startups are just part of the culture, but I’m dedicated to this area, and rather than complain that there’s no tech or startup scene here I am going to help build it.”
Do You Have What it Takes?
If you have the guts to register for Startup Weekend Green Bay – then the answer is “Yes!” This is your opportunity to start something. Or you can keep your ideas locked in your brain and take them to your grave. The choice is up to you. But if you choose to attend, be prepared to see the world a little differently.
“No matter what happens, I can guarantee you won’t wish you had spent your weekend doing something else!” Schmitz says.
Can you think of someone else who should be getting involved with Startup Weekend Green Bay? Make sure you tell them about it. Use the social media buttons below to share the news with everyone you know!