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Startup Empire

The inaugural Startup Weekend Aspen was an enormous success.  All the participants gained knowledge, experience and real world advice from successful business experts as well as their peers.   Aspen Startup Weekend was held on the beautiful campus of Aspen Country Day School.

Click for pix:  STARTUP EMPIRE

Startup Weekend is a 54 hour, formulaic, boot-camp style conference that guides attendees on "how to" start a business from scratch.  Sponsored by The Kaufmann Foundation of Kansas City, there have been more than 1000 startup weekends in more than 400 cities internationally. While competition is not the main focus of the weekend, esteemed judges choose their favorite business and award prizes to the winning team.  Local organizers brought their passion and energy for entrepreneurship and innovation to Aspen's version of Startup Weekend.  To learn more click:  Aspen StartUp Weekend 

The marathon began on Friday night with a short informational program laying out the ground rules for Startup Weekend.  32 brave souls lined up to give a 1 minute elevator pitch to the audience, organizers and judges. The 1 minute time limit was firmly enforced and the pitchers had to be clear concise and to the point.  After the "pitch-fire" a vote occurred and the top 10 ideas were selected for development. Teams were formed and the work began in earnest.

The squads had until 6pm on Sunday to identify and define their potential market,  conceptualize their business model,  project costs , revenues and profits and ideally plan an exit strategy.  Each team prepared a professional 5 minute pitch for the esteemed panel of judges.  Several coaches (including A. Party) were present throughout the weekend to provide practical business advice to the teams.  

Startup Weekend, Aspen included a series of speakers, who presented a wide variety of "real life" information and advice to the teams.   In my opinion, the speakers were OK at best...so we'll leave it at that.   Community meals, plenty of coffee,  morning yoga sessions, gorgeous Fall colors at the beautiful ACDS campus made for a fantastic weekend.  The kinetic transfer of energy and passion...all geared towards, identifying a viable opportunity, starting a business, executing a plan, over-coming obstacles minimizing risks and in many cases finding investment capital was palpable.   The teams worked diligently preparing their business plans and presentations, validating their ideas and in a few cases pivoting and re-tooling their entire business model.    

Some teams pulled all-nighters, some didn't.  Some teams had a very clear vision, some didn't.  At 6pm on Sunday night... all 10 teams gave it their best shot and presented their work to the judges, the coaches and their peers.  

The line-up to pitch kept growing at Aspen Startup WeekendIn my role as coach, I witnessed incredible progress being made over the 54 hour session.  The tone changed from idealistic dreamers to realistic entrepreneurs very quickly.   Everybody worked their a$$es off and their hard work showed...because starting a business is not easy.  I believe that each person came away with a better understanding about what it takes to start a successful business in today's hyper-competative marketplace.  Teams were forced to ask themselves the tough questions.  They came to the conclusion that a great idea is one thing...converting that into a real business by executing their calculated plan is another. Entrepreneurs have to juggle many balls in the air...and working for yourself is fabulous..but you also need to work for your investors, customers, clients and employees.

The winning team Rent Ease, from Denver created a property management software program to help independent landlords manage their properties and to make it easy for tenants to pay their rent with one click.   Rental Ease actually wrote the software over the weekend and even pinged one to the judges during their presentation to indicate that his hypothetical tenant had payed the rent.   Second place went to Sneak Peak, a mobile / social app that gives skiers a trusted source for inside information on real time ski conditions.  The app is highly scalable for other action sports and locales.

The other 8 teams created highly developed concepts, some of which are already on their way to market.  

Udo Aspen:  An Aspen Discount Card

Pet Panic: A GPS tracer for your furry friends.

Nature Brain:  An educational tool for teaching science

Trip Localizer:  Connects adventure travelers with local, non-professional guides

Moms for Moms:  A scalable blog network of Moms with hyper-local sites.

Retail Goose:   A mobile app to organize photos & information while at trade shows

Herbs Unlimited.  A process for fresh-freezing herbs

Must Ketch Mayo.  A bio degradable dispenser for the 3 most popular condiments.


Harry Teague and Tania Dibbs shared their business insights.Special thanks go out to Alexander Huppenthal and Jon Fox-Rubin., the lead organizers of the event, all the volunteers and facilitators and to Aspen Country Day School for hosting. BIG ups to everyone who participated especially those who left their comfort zone to pursue their ideas.   We'll be watching the evolution of all the proposed businesses, and everyone is looking forward to another ASW...already in the works.  

Click for more pix.


Everybody was energized on Friday night...before the real work began.

Organizers: Jon Fox-Rubin, Alex Huppenthal, Scott Courts and Keynote Marc Ostovsky The winning team Rent Ease was psyched to get started after Aspen Startup Weekend. Click 4 pix


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Reader Comments (2)

Thanks for this article! It was an amazing weekend! If you'd like to follow the winning team, RentEase, follow my blog at www.nickrizzi.com and I'll keep you posted as we go!

Additionally, from left to right the winner are Ryan Mughal (Sales), Nick Rizzi (Business Developer), and Michael Hopkins (Programming and Development)

October 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNick Rizzi

This looks like a really great event for local start ups. Thank you for the post!

October 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSkyline

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