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Entrepreneurs present business ideas at Columbia's first Startup Weekend

Sunday, October 2, 2011 | 9:10 p.m. CDT
Zach Hockett, a senior at MU, practices for the final presentations of Startup Weekend at Museao on Sunday evening, Oct. 2, 2011. Hockett's team presented an idea called Shout-X, a website that would connect professional and semi-professional athletes to industry-specific brands.

COLUMBIA — Teams of aspiring entrepreneurs presented business ideas to judges at the Museao building Sunday, competing for money and resources to help fund their proposed businesses. 

The contest was the end of the fast-paced Startup Weekend that began Friday. Participants pitched ideas to the crowd, and the top 10 ideas became the basis for groups of up to eight members to put together the final five-minute presentations on their groups.

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Those ideas weren't always the ones that followed through to the end. When 23-year-old Maria Holt took the stage, she quickly explained that her presentation wasn’t what was expected.

"To those of you who were here Friday, this might be sort of confusing for you, because I pitched an idea about nap centers. But we actually found something we like more than napping," Holt said, before throwing the idea over to one of her partners, 22-year-old Will Metscher, who began to pitch a website to rate beer for college students based on criteria such as classiness vs. manliness and practicality.

This wasn’t the only proposed business that focused on the college demographic. Websites for student-to-student textbook and note sales as well as information on college were also among the ideas presented. 

Some ideas, though, branched away from university students. 22-year-old Zach Hockett, a former USA Cycling athlete, presented an idea for a company that matches professional athletes with relevant sponsors who would pay for exposure to the athletes’ Twitter followers. 

As an example of what type of athletes the company would work with, Hockett showed his former cycling roommate Ben King, whose Twitter profile @BenKing89 has over 11,000 followers. Hockett told the judges that King was willing to work with the company and be one of the first adopters.

The judges selected Snapierapp, an application to connect other applications, to win first prize. The second-place winner was Fourcasted, an application to forecast the size of the crowd at venues. Parrallell, an app similar to a treasure hunt where the monsters found can be used to battle other users, came in third.  

In three weeks, an event will be held at Museao for the startups to compete for $50,000 in funding.

Franco Puetz, a 22-year-old competitor, said he entered the competition due to his "entrepreneurial drive," and found Startup Weekend an "incredible" experience for learning about entrepreneurship and receiving advice from entrepreneurs.  

His team of six presented Fix Your Fail, a website to share problems and receive feedback on how to correct those problems. Puetz said he had only known one other person on his team before the weekend.

Startup Weekend began in Boulder, Colo., in 2007 and has spread internationally. This was the first Startup Weekend event held in Columbia.  


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