Alaska Pacific University values our Alaskan community. We love encouraging our fellow Alaskans to pursue their educational and professional dreams. We therefore support events like Startup Weekend: an opportunity for Alaskans to develop and pitch a startup concept to investors and executives.
Startup weekend participants arrive on Friday night of the competition weekend in order to pitch business ideas, or to watch the pitches, and decide which team to join. The atmosphere is open and welcoming, not overly competitive, and people mingle freely. The entrepreneurs and mentors present have a genuine interest in each other and in the local economy. They are more concerned with making connections and spending time with enthusiastic, visionary people than with merely winning the prizes or beating the other teams, which is refreshing to see in a competition.
The pitching session includes pitches from veterans and first-timers alike. “I am looking forward to learning,” mentioned Aiko Brandon, a first-timer; her pitch was one out of 6 chosen by popular vote. After voting on the pitches and forming teams, many of the entrepreneurs and observers linger in order to discuss the Alaskan economy and business strategies.
The second day of the competition is extremely productive and high-energy for the competitors. During the day, teams interact with each other and the mentors in order to hone their business idea and work on developing any demos or prototypes. They have access to legal advice, technical assistance, and much more while they work on their business plans, in addition to plenty of feedback and advice from the mentors. As Joe Siebert, local entrepreneur, noted, the competition helps people to, “take action through just-in-time learning. In order to put together a startup model in the course of a weekend, you are required to think smart and get rid of stuff that slows you down. Startup Weekend Anchorage is great for motivated people, because you get to be around other take-action people and get stuff done.” Startup weekend isn’t only for people who want to start their own company, however. As Mark Bolzera, a Startup Weekend Mentor, observed, “all people in any job, even if not interested in owning their own business, will benefit from the skills they learn during Startup Weekend about entrepreneurship. An entrepreneurial spirit is necessary in most careers, even for people who work for large companies, but it unfortunately isn’t the kind of education provided in schools.” Although it isn’t free, the event is well worth the ticket price. As Pascual Reig, a Startup Weekend Organizer, points out, “Startup Weekend gives you access to theory, IT, lawyers, and expert entrepreneurs. You will end up saving money and will get to spend time consulting with people who normally would not have the time or who would be very expensive to meet with, such as lawyers and investors.”
Sunday, the last day of the competition, is an exhilarating scramble to prepare for presentation to a panel of expert judges made up of executives, business experts, and investors. The judges gave even more time than was scheduled in order to offer useful feedback to each competing team, and they volunteered to stay afterwards in order to meet with the entrepreneurs present. Michael Norton, the facilitator of this year’s startup weekend, encourages new people to attend. In his words, “Startup Weekend is a place where entrepreneurial Alaskans can meet like-minded, passionate problem-solvers dedicated to improving the local community in a wide variety of ways. Whether looking for a co founder or a bolt of energy, startup weekend is the place to be. The atmosphere here is good for motivation. This is a group of people who really believe in their city and feel the needs of the community. They collaborate to create enterprising solutions. It’s beautiful.”
Startup Weekend Anchorage has been a wonderful addition to the business community of Anchorage for several years now, and can already boast of several successful ventures created by its alumni. One such new venture created at last year’s Startup Weekend is On The Menu, a fine dining delivery service for the Anchorage area. The founder of On The Menu spoke at Startup Weekend in order to encourage participants and to demonstrate that achieving the goals you set at Startup Weekend is possible. APU is proud to support Startup Weekend Anchorage. We are happy to see such an abundance of local talent and enthusiasm in the entrepreneurial community.