The final products of a weekend spent brainstorming, team-building and not sleeping were displayed live yesterday at the Fargo Theater, as the fourth annual Startup Weekend Fargo came to a close.
Startup Weekend is a weekend-long event wherein participants pitch an idea, form a team, and present the early framework for a company, all in the scope of one weekend, or 54 hours.
“Fargo’s is one of the best,” said Startup Weekend facilitator Shane Reiser, who has come every year to run the Fargo event. “I only do two Startup Weekends a year now, and I always make Fargo one of them.”
Coming from Reiser that means a lot, considering he’s facilitated “over a hundred Startup Weekends,” he said. The events now take place all over the world, with 2,900 events to date in 150 different countries.
Eleven teams pitched their two-day old companies to a panel of judges at the Fargo Theater yesterday. Ideas ranged from an app that allows you to pool your money together to fund trips, to a platform for crowdfunding real estate investments. But three ideas rose to the top.
First Place: GivvApp
Givvapp is a website/soon-to-be mobile app that allows users to give up something for a period of time, such as coffee, soda pop or eating out, and pledge that money instead to a non-profit that partners with the app.
The team, lead by Jordan Maahs, has already partnered with local non-profit Unseen and had over $300 pledged by the time of their presentation at 4:30 pm Sunday.
This, more than anything, was the clincher when it came to the judging.
“They have actual validation, which I always like,” said judge James Burgum of Arthur Ventures, during the judging round.
The judges also foresee potential for the app to reach success, drawing from Charity:Water’s “Donate your birthday” highly successful campaign.
The team was thrilled, albeit tired. “It makes all that hard work worth it,” said McCal Johnson, graphic designer on the team.
Maahs said the team plans to meet at Rhombus Guys in the next week to discuss how the app will live on. He plans to continue polishing up the site, he said, and will continue to partner with local non-profits. Check out the Givvapp site here!
Second Place: CarBee
CarBee, pitched by electrical engineer Mikhael Teryohin, came in a close second with an idea for a dongle that would detect when car batteries are low. The device would be able to send notifications to car dealers for used cars, so that batteries can be replaced when needed.
Teryohin predicted that car dealerships can miss out on $45,000 in car sales income due to battery issues. By leveraging the technology already in place in most cars, a small dongle could make companies thousands of dollars in sales, he said.
The judges agreed that the idea was an extremely good one, and – especially in cold places like Fargo – would likely see high success.
“Their research was the most thorough,” said judge Howard Dahl, founder of Amity Technology.
Teryohin said that the team is “definitely going to continue working on CarBee.”
“The next step is to create a proof of concept,” Teryohin said. He is coordinating a follow-up meeting with his team this week.
Third Place: OpenTab
OpenTab, an idea pitched by Madison Christensen, took third place with an app that allows users to pay for their bar tabs without waiting for servers. Users are also able to close their tabs from home, if they forgot to close at the restaurant.
Judges identified that the biggest hurdle the team faces is integrating their system with the point of sale (POS) systems of the restaurants, something the team said is in the works.
During the presentation the team showed a video of their market research at local breweries. “We did a lot of market research,” said presenter Jake Kohl, laughing.
The team will be deciding how to move forward with OpenTab in the next few weeks, Kohl said.
During the deliberation, the judges had a few that they thought deserved special recognition.
The Best Social Impact award went to team Code for Hope, a program that would teach prisoners how to code through existing development courses. Daniel Black, a developer at Myriad Mobile, pitched the idea because his brother has spent time in prison and he witnessed how much time, and potential, many prisoners have. In addition, there is a constant need for more developers. This would be a way to teach more people to code while also filling the job gap.
The Just Do It award went to team DuelMe, an app that allows friends to pose a challenge – such as the cinnamon challenge, or any other social dare – and place money on the line to see who will actually go through with it.
The judges main concern here was liability, which the team said they will respond to by allowing users to flag “duels” they see as dangerous, and moderators will have to approve or disapprove before any money is transacted. The Just Do It award is because judges were amused by the idea, and although it didn’t place, they encouraged the team to “just go do it!”
Each of the teams received a hand made trophy by local artist Tom Kemmer and a package of gift certificates to local eateries and breweries. This is to help encourage future team meetings, Startup Weekend organizer John Machacek said.
Although there are stories of Startup Weekend companies that go on to become actual businesses, the majority exist only as a fleeting weekend of coffee and creating. Teams signed their names on the trophies in sharpie, taking photos and congratulating each other on another great, whirlwind weekend.
Regardless, keynote speaker Abdur Chowdhury, CEO of Pushd and former Chief Scientist at Twitter, said he was surprised with how many of the ideas seemed like they could become viable businesses.
“That’s a rare thing,” he said.
Until next year, Startup Weekenders!
Photos by Emerging Prairie.