Rexburg hosted its first Startup Weekend event Feb. 2 through Feb. 4 and is now considering doing one annually.
Startup Weekend is a 54-hour competition designed to teach aspiring entrepreneurs how to turn an idea into a business. Participants form teams and develop a product and pitch deck. Local business owners mentor the teams and teach them how to test prototypes and speak to investors.
The event ends with a pitch competition where judges award the most developed business plan with access to local resources such as office space at a business incubator or continued mentoring.
“We don’t want someone coming in with a fully formed idea,” said Will Jenson, director of business at the Research and Business Development Center in Rexburg. “The whole idea is that all of that happens in the 54 hours. Watching them go from nothing to something is pretty neat.”
About 50 participants and 40 coaches attended Rexburg’s Startup Weekend. In the end, six teams pitched their product ideas to a judging panel of three local business owners.
“For the short nature of the whole event, it was impressive how far they were able to get their business ideas along,” said Kris Nielson, CEO of the Rexburg business Monkey Bars and a judge at the pitch competition. “I hope to see them continue to seek out input and curating what they have developed.”
Jenson hosted a Startup Weekend in Idaho Falls a couple years ago, but decided to move the event to Rexburg this year because Brigham Young University-Idaho is there promoting entrepreneurship.
He believes that the community can support a Startup Weekend event every year.
“We asked people in attendance if they would come back next year and a lot of them said they would and that they wanted to help,” Jenson said.
The majority of the teams that participated developed ideas for apps that could recommend events, establish better communication between local governments and residents and help people set up dates and make reservations at restaurants.
The business idea that the judges liked the best was a product similar to an extension cord that made electric outlets behind pieces of furniture accessible. The judges chose it in part because the team was able to develop a prototype.
“I think we had more apps pitched this time around than a couple years ago, which is interesting,” Jenson said. “I wonder if that is a trend that has been noticed in other parts of the country.
“The problem was that most of the teams didn’t have someone on the team with the experience to create the app. There were only a couple individuals that could,” he said. “Many of the teams were contemplating ways to get their apps developed and are looking into contracting with someone to develop for them.”