Local entrepreneurship efforts attractive in tough economic times
Madison College 'Startup Weekend' caters to innovators
With Wisconsin's economy struggling to crawl out of a deep recession, the need for innovation and ideas has never been stronger.
A weekend event at Madison College brought together more than 100 entrepreneurs, one of whom might have the next big idea.
The innovation challenge was part of what’s called "Startup Weekend."
On Friday, participants pitched their ideas and then voted to choose the top 15.
Then, they got to work attempting to bring the ideas to market.
John Detloff was one of the participants. He said he's trying to develop a mobile app that he’s calling "Find Fresh." The idea behind the app is to help Dane County Farmers’ Market visitors connect with the food they want.
"We did a lot of brainstorming Friday night trying to figure out what we wanted to do," said Detloff. "If they come with a product in mind, or a list of fruits or vegetables they're interested in bringing home, we're going to be able to direct them to the vendors they want."
A winning idea, perhaps, but the Find Fresh team isn't alone.
About 14 other groups think they've got the most marketable idea.
Madison College’s Lorin Toepper is overseeing the event. She said that in these tough times, this event may be just what budding entrepreneurs need to make a difference.
"There's a lot of energy in the room, there's a lot of computer heat being generated," said Toepper. "I just think it's indicative in the amount of interest in becoming an entrepreneur."
"For some people who are having problems finding employment opportunities out there, I think entrepreneurship should be something they consider," continued Toepper. "And the beauty of these kinds of startups is that they're very low-cost, so you're removing some of those barriers to entry."
Back at the Find Fresh table, developers bury their heads in their laptops searching for the next big thing.
"It's a really exciting event," said Detloff. "It's amazing that so many people could come and pitch really cool ideas and build products that can really start producing value at the end of the weekend."
Local judges will weigh in on the best product and business plan from the weekend.
The winners will get help in bringing their ideas to market, not in the form of money, but automatic admission into more events like Madison College's "Startup Weekend" that will help them along the way.
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