Is it possible to create a startup in just 54 hours? Participants from this year’s Startup Weekend Maui held May 15-17, showed it can be done.
Nearly 80 residents and visitors participated in this empowering event for entrepreneurs presented by Maui Economic Development Board held at the MEDB Malcolm Center and the Maui Research & Technology Center in Kihei. The event kicked off with 60-second open mic pitches. Then, teams were formed around the top-voted startup ideas and worked through the weekend with the help of mentors and coaches to build viable prototypes which they presented to a panel of judges on Sunday night.
Participants brought tons of energy, enthusiasm and a whole lot of creativity. Among the startup ideas that were presented were:
Review Plus – A website agnostic platform for customer reviews
Board.Vote – A Web app for team voting for non-profit leaders
ticker! – A social game for the stock market
I Waho – Science-based adventure learning program, led by licensed teachers
Waikapu Pickles – Pickles for the People!
Gydyd – compatibility online service that matches locals and visitors for an extraordinary island experience
Hana O Hana – A local outdoor market for visitors in Hana
Take My Profie – App that connects people who want photos with those who take photos
Presentations were judged by criteria that included customer validation, business model and execution.
Board.Vote, an idea pitched by StartUp Weekend Maui returnee David Fry, captured first place for a Web app business he calls Board.Vote. The Web application would allow various non-profit boards (Home Owners Associations for example) to vote on important issues remotely, saving time and effort in the voting process.
The first place team will receive a prize package valued at more than $3,400 that includes two passes to Maui Economic Opportunity’s Core 4 Business Planning workshop, a Maui Chamber of Commerce one-year membership, a one-day rental of MEDB’s Malcolm Center in Kihei, two hours of branding advice from Sae Design, a two-hour digital branding consultation by The Accidental Consultant, design and printing of a rack card or business card by Linn Nishikawa & Associates and Maui Printing Company, two hours of legal advice by McKeon Sheldon Mehling and two passes to MEDB’s business assistance workshops for a year.
“We worked really hard and we’re happy that our team got recognized in that way,” Fry said. “We knew we had a good business idea and the validation was an extra nice touch.”
The teams of “ticker!” led by Michael Ross, an entrepreneur and full-time bartender, and Waikapu Pickles conceived by two close friends — Tammy Evangelista McGuire and Elizabeth Smith — captured second and third place, respectively. ticker! also won the audience vote.
ticker!, is an on line game that allows players to compete against each other in a realistic stock market. Waikapu Pickles, plans on producing locally grown and fermented cucumber pickles to satisfy the local pickle market.
“This was an amazing experience,” Ross said of his Startup Weekend experience. “It was short. It was intense and it was absolutely great.”
McGuire and Smith said the idea of opening a business featuring fresh, local and affordable pickles came up in a conversation about two weeks ago.
“After this weekend, it really feels like we can do this,” McGuire said. “We really can make a go of a business. We proved there’s a market out there and we just need to obtain the products and get other things done. It feels like we got a semester of business courses in just three days.”
Everyone agreed that all who participated walked away a winner.
Paula Satterthwaite, a retiring South Maui teacher with property in Hana, expressed confidence that she would move forward with her idea of creating a centralized place for local artists and commercial vendors to sell their wares in the remote East Maui community.
“Win or lose, I’m going to do this,” said Satterthwaite. The (Startup) Weekend has just been really helpful, absolutely amazing. We’re all winners here.”
Saedene Ota, the owner of Sae Design and one of the weekend’s judges, commended Sattethwaite for her business idea and suggested she reconsider creating a nonprofit and perhaps applying for a county grant. “Obviously you’re doing this from the heart,” Ota told Satterthwaite, adding that she and a few judges were willing to contribute to startup expenses.
While anthropologist Zoe Weston’s business pitch did not make the weekend cut, she said she gained a lot of lessons in helping another aspiring entrepreneur test and shape his idea of a business. “No matter what, you’re going to learn about how to run your business by participating in this process,” Weston said.
Prior to Sunday night’s announcement of the winners, Waikapu Pickles Tammy Evangelista McGuire said the weekend exceeded her expectations. “It was awesome and so exciting. I feel like I’m Ms. America.”
“Please keep doing this,” Christopher Taylor told MEDB President and CEO Jeanne Skog during an informal feedback session. Like Weston, Taylor set his business pitch aside and helped another would-be entrepreneur test and explore a business idea. “You learn that so much happens organically,” Taylor said, adding that he learned in marketing research, businesses have to adapt based on customer wants and needs.
Facilitator Bryan “Boots” Butteling closed off the weekend by telling participants: “This is not the end. This is just the beginning.”
Participants expressed feelings of exhaustion and exhilaration after enduring the 54-hour experience with a few hours of sleep. “Remember the feeling you have right now and use that for tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day,” he said.
Startup Weekend Judge Don Kosak, the Nalukai Foundation founder/managing partner, encouraged participants to keep in touch even after the event. “This is a fantastic pool. You can grab your first employees from this,” Kosak said.
Other judges offered other advice.
Tarik Sultan of Sultan Ventures: “If you get stuck, don’t be afraid to reach out for assistance.”
Saedene Ota: “If this is your passion, pursue it.”
“It may sound rough but you have to experience failure. … If you fall down, get back up,” said Garrett Marrero, Founder/CEO of Maui Brewing Co.
“We extend a big mahalo to all the sponsors, judges, coaches, mentors, supporters and especially to this year’s participants who contributed to the success of this event,” said Jeanne Skog of MEDB. “It takes a village and without their support Startup Weekend Maui could not have been possible.”
Startup Weekend Maui was hosted by the Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB).
A special mahalo goes to:
County of Maui Mayor’s Office of Economic Development
High Technology Development Corporation
Pacific Media Group
Startup Capital Ventures
Jamie Dinkelacker – Director of Engineering, Google Niantic Labs
Don Kosak – Founder / Managing Partner, Nalukai Foundation
Garrett Marrero – Founder/CEO, Maui Brewing Co.
Saedene Ota – Owner & Creative Director, Sae Design
Keith Powers – Managing Partner, Engaged Partners, LLC
Tarik Sultan – Managing Partner, Sultan Ventures
Coaches and mentors:
Andrea Barrica – Entrepreneur in Residence, 500 Startups in San Francisco, Calif.
Erik Blair – Owner, The Accidental Consultant
Rebecca Filipovic – Attorney, McKeon Sheldon Mehling
Kim Haueisen – Vice President of Marketing & Operations, Hawaii Fudge Company
Peter Liu – Director of Operations, mbloom
Keri Mehling – Attorney & Partner, McKeon Sheldon Mehling
Sara Smith _ Founder and CEO, Wrappily
Craig Swift – Director of Business Development, Maui Economic Opportunity
Pamela Tumpap – President, Maui Chamber of Commerce
Kevin Yoshida – Neighbor Island Region Manager, Central Pacific Bank
Bryan Butteling – Strategic Partnerships, Sultan Ventures
Startup Weekend is a global grassroots movement of active and empowered entrepreneurs who are learning the basics of founding startups and launching successful ventures. It is the largest community of passionate entrepreneurs with over 1800 past events in 120 countries around the world in 2014.