Columbia startup weekend set for success

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COLUMBIA- Columbia's fourth annual startup weekend kicks off Friday evening. The 54-hour event features teams of aspiring entrepreneurs who will work together to build a startup business to pitch to a panel of judges and community members.

"It's actually part of a global organization that helps these communities put on these events geared towards helping communities support the startup scene but also connect them with different resources, mentors, things like that that are available in the community to help the startups thrive," event organizer Heidi Fuhrman said.

In total, over 700 cities worldwide participate in the startup weekend event. Fuhrman said Columbia should be proud to be part of such a successful program.

"I think it sets Columbia on a bit of a map in the startup world to showcase some of the talent that is in this area," Fuhrman said. "Obviously there are a lot of people who come through here with the university as well so it gives people a chance while they're in school to connect with things that are happening outside of campus."

Aside from college students looking to kick-start their career, people of all ages and from all backgrounds have signed up to participate.

"It's an event that's for everybody so you'll have people here who are students, people that have been retired, we have had high school students in the past, so it's an event that brings different skill sets together, different industries together, and it's a chance to get everyone on the same page with fresh ideas to see what can happen over the course of a weekend," Fuhrman said.

One hundred and twenty-five entrepreneurs will be put into groups to design, build, and pitch a new business. There are 19 mentors who will provide feedback and offer suggestions throughout the weekend. A panel of seven judges will decide which teams show the most promise.

Local sponsors help to keep the non-stop event running by providing food and beverages throughout the weekend.

"There are a lot of benefits for Columbia," Fuhrman said. "One thing we're trying to do this year is feature, of course people in the area who are mentors and judges, like some of the great thinkers in our area but also some of the wonderful food scene that is present in Columbia and that is really evolving."

Community members are encouraged to come out and see what startup weekend is all about. The opening event is a party at Quinton's on Thursday from 7 to 11 PM. It is free for people involved in the event and members from the community can join for $10. There are also opportunities to go to the site of the event to learn about the business initiatives.

"Friday night is a good chance to come to Museao for the opening pitches," Fuhrman said. "Those are 60 second pitches of the new business ideas that we'll be developing over the course of the weekend and then for Sunday night for final presentations from 5 to 8 PM at Museao and that is a great time to be here to see what the teams have been working on as they present to the panel of judges."

You can learn more information regarding the schedule of events, featured judges and mentors here.