Back in person and here to work: Startup Weekend returns

Pips group presenting in finals

2017 Miami University philosophy and entrepreneurship graduate Josie Dalton isn’t just the program manager at Flywheel Social Enterprise Hub in Cincinnati. She’s a coach, cheerleader, mentor, and judge at -- and probably one of the biggest fans of -- the Miami University Techstars Startup Weekend.

“There aren't very many experiences around campus or in life where you can get such intense hands-on experiential learning like this. Everyone is collaborating, sharing ideas. You're encouraging creativity, you're encouraging hustle,” Dalton said.

More than 130 students took part in the live three-day event this year, where they pitched ideas, formed teams, ideated, validated, and created products that they then pitched to a group of judges made up of faculty and business leaders. The winning teams would split $5,000 in prize money, made possible by a gift from Miami alum Sean Lane.

“It was so exciting to be back in person for the first time in a couple of FSB events. The energy was amazing. I thought the teams all got along with each other really well, which made them move a lot faster towards effective solutions and have really good teamwork and energy. So it was just great, great vibes,” Dalton said.

Seventeen teams were narrowed to four finalists on Sunday morning:

“I'm an engineer and we understand that marketing is part of the process, but actually getting a full in-depth experience going from the technical side to the ‘talk to the layman’ side is really a big deal,” Nocevski said. “I would encourage a lot of engineers to come to this because we often have a lot of these ideas, but it's just one of those things where you need to talk to somebody and see if we can make it work. Maybe it won't work. I didn't know if this would work at all. It kind of did.”

“I thought that this was such a meaningful experience, not only because you learn how to really work and evolve within a team, but also because I learned the entrepreneurial creative process,” Jurado said. “We started from the very beginning, to developing the problem and idea to the end, to actually presenting it.”

“I probably wouldn't change the experience for the world. I learned so much, and I'm so thankful for my teammates, for the mentors, the professors, everyone that helped me,” Thompson said. “I think it was amazing and I would 100 percent do it again.”

“On Friday. I was just overwhelmed. I didn't know if I could do this, but then on Saturday, when we really got into it and we got with our teams and spent time together, I knew we had a good group of diverse people and that we could really pull this off,” Grone said. “That made it so much fun, just meeting these people and working together.”

Some 50 judges took part in the event, some in person, and others virtually via Zoom.

“To see the students move across that journey in 48 hours, create new friends, take an idea, take it all the way to a pitch. The competition side of it was outstanding, amazing. And I loved being a mentor, loved being a judge,” ESP professor Dan Docherty said.

“I hope that they take away that that they really are capable and prepared to go out into the world and do great things,” Dalton said. “I manage a startup accelerator in the Cincinnati ecosystem, and this weekend I saw students tackling a lot of the same challenges coming up with a lot of the same strategies, moving forward on a lot of the same social issues and things that our founders are working on every day. So I hope they know that they can do it too.”