Getting a tech startup off the ground takes more than just having a good idea. It takes sacrifice, collaboration, execution and, of course, money.
This weekend, dozens of tech geeks will do battle in the Alamo City in an attempt to win prizes and investor dollars.
The Kauffman Foundation’s Startup Weekend is a 54-hour marathon where developers, designers and even those with a nontechnical background work together and with mentors to cultivate ideas into marketable products. The events are held worldwide.
In San Antonio, Startup Weekend is hosted at Geekdom at the Weston Centre downtown. It started Friday evening and ends Sunday.
Although the ideas are incredibly technical, the event unfolds organically.
About 50 geeks from San Antonio and elsewhere lay out their ideas. The best ideas draw in people who believe that their expertise can help develop the product. The teams then start to develop the idea and a business and marketing plan with help from mentors. Ideas and plans then are detailed to a panel of judges and investors.
The top three teams will win a slew of prizes such as incorporation, patent and trademark services and webhosting for a year.
“It’s about building connections and the ecosystem,” said Nicholas Longo, Geekdom’s director and a mentor for the event. “This is the beginning of launching new ideas that may not go anywhere, or may. But what it is, is now they’re all meeting each other and for other ideas they know who their team members can be.”
To participate, each geek pays a $75 to $99 registration fee, which includes meals. Longo said his staff also has carved out places for people to sleep for those who plan to stay close to their teams.
Several invitations were sent out to potential investors, but Longo was uncertain late Friday who would actually show up.
It has been about four years since the last time a Startup Weekend was held in San Antonio, said Longo. And now that the city has a dedicated geek space, Longo added that the event is expected to happen regularly.
There are other similar startup sessions that happen in San Antonio throughout the year, but this event showcases ideas that are farther along in the process, said Longo.
One team that has put months of work into their idea is San Antonio-based TrueAbility. The business, which is co-founded by three ex-Rackspace employees, aims at creating a platform that helps companies find technical talent.
The team wants to make finding qualified talent easier by creating a set of tests that assesses applicant’s abilities in a real server environment. A backlog of applicants and their test assessments are kept for future consideration.
The company also wants to add a gaming feature aimed at attracting geeks to assess their own skills and possibly land jobs. TrueAbility is nearing its beta launch, which is expected by early fall.
All three TrueAbility founders started at the hosting and cloud computing company in its early days, amassing stock that allowed them to quit their jobs earlier this year to start their own venture.
Although the team has flipped the bill for the company’s development thus far, they couldn’t pass up the experience they’d gain during Startup Weekend, said co-founder Frederick Mendler, 37.
“Getting different opinions and meeting people to challenge us will work as a benefit,” added co-founder Luke Owen, 31.
The trio admitted they were nervous about the competition, saying that they’re taking their baby to its first talent show. But they’re hoping the feedback will help their product.
“At an event like this, the more people we talk to, the more we plug the holes,” said co-founder Marcus Robertson, 36. “But I’m afraid someone is going to tell us our baby is ugly.”