Startup Success

inaugural Startup Weekend helps entrepreneurs boot up

Tom Giffey

SCENES FROM A STARTUP. Competitors work on their embryonic business (top); the judges weigh in.
SCENES FROM A STARTUP. Competitors work on their embryonic business;
later, the judges weigh in (below).

A just-launched Eau Claire tech startup, 15 Second Imaging, was looking for some advice. They had a great idea – create high-resolution 3D images of products that potential buyers could view on the Web – but they needed to find just the right object to demonstrate the process. Enter Jerry Bauer, founder of Eau Claire-based Web development firm JB Systems, who suggested they get in touch with a client of his, a local jewelry store.

Time was of the essence: The startup team was racing to present their ideas the next day. They hastily snapped a selfie with Bauer to serve as an introduction to the jewelers, and off they went. The gambit worked, and they emerged with high-resolution images of a vintage ring – the kind of small, heavily detailed product well-suited to the retail tool they were creating. Coupled with some technological advice from Bauer – who also recommended a way they could easily embed the images on the Web – 15 Second Imaging was poised for success.

This scenario was one of several that played out on the first weekend of October as part of the inaugural Eau Claire Startup Weekend, the local iteration of a global movement that has spawned countless real-life startup businesses. Participants have just 48 hours to team up and create bare-bones businesses that are viable enough to impress a panel of judges. Consider it an entrepreneurial marathon.

“I came into the event not knowing what to expect and I left with a great team, winning first place, and had the basics of a business that we are continuing to work on,” – Brandon Cedarblade, Eau Claire Startup Weekend participants

 In this case, 15 Second Imaging was the winner. The six-member team came away from the weekend with a prize package worth $17,000 that included Web design and hosting, fully furnished office space, free legal advice, and much more.
“I came into the event not knowing what to expect and I left with a great team, winning first place, and had the basics of a business that we are continuing to work on,” said 15 Second Imaging team member Brandon Cedarblade.

In all, Eau Claire Startup Weekend had 11 participants, eight of whom kicked of the weekend on Friday, Oct. 2, with 60-second idea pitches. Participants, who gathered at the soon-to-open Lismore Hotel, voted on their favorite pitches, narrowing the field to three teams: 15 Second Imaging; Rebel Traveler, an app for people with mobility problems; and TenFor Team Matching, an app that helps truckers find co-riders.

“I was really impressed with the quality of the ideas that our participants had,” said Patrick Gaetjens, one of the weekend’s organizers and a project manager at the Eau Claire Area Economic Development Corp. The teams were judged on the validity of their business models, product execution, and user experience. Gaetjens said the judges praised all three teams, saying they all had viable ideas that could take root after the weekend is over.

While Eau Claire’s business climate is relatively conservative compared with some other cities, “there’s an exciting group of entrepreneurs around here,” said Bauer, one of seven business professionals who advised participants. “We saw a lot of passion and a lot of energy,” he said.

To learn more about Startup Weekend, check out www.facebook.com/ECstartupweekend.

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