Breckenridge Startup Weekend set to host immersive competition for entrepreneurs

This article was published in the Summit Daily News. By Kelsey Fowler. 

Courtesy of Aspen Startup Weekend |  Startup Weekend Aspen judges worked through several key criteria to choose business idea winners last fall. On Jan. 31, Startup Weekend heads to Breckenridge.

Courtesy of Aspen Startup Weekend |
Startup Weekend Aspen judges worked through several key criteria to choose business idea winners last fall. On Jan. 31, Startup Weekend heads to Breckenridge.

The snowy cold of Summit County is far removed from the warmth of Silicon Valley, but the two places will soon have at least one more thing in common: motivated entrepreneurs ready to start the next big business.

Startup Weekend, a global movement of immersive startup events, is coming Jan. 31 to Feb. 2 to Breckenridge at the Colorado Mountain College campus. The weekend, powered by Google for Entrepreneurs, is a nonprofit, 54-hour immersive workshop where entrepreneurs bring ideas, form teams and end the weekend with business plans and pitches.

Garrett Fisher, lead organizer for Breckenridge Startup Weekend, said after he served as a coach at Aspen Startup Weekend last October, all he could think about was bringing one to Breckenridge. Fisher is the author of “The Human Theory of Everything,” and executive director of the Institute for Economic Innovation.

“It’s a world-class place to live with open minded people,” he said. “To bring startup activity here, it’s really to shake the tree and see who falls out.”

Teams are coached by business professionals, and pitch ideas to a panel of judges Sunday evening, who will select three winning teams. The judges will include: Colorado Mountain College president Carrie Hauser; Hank Torbert, venture capitalist; Jens Owen, executive director of Storm Peak Innovations; and Matt Bernier, CTO of Technical Integrity.

Even those who do not have entrepreneurial ideas can register for tickets for just the speaking and judging portions of the event. Featured speakers at the event will be Ross Iverson, CEO of the Vail Leadership Institute, Bryan Nolt, CEO of Breckenridge Distillery and Joel Gratz, founder of Opensnow.com.

“It’s for anyone who is entrepreneurial-minded, who has a business idea they want to launch,” Fisher said. “If you have the willingness to work like a maniac for the weekend, you’ll have a business plan at the end.”

Prizes include legal advice from patent attorney Jeff Schell, consulting services from the Northwest Colorado Small Business Development Center, free software, an extensive marketing package and consulting from Breckenridge-based startup consulting and finance firm FinanceSolutions.

Startup Weekend attendee backgrounds are roughly 50 percent technical, such as developers, coders, designers, and 50 percent business, such as marketing, finance, law. The uniting factor, Fisher said, is an interest in entrepreneurship, whether someone is experienced or brand-new to the startup scene.

“In Summit County there are lots of people who have innovative ideas, gobs of people, but we all do our own thing, we don’t really meet other people for long-term goals,” Fisher said. “It takes an unusual person to find a way to make a living up here.”

Fisher said the lineup of coaches, speakers and judges will hopefully connect teams with startup resources after the weekend is done. The goal, he said, is really to find innovative people and bring them together. According to Startup Weekend, 80 percent of teams intend to continue working together after the event, and 36 percent of teams are still active three months later.

Fisher said he is looking forward to filling up the CMC building with new ideas. He was inspired by a Startup Weekend event in Buffalo, NY, his hometown. He said people told him it was the single most important event in their startup “ecosystem.”

“This is all part of a bigger initiative designed to build a technology and innovation ecosystem here,” he said.

The judging criteria is split into four parts: business model, customer validation, technical and design. Any business ideas are eligible, but the event is technology oriented. About 95 percent of all ideas are mobile or web-focused, and given the short time frame, the organization strongly recommends even non-tech ideas focus on a tech-related deliverable, such as a website, by Sunday.

For more information or to register, visit www.Breckenridge.Startupweekend.org. The Breckenridge Startup Weekend is still accepting additional coaches, prizes and sponsorships. Tickets cover event costs and meals, and range from $49 to $99 for the weekend. Women entrepreneurs and CMC faculty can receive a 25 percent discount by entering codes BRECKWOMEN and CMCFACULTY, respectively.