Rock, paper, scissors at Startup Weekend. (Photo by Melissa Chipman.)

By Melissa Chipman

I’d like to be able to say that the one benefit of being the sole woman among approximately forty male participants of Startup Weekend Louisville (not to mention all of the mentors, all of the hosts, all of the judges, the keynote speaker, and the Startup Weekend representative) is that at least the women’s bathroom is super clean.

It’s not. It smells pretty awful in there, like maybe the cleaning person made lunch of a couple dozen raw oysters that had turned.

There is one major benefit to being the only woman at Startup Weekend: I stand out. And at a networking event, you can’t beat that with a stick.

A bunch of times today, I had people I didn’t know call me by name, reference my blog, ask about last night’s Insider Louisville post.

Several times on Twitter today, I was asked – by men and women – two questions: (1) why there are no women at Startup Louisville? and (2) how to get women to come to these kinds of events?

The answer to (1) is very simple: I have no idea.

The answer to (2) is more complicated.

But before I get into that I want to be clear: the past 30-plus hours have been a dream. I don’t think I was this excited when I started my own freelancing business.

My concerns about being a woman in a man-heavy environment were unfounded.

I’m on a team with three brilliant guys who value my input and who share the work of our startup equally. Not a soul at the event has made me feel like a “girl” (which is good, seeing I left “girl”-hood behind around a decade ago).

I will be sad when this event is over, even though I am sleep-deprived and way over-caffeinated.

Seriously, I consumed so much Heine Brothers’ coffee (an event sponsor) today that I may, in fact, be levitating.

Startup Weekend is like summer camp. For nerds. These are my people.

Back to the “women problem” of startup events in Louisville. I point to the parenthetical statement I made in paragraph one of this article. When you have no women hosting, mentoring, judging, speaking, or representing the parent organization, that’s a problem.

Grace Simrall, a tech-driven entrepreneur and founder of iGlass Analytics, dropped in on the event at my invitation. But she’s not on the list of mentors or hosts. Michelle Jones, of the Consuming Louisville empire, whose iPhone ap, Menu and Hours was recently called the “perfect restaurant ap” by Fast Company, couldn’t attend because the event overlaps Rosh Hashanah (come on, Louisville– do better).

The closest we have to women “representing” at Startup Weekend Louisville is a sponsorship by Rooibee Red Tea.

Many mentors were afoot today, and I’m afraid that most of the other teams made better use of them. They included:

Alex Frommeyer, Beam Brush

Andrew Spendlove, GlowTouch Technologies

Greg Langdon, angel investor

Lou Kelmanson, Kelmanson Holdings

John Williamson, UCloser

My team was nose-to-the-grindstone starting at 9 a.m.

I’d been up until almost 4 a.m. working (of course, some of that midnight oil was spent writing last night’s article); a couple of my team members are morning people who’d started working at 5am.

As far as I’m concerned, I have the best possible team. There are only four of us, so we make decisions quickly. All four of us are so diversified that there’s no jockeying for responsibility. We’re a designer, a back end coder, a front end coder, and me– the project manager and networker. Our roles are clearly defined, and we’re largely autonomous.

Today was full-speed ahead for us. But other teams weren’t as lucky.

Some teams were pivoting as late as 7 p.m. today. One team went through more than seven business models before deciding on one that had nothing to do with the original pitch.

My team is CityAnchor. I need to keep the specifics a little close to my vest, but it’s our hope to not only be live, but perhaps even generating revenue by the time we present to the judges tomorrow at 5 p.m.

That’s huge. And exciting.

And I have faith in this.

Today Startup Weekend was 100-percent work. The designer is designing, the coders are coding, and I pulled in a number of social media experts for focus groups and to check out the mock-up for our mobile website and I am working on the website copy.

Tomorrow we start back up again at 9 a.m. and have work time until we break at  5p.m.

We’ll have dinner (tonight’s was provided by J.Gumbo’s – looking forward to seeing who’s bringing dinner tomorrow), and then we’ll pitch to the judges.

The panel of judges are:

Kent Oyler – founder of High Speed Access (first tech IPO from KY) and OPM.

Doug Cobb – Entrepreneur-in-residence at Chrysalis Ventures

Bob Saunders – Managing Director at Saunders Capital

Lou Kelmanson – angel investor

Fred Durham – Founder & former CEO of CafePress (who was Friday’s keynote)

We’ve been given a set of judging criteria, but what the “winning” team wins is still unclear to me.

But that’s just fine, in my case. Unless something goes terribly awry tomorrow, we’ll have an actual business founded and launched by 5 p.m., and that’s enough of a win for me.

People are tweeting about Startup Weekend Louisville using the hashtag #swlou.

And I know I said I have to keep my team’s information on the down low, but we’re already tweeting at @CityAnchor, and you can friend us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/CityAnchor.

I’ll be live-tweeting the presentation process from @CityAnchor.

If you’d like to see the presentations in person, you can come to the UofL MedCenter 2 on Sunday at 5pm. Read more about all six teams at the Startup Weekend Louisville blog. Join us, we’re proud and excited– all forty-something of us.

By the way, I have no idea what happened to the other woman who showed up last night. I was so consumed by my role as participant today that I utterly neglected my reportorial role.

But either she’s one of the Silence from Doctor Who, or she didn’t show up today.

Either way, I am relatively certain she’s not responsible for the women’s bathroom issue.

Melissa Chipman

About Melissa Chipman: Melissa Chipman is Louisville-based journalist and editor who recently made a career change after 13 years of teaching at elite private schools in Louisville and New Orleans. Chipman has a BA in English from Columbia College of Columbia University in New York City and an MA in English from the University of New Orleans.



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