No other city in the world has held as many consecutive Startup Weekends as Louisville. Since 2012, local volunteers from the startup community have banded together to hold two weekend-long events each year.
The first event attracted around 40 attendees (including yours truly), and since then more than 750 people from across the region have attended one or more of the events.
Startup Weekend Louisville 11 will be held at the new PNC Gigabit Experience Center at the Louisville Central Community Center in the Russell neighborhood from Oct. 13-15.
Startup Weekend is a three-day event. On Friday, individuals have dinner, network, and then whoever wants to gives a one-minute pitch for a new startup. These startups cannot be works in progress — they must be wholly original and not beyond the “idea on a napkin” stage.
Then, the entire crowd votes for their favorite ideas and collect themselves into teams around the most popular ideas and get to work.
The teams work all weekend to create the products, validate their ideas and build their companies. Throughout the weekend they are supported by volunteers, coaches and mentors from the startup community. All meals are included with the ticket price, and snacks and drinks are always available.
On Sunday, each team pitches to a panel of “celebrity” judges. The winning teams walk away with prizes — usually ones geared toward helping their new business, like free legal advice or space at a local co-working venue.
Anyone at any experience level can attend. According to a news release, “People from widely varying ages, backgrounds and experience levels come to lend their talents in coding, design, development, marketing and more. Some people come to learn more about startups in general, and some people come for the networking opportunities this immersive event provides.”
While not every company or even every winning company goes on to become a legitimate business, many continue to have traction long after the weekend is over. Lifebit, a fire alarm for people who have hearing loss, won the 10th event and an immediate bid into the annual Venture Sharks competition.
The company won more than $800 for the Audience Choice Award and the $300 Alumni Award.
“Over the course of one weekend, I went from being alone with an idea to having the winning idea and being surrounded by a team of close friends that had been complete strangers just a few hours earlier,” said Lifebit founder Phil Brun in the release. “It is an amazing experience, but my favorite part was pitching to the audience, judges and fellow colleagues. Startup Weekend Louisville is like a supercharged MBA program that absolutely has no equal, and I encourage every citizen of Louisville to participate.”
Early-bird discount tickets to the event currently are available until early September when prices go up. Tickets start at $39.
Disclosure: The author typically volunteers at Startup Weekend events.