photo (12)There were around 50 attendees (we lost count) at this past weekend’s Startup Weekend Louisville. More than half of them — 28 — came with a startup business idea to pitch. Nearly 80 percent of the attendees were new, the largest percentage of newbies since the first event in September 2012.

At Startup Weekend — a worldwide nonprofit event — attendees spend from 6 p.m. Friday until 9 p.m. Sunday in teams creating, validating and building businesses from scratch. On Sunday, they deliver five-minute pitches to a panel of esteemed judges, who then vote on the top three business ideas. The three “pillars” of judging criteria are execution, business model validation, and user experience and design.

Startup Weekend Louisville 5 kicked off with a keynote speech by entrepreneur and current co-founder of Rowdmap, Joshua Rosenthal, who gave a hilariously dire speech that likened having a successful startup to winning the lottery (even though he’s done it a number of times). Rosenthal is one of those super successful Louisville-based entrepreneurs whose name should be brought up every time someone claims you can’t have big exits in Louisville. But he flies even farther under the radar than Cafe Press’ Fred Durham in that regard.

Rosenthal enjoyed his experience at Startup Weekend so much, he stuck around till the end of the day on Friday and watched as eight ideas were eventually voted to advance and teams formed.

I was one of the organizers of the event, which was held at Velocity in Jeffersonville. Jacy Cruz, Daniel Johnsen, Greg Langdon, Dave Najewicz, Zack Pennington, Kelby Price, Eric Roland, Amelia Gandara and I have been planning this weekend for months. Gathering sponsors, lining up meals, soliciting prizes … it’s a lot of work, especially the weekend of the even, when it’s “all hands on deck” and almost no downtime. But it’s something I look forward to and immensely enjoy.

This time around, we had eight teams that worked tirelessly all weekend long. The judges named three winners, but just about any of the teams could have placed.

Capacity crowd at the Sunday pitch competition
Capacity crowd at the Sunday pitch competition

The judges were: Kevin Nolan of GE, Galen Powers of Optical Dynamics, Vidya Ravichandran of Glowtouch, Tayor Trusty of Blackstone Media, and Andrew Takami of Purdue University College of Technology.

The winner was Fuelytics, a team helmed by Granite America VP Kartik Kamat. His business employs a fleet of 10 trucks to deliver the granite countertops they create. He said every small or medium business that manages a fleet has a problem called “slippage,” which Kamat called “the industry term for theft.” He said small- and medium-sized businesses spend $10 billion in the U.S. every year, and around 10 percent of that is lost to “slippage” — meaning gas meant to go into fleet vehicles is going into personal vehicles.

Fuelytics is an app that would go on every fleet driver’s phone. After every fuel transaction, they would take a picture of the pump and another of the odometer. Some fancy image recognition thing happens, and this information is forwarded to the fleet manager’s computer and synched with their accounting software.

The Fuelytics team did a trial with 42 businesses in their target market. Three customers have already signed up (including Granite America). They’re still working out their revenue model — whether it would be a fee-per-user or a percentage of the company’s savings.

Second place went to More Thoughtful, a subscription box service that delivers “thoughtful gifts” to men for them to give to their significant other. They called it a “Netflix for gifts” because you could pick a bunch of gifts up front and create a queue of gifts to deliver at intervals you select. The company noted that BirchBox got 300,000 subscribers in its first year.

On Sunday afternoon, the team took over one of the classrooms and called it “the Internet.” There is literally no way to describe what went on there, but essentially, they turned the room into a mockup of their website and tested it out. Men would select preferences on a white board and opt to order a gift or not. If they ordered it, actual gifts in the selected price range were revealed, and the man chose the best selection for his mate.

The team made four sales and said they had made 40 percent margins on the purchases (over retail paid for gifts that were bought in NuLu and in the Highlands).

Third place went to Sear Slice Sizzle, which is modeled after the “mystery box challenges” in competitive cooking shows. It is a box subscription that delivers three bizarre, unrelated and often exotic non-perishable ingredients to people each month and challenges them to come up with a recipe that uses all three ingredients and then share it online with the Sear Slice Sizzle community.

Subscriptions cost $15-$20 monthly, and the boxes, including shipping, will run the company around $10. By presentation time, eight people had signed up for subscriptions.

The remaining companies were:

FitBeats: A motivational running app that allows you to sync either your Pandora account or your music library (it was a little vague) to this app, which will track your run and allow you to choose your music based on its beats per minute.

Date Knights: Curates date nights for busy professionals, including arranging childcare services and other special requests.

Tool Share: A tool library where people can borrow tools for a fee and a platform where people who have tools can lend their tools and make a little money. This company has partnered with IDEAS40204 and the Steam Exchange at 716 Hancock St.

Urban Spring: REITs but for distressed neighborhoods. This is for-profit social investing that buys blighted properties in blocks, fixes them up and rents them out. They plan on continuing to work on this project, starting with the Portland neighborhood, and have meetings scheduled this week.

Meat2Share: A platform that would allow you to buy a “share” of a cow directly from a farmer and meat processor.

Coaches who worked with the teams included organizers Stacy Griggs, Bob Saunders, Mark Midland and Brian Wallace.

The next Startup Weekend will be in the spring of 2015.


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