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Startup Weekend promises to help local entrepreneurs

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One gets the sense in this fast-evolving economy that figuring out ways to help entrepreneurs get their ideas to market might be a more fruitful strategy than hoping to land the occasional significant existing business that wants to relocate to our region.

The challenge is helping people with creative ideas to create new products and services figure out how to get past the idea stage. Few entrepreneurs have the marketing savvy, operational skills, financial background and business connections to make that leap.

The folks at the Greater Wenatchee Area Technology Alliance and the North Central Washington Economic Development District are teaming up to put on a 54-hour, high-octane Startup Weekend on June 7-9 at the Confluence Technology Center to help local entrepreneurs put together viable business plans in the space of three days with the help of experts in relevant fields. Startup Weekends have happened all over the world.

Jennifer Korfiatis of the Economic Development District and Jenny Rickel of the Tech Alliance sat down with me recently to share some of the details of Startup Weekend. It begins with a "pitch night," during which people with ideas for products give a brief synopsis of their concept. Korfiatis emphasized that people are not expected to bring business plans to Startup Weekend. Rather, they're looking for people passionate about an idea who are looking for help to get the project off the ground. These concepts can feature the latest mobile device app or a better way to create an existing low-tech product.

The business experts vote on the best projects and them volunteer to serve on teams to help turn the concept into a viable plan.

Korfiatis attended a Startup Weekend in the Spokane area recently and said it was a fun and energizing experience. "The energy in the room was palpable," she said.

Those experts may find themselves in a position to help carry the idea further into a product or company launch, so everyone is focused on not just giving advice but making something work.

Rickel said it can be intimidating for people to navigate through the steps to build a company. "So many people feel overwhelmed," she said. The weekend program is designed to cut through that fear and provide a supportive and engaging environment where good ideas can evolve quickly.

This event was originally supposed to take place last October, but those plans went up in smoke with the wildfires. Now they're on the hunt for people with ideas who want to participate in the June event. It's an affordable event — $79 is the early bird rate — if people register by May 19. People can sign up at northcentralwashington.startupweekend.org. This is the type of effort that should pay some real dividends for our business community over the long term.

To see my video interview with Rickel and Korfiatis, please click on the link below.

Interview re: Startup Weekend