The Buffalo Niagara region is hosting a series of events next week meant to help prospective entrepreneurs bring their most promising ideas to the marketplace, highlighted by Buffalo’s first Startup Weekend.
The 54-hour event, which begins next Friday at Medaille College, offers would-be business owners the chance to work in teams, receive feedback and mentoring from experts, and win prizes of cash and incubator space.
Buffalo’s Startup Weekend and a slate of events scheduled at the University at Buffalo coincide with the national Startup Weekend and Global Entrepreneurship Week.
“With anybody who has that entrepreneurial flame, we can fan it a little bit better,” said Thomas R. Ulbrich, executive director of UB’s Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership, part of the School of Management.
Organizers say the activities are meant to encourage entrepreneurial activity in Buffalo Niagara. Small businesses are the key to local economic growth, they say, and more is being done to nurture good ideas that have commercial potential.
“My goal is to make Buffalo the Queen City of startups,” said John W. Howell, CEO of nxtARROW, an economic-development company that works to attract startup companies to Buffalo and operates a virtual incubator.
This is the first time that Buffalo is hosting a Startup Weekend, a national program sponsored by the Kauffman Foundation.
A group of volunteers has worked since the spring to set up the event, which runs from next Friday to Sunday at Medaille, said Dan Magnuszewski, chief of innovation at Z80 Labs, an incubator for technology companies. Other organizers include Steve Poland, Dan Gigante, Jon Spitz and Jeff Ross.
Buffalo’s Startup Weekend is meant to help technology companies get off the ground and is aimed at people who have an idea for new computer software, smartphone applications or mobile technologies, Magnuszewski said. Some Startup Weekend attendees will come with ideas for a new product; others will offer their services to the visionaries.
Beginning at 6:30 p.m. next Friday, participants will pitch their ideas to a group of experts and form teams around the best ideas. Those teams will work over the weekend to develop a business plan and product prototypes – with the assistance of the mentors on hand – before presenting those plans and demonstrating their products Sunday.
“It’s very condensed – it’s a very intense process,” Magnuszewski said.
The top teams, as judged by a panel of experts, receive cash prizes, free incubator space in Z80 Labs or nxtARROW, flexible space in CoworkBuffalo and legal advice.
Organizers hope Startup Weekend helps get some new companies off the ground. One of Z80 Labs’ tenants, GradFly, which develops next-generation software to match students to the right college, participated in a Startup Weekend in Rochester this spring.
Participants must register for Buffalo Startup Weekend, at $25 for students and $50 for members of the public, and registration is limited to 125 people.
About 90 people have signed up so far, Magnuszewski said, including a good number of college students. Details are available at www.buffalo.startupweekend.org.
The organizers of Startup Weekend are holding an informational happy hour from 4:30 to 7 p.m. today at Z80 Labs, on the first floor of The Buffalo News, Washington and Scott streets.
Global Entrepreneurship Week begins Monday, and UB is hosting tie-in events. The main event at UB is the appearance by Black Mycoskie on Thursday as part of the UB Distinguished Speakers Series. He is founder of TOMS Shoes and author of “Start Something That Matters,” the 2012 UB Reads selection.
Other UB events include speed networking, an “Entrepreneurs Unplugged” round-table discussion and an Innovation Challenge. “I think it’s a very exciting time to be an entrepreneur in Western New York,” Ulbrich said.
Registration is required for the UB events. For information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Alex Cleary at 885-5715.