Start-up networking weekend to return to Toledo

Entrepreneurs, experts to exchange ideas at UT

9/14/2013
BY TYREL LINKHORN
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

Aaron Harwell was operating a photo-booth-rental business when he noticed how quick people were to whip out their smart phones to take a picture of their picture to share with friends over social media.

Why not devise a way for them to do that automatically, he thought.

With that concept in his back pocket, he was one of the 70 or so people at last year’s inaugural Startup Weekend Toledo.

“I went in there with an idea and I think what it did more than anything was, it was a catalyst for it moving forward,” he said Friday.

His company, twineLABS, later drew the attention of Rocket Ventures, which awarded him grant money and mentorship. His product is on the market. “It’s basically the photo booth, reinvented,” he said.

The second Startup Weekend Toledo runs Friday through Sept. 22 at the Nitschke Technology Commercialization Complex at the University of Toledo.

Part of a larger nonprofit initiative, Startup Weekends are gatherings of aspiring entrepreneurs and business experts aimed at vetting ideas and connecting people. The events are held nationwide.

In Toledo, the lead organizer is Lindsey Danforth, herself an entrepreneur who has been through the process of start-ups.

“A lot of people, they’re nervous because they don’t even know where to start,” she said. “Startup Weekend is kind of a crash course in becoming an entrepreneur. It’s learning through the process of creating.”

The event starts with 30-second business-idea pitches on Friday, with attendees voting on the top ideas. On Saturday, attendees team up and work with coaches through common problems that start-ups face.

On Sunday, they present prototype businesses to a panel of judges.

Last year’s Toledo event produced two businesses. Ms. Danforth said many ideas and teams will break up before creating an actual business, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

“The biggest takeaway from startup weekend is the network you’re going to build,” she said.

Mr. Harwell agreed, and said it was well worth the time. “It’s basically up to you to get out of it what you put into it, and I think that’s a pretty good analogy of business,” he said. “You’re not successful in business if you don’t put the time and effort into it. It gives you a really good idea of how to get your idea and launch a business.”

Ms. Danforth said organizers are expecting about 70 attendees this year. The program is open to anyone, even those who don’t have a specific business idea. There’s a $40 registration fee, which includes meals, and Ms. Danforth said people can register up until the day before the event. To register or to get additional information, visit toledo.startupweekend.org.

Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at tlinkhorn@theblade.com or 419-724-6134.