COLUMBIA, Missouri — In its second year, Startup Weekend is returning to Columbia but with a slightly upgraded look, said Brett Calhoun.
“We rebranded Startup Weekend so that it felt more inclusive to everybody. The goal is to of course have fun and network with others — but also bring together talent and form great ideas. There’s no reason to silo that to Columbia. We are also the only Startup Weekend in Missouri, so this is our way to take ownership of it,” said Calhoun, managing director and partner of the Scale accelerator and venture studio, as well as the organizer of Missouri Startup Weekend.
Missouri Startup Weekend challenges individuals to innovate, work and build as if they were a part of a startup for the weekend. Teams compete and pitch their ideas for a chance to win a monetary investment and mentorship to get their startup off the ground. Missouri Startup Weekend 2023 is set for Friday, March 10 through Sunday, March 12.
Click here to purchase tickets for Missouri Startup Weekend.
EquipmentShare — which was founded by previous Startup Weekend winners Jabbok and Willy Schlacks — is hosting this year’s event at its headquarters in Columbia. Winners of Missouri Startup Weekend will secure a spot in the next cohort of Scale, which the Schlacks co-founded alongside Jai Malik, founder and general partner at Countdown Capital.
“We’re also doing a cash prize this year in addition to the opportunity to participate in Scale,” Calhoun noted. “The winner will receive $2,500-plus, depending on where our sponsorships land. They get free entity formation, so all legal documents [to establish a business] are covered, and they get a free month of SEO and a branding package.”
The winner of Missouri Startup Weekend is selected by a panel of judges, including: the Schlacks brothers; Malik; Wade Foster, the co-founder of Zapier; Sarah Hill, the founder of Healium; and Kelsey Raymond, the founder of Influence & Co.
Raymond initially brought Startup Weekend to Columbia in 2011 and has played a role in nearly every Missouri Startup Weekend since. As a judge, she is looking for a team that has the desire and skill set to take the business to the next step after Missouri Startup Weekend is over, she said.
“I want to hear realistic plans for what launching and growing this business will look like and why they are well positioned to do so,” Raymond said. “I will also be looking for ideas that are truly unique — as after being part of Startup Weekend in one way or another over the last decade, you hear a lot of the same ideas each year. I’m excited to see ideas we’ve never heard pitched before.”
Foster, who won Missouri Startup Weekend in 2011 and went on to build a billion-dollar company, said he believes a winner must have two things: customer focus and courage.
“A team willing to embrace the challenges, break out of the norms we live in, and do something special in service of their customer is the ideal type of winning company I’m looking for during Startup Weekend,” Foster said, noting that entrepreneurship can be intimidating, which is why Missouri Startup Weekend is the best place to get started.
“Getting started is often one of the most challenging steps,” he continued. “By joining this event, people can try their hand at entrepreneurship and starting a company. … Missouri Startup Weekend is a wonderful place for aspiring and experienced entrepreneurs alike to come together and learn from each other.”
Missouri Startup Weekend aims to prove to aspiring entrepreneurs that they do not need to move to the coasts to start a business, Raymond said.
“I hope that all participants come away feeling that Missouri — and specifically Columbia — is a great place to start any sort of business; they have the support, resources, talent and funding here to launch and grow that business,” she shared. “… While there are Startup Weekends all over the country, few have produced the results that [Missouri Startup Weekend] has with three of the winners going on to raise VC funding — Zapier, EquipmentShare, and most recently, Appreciate. I am optimistic about that tradition continuing this year!”
Nick Farquhar won Missouri Startup Weekend in 2022 and headquartered his company, Appreciate, in Columbia. Since then, Appreciate has completed Scale and gone on to raise $750,000 in capital.
Click here to read more about Appreciate and how Nick Farquhar grew his business after winning Missouri Startup Weekend.
Click here to learn more about Scale and check out its most recent cohort.
Tickets for Missouri Startup Weekend are capped at 150, Calhoun said, urging interested individuals to not wait to sign up.
“This is the best event to pitch an idea, get feedback and find the talent you need to start the company,” Calhoun said. “We have mentors who have been operators and technical founders, and they have a lot of insight to offer you. Successful companies have come from Startup Weekend, so come with that mindset. It’s bigger than a fun weekend. It can change your life.”
Missouri Startup Weekend is sponsored by EquipmentShare, Scale, Zapier and Paytient.