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Students pitch entrepreneurial ideas at Startup Weekend
November 12, 2012Tweet
When global entrepreneurial competition Startup Weekend came to Binghamton, freshman Nathan Grotticelli saw it as an opportunity to turn his business idea into a reality.
Startup Weekend Binghamton, which took place at the Riverwalk Hotel in Binghamton from Nov. 9-11, was a 54-hour event that connected aspiring entrepreneurs with the resources they needed to create a viable business. Teams formed around ideas, met with advisors and presented their startups to judges, competing for cash prizes and entrepreneurial services.
Grotticelli pitched his idea for Binghamton University Nightlife, a mobile application that would inform users of upcoming student events and allow them to share photos. He was chosen as a finalist, and with a team of two others and advice from local entrepreneurs, created the mobile application and a business plan.
“Startup Weekend is awesome,” Grotticelli said. “I learned a ton about starting a business, and the environment is really crazy. The coaches were really great, too.”
Along with seven other teams, Grotticelli and his team presented the mobile application to a panel of judges. Binghamton University Nightlife took third place at the competition.
Binghamton University’s Angelo Mastrangelo adjunct assistant professor in the School of Management and professional training and coaching consultant, and Kenneth McLeod, professor of bioengineering and entrepreneur, served on the judging panel.
“It’s quite encouraging that an event like this can be pulled off in Binghamton,” McLeod said. “It’s exciting that the vast majority of participants are engineers. Engineers are launching the majority of new ventures, because the excitement of technology is what fuels development.”
Startup Weekend Binghamton had one of the largest turnouts of participants for Startup Weekend events, which occur in much larger cities, Mastrangelo said. It also had, at 80 percent, one of the highest percentages of participants who pitched ideas for startups.
“What is happening today is that more and more people want to be in business for themselves and they need to learn the process,” Mastrangelo said. “This is the type of thing that gives people a chance to learn about entrepreneurship and try it. It’s also great how many Binghamton University students are here.”
As judges, Mastrangelo and McLeod heard five-minute pitches from each startup team, and were told to determine whether each business idea was viable.
“There are two things I look for in a new venture,” McLeod said. “One is a team that works well together. People invest in teams more than in concepts. The second is magic. Does it wow you? No one will be on board without magic.”
The ideas presented included a social media platform to connect international students in the United States, an online interactive game about the music industry and sound synthesizing software. The first-place prize went to ProtoME 3D, a large-scale 3D printing startup that would serve the Southern Tier region.
McLeod said that startups like ProtoMe 3D and the entrepreneurs who create them are essential to the growth of a region and the strength of the economy.
“Companies don’t grow into regions,” he said. “Regions grow into companies, and this makes regional economies much stronger. Regions can’t depend on large companies, like Binghamton depended on IBM and Lockheed Martin. You want lots of mid-size companies, and they don’t move here. You have to grow them here. Without entrepreneurs, they don’t grow.”
Only one in 1,000 has what it takes to be an entrepreneur, McLeod said. Because Binghamton University has more than 12,000 undergraduates, there should be a minimum of three to four companies per year launched by students.
“Don’t get married. Don’t buy a house. Don’t buy a car,” McLeod said. “When you have no responsibilities, you have nothing to lose, and you have to be able to lose everything. If you are willing to fail 10 or even 50 times, you can succeed as an entrepreneur. It’s worth a try, because the upsides are so incredible.”
Mastrangelo advised entrepreneurs to research the market to see what is missing and what can be done better.
“You need to start with a commercially viable, profitable and sustainable idea, and a good team,” he said. “Entrepreneurship has to do with being creative and knowing your customer. That is the number one thing.”