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startup weekend athens is a 56 hour dash to catalyze new businesses

Jennifer Simon, Director of the Innovation Center at Ohio University, has been spending a lot of time cheering on the Bobcats lately. Yet the weekend of April 19th-21st, she'll be switching her loyalties to a different set of teams with winning potential as she cheers on the inaugural Startup Weekend Athens, a new initiative to help grow businesses.

"People come up with fantastic ideas, but when it comes to whether or not there's a customer, that's a different question," explains Simon, whose 56-hour event is part of a network of Startup Weekend events. "We'll spend the weekend on customer validation, developing a beta version of the product and testing it."

The intense, often sleep-deprived Startup Weekends are geared towards budding entrepreneurs who have a business or product idea and want help developing it quickly. Over 56 hours, would-be company founders pitch ideas, form teams, develop business plans with the help of mentoring from successful entrepreneurs, and compete for hefty cash prizes of up to $2,500 in a final competition.

Only 10 entrepreneurs will have the chance to develop their ideas. The event kicks off with 60 second pitches followed by audience voting to pick the top 10. Those entrepreneurs who are not selected can join other teams and work on building relationships with other individuals with complementary skills.

In addition to meeting other like-minded innovators, participants will be able to network with successful company founders, venture capitalists and angel investors. Startup Weekend is open to both students and professionals, and Simon says she expects some registrants to travel from outside of the area.

"This is the first time OU has done this, and it's an opportunity for us to develop deal flow," says Simon. "There is a lot more entrepreneurial activity in Athens and the surrounding area, in part thanks to additional resources from Ohio Third Frontier developed a few years ago. The pipeline has really opened up."

The Innovation Center is a 36,500 square foot incubator space. Currently, the Center is about 95 percent full. The Center for Entrepreneurship is also housed on campus, and provides a range of business clients with technical assistance. Finally, TechGROWTH Ohio, an organization funded by Ohio Third Frontier and located at OU, helps to catalyze startup businesses throughout Southeast Ohio.

Source: Jennifer Simon
Writer: Lee Chilcote
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