AccelNow recruiting for mid-November start-up event

“Calling all entrepreneurs” is the slogan that AccelNow’s Dave Lawrence is using these days as he prepares for the first-ever official “Startup Weekend” in Tennessee.

Other weekend start-up events have been held in Tennessee, but this is the first that is part of the “Startup Weekend” global organization sponsored by the Kauffman Foundation. It will be one of 120 official “Startup Weekends” held worldwide during Global Entrepreneurship Week.

In a recent conversation with teknovation.biz, the Director of the Northeast Tennessee regional accelerator said the event begins with registration and dinner at 6:30 p.m. Friday, November 16, at Brown Hall on the East Tennessee State University (ETSU) campus. It ends at 9 p.m. on Sunday, November 18, after the winner has been selected. In between, Lawrence says that there will be a great deal of activity, coaching and even engagement in the community.

The winning team will receive prizes and will be eligible to participate in “Global Startup Battle,” a worldwide video pitch competition open only to “Startup Weekend” winners of events held during Global Entrepreneurship Week.

“We are hoping to pull computer science, business and digital media students from ETSU and other colleges, as well as people from the broader community” he explained, adding that the goal is 75 attendees by the time the event kicks-off.

Lawrence says that attendees will travel from places as far as a five-hour drive. He already has about a dozen students registered from the Asheville area as well as some from the University of Virginia’s Wise campus and Virginia Tech.

Lawrence attended his first “Startup Weekend” about six months ago at Northern Kentucky University and “had a ball.”

For those not familiar with the event, it begins with a session in which any attendee can stand-up and pitch “an idea, not a business” for one-minute. When everyone who wants to pitch has done so, the audience selects their 10 favorites through a voting process.

“The winners recruit others from the audience to join their teams and go off and plan the business,” Lawrence said, adding that Saturday is focused on developing the plans and confirming that the idea addresses a “customer pain.”

“We will have people going all over the Tri-Cities pitching their ideas to people and getting their reactions,” he explained. This validation component is a critical factor for Sunday’s judging.

“If you have not gotten good customer feedback, it will not be good,” Lawrence said.

Registration is $99 for the event including food. In addition, there are two price breaks for students. There is no cost to ETSU students, faculty and staff courtesy of Dean Linda Garceau. Students from other institutions pay half-price – $49.

More information is available at http://tricities.startupweekend.org/, and there is a link from that page to the registration site.

For Lawrence, the “Startup Weekend TriCities” is a key event in a busy and successful inaugural year for AccelNow.

“I’m loving it,” he says about his new role. “We are finally getting traction and making an impact on entrepreneurs. It’s pretty fulfilling to see these things coming together.”

The “things” include a recent angel investor day-long event, a boot camp with five high potential companies midway through the eight-week experience, and the upcoming 54-hour event.

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