Local News

Davis joins ranks of Startup Weekend hosts

By From page A1 | October 30, 2013


Participants crowd into the Hacker Lab at 1715 I St. in Sacramento in April 2012 for Startup Weekend. Organizers have moved the 2013 event to Davis, Nov. 15-17. Eric Ullrich/Courtesy photo

Startup Weekend — the largest entrepreneurial get-together ever seen within Davis’ city limits — is planned for Friday through Sunday, Nov. 15-17.

Aspiring entrepreneurs from Chicago, Washington, D.C., and even Tokyo will gather that same weekend in their respective metropolis’ hubs for what is being referred to as the Global Startup Battle.

But this is the first time Davis is listed among those participating in the international event. The impetus for local involvement was a nudge from Sacramento, a city that has been a part of the phenomenon for the past few years.

Alex Rossbach, general manager of the business-incubator Davis Roots, recalled that it was a few months ago when he was approached by representatives of Sacramento’s Hacker Lab with the idea for a large “hackathon” in Davis.

“We wanted to host something big,” Rossbach said. “Something that could show that Davis is becoming a center for entrepreneurship. Since the purpose is to get the community excited about it, we also wanted to have it be in downtown Davis.”

The hackathon that will coincide with Startup Weekend will allow an estimated 100 driven individuals the opportunity to cooperate on building a project from the ground up. It will take place in the former Dimple Records site at 212 F St.

Eric Ullrich, co-founder of the Hacker Lab in Sacramento, which facilitates events and offers courses for those interested in technology, has hosted seven hackathons in the region. He gave a concise description of what the weekend will consist of:

“On Friday night, everyone shows up, forms teams and gets to work coding, or using whatever tools are needed for their product. By Sunday, each team has either prototyped or developed a product and will pitch it to a panel of judges, investors and lawyers.”

During that time, the participants also will sketch out the framework of a business plan to bring their proposed product to market.

Ullrich further explained that winners of previous events have entered into accelerator programs such as Davis Roots to see ideas come to fruition. Others continue to develop projects from other incarnations of the hackathon at Sacramento’s Hacker Lab.

“(Startup Weekend) is a community event that’s building up the local tech community and inspiring entrepreneurship,” Ullrich said. “The people that attend will have a wide array of skill sets, from early-stage programmers to experienced senior developers.”

Rossbach expects there will be a large number of students who have never attended an event of this type before. Because of that, mentors will be present to offer advice to the teams.

“We’re trying to create a really healthy, supportive environment for everyone,” Rossbach said. “A lot of times, hackathons become way too competitive, so we’re looking to make it more accessible.”

Admission to the event is $34, and refreshments will be offered on-site. It is a nonprofit event, sponsored by the Kauffman Foundation, Davis Roots and the UC Davis Child Family Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

Think Global, Launch Local, a UCD entrepreneurship group made up of students, is spreading the word about Startup Weekend on campus. Rossbach expressed gratitude for the many community groups publicizing the event to drum up interest in Davis.

More information and registration can be found at http://davis.startupweekend.org.

As an auxiliary perk to participating, there will be prizes for a few teams selected by a panel, including an entire team’s entrance into the UC Entrepreneurship Academy, in which aspiring entrepreneurs learn skills required for a successful business venture.

Aside from that, there are some intrinsic rewards for just being part of the crowd, as Rossbach pointed out:

“At least 10 or so real companies will usually emerge from events like these. If you’re really passionate about entrepreneurship, this is a best place for you to meet like-minded people and form what could become a successful team.”

— Reach Brett Johnson at [email protected] or 530-747-8052.

Brett Johnson

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