What's Happening in the Rochester Entrepreneurial Ecosystem: Startup Weekend, The Assistive Tech Challenge, and Global Entrepreneurship Week

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The past two weeks have witnessed a significant amount of activity in Rochester’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Beginning with Startup Weekend and ending yesterday with twenty-two different events taking place across the community, the last fifteen days have offered a wide taste of the culture and diversity of Rochester’s current innovation community.

 

Techstars Startup Weekend (Oct 26-28th) 

Startup Weekend is a fifty-four-hour event, powered by the global Techstars accelerator program. Approximately forty individuals joined in Startup Weekend this year as participants, coaches, judges, and organizers. At this event, many began the weekend on Friday evening as strangers and quickly formed strategic teams around the top ideas. Teams spent the remaining hours building out a business canvas, performing customer validation in the community, and preparing business pitches. Six teams pitched to a panel of judges on Sunday night, which included Julie Henry, Enterprise IP Contract Manager at Mayo Clinic; Xavier Frigola, Director of the Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator; Stephen Ekker, Director of the Mayo Clinic Office of Entrepreneurship; Sarah Miller, Owner of White Space; and Matt Smyth, President and Chief Strategist at Headland Law.

The Smarter City team, composed of Garrett Lieffring, Josef Chlachula, and Jeremiah Harbach, won third place in the competition. Smarter City helps Rochester residents and visitors wayfind and locate food, activities, lodging, and key information around the city of Rochester using Smart City QR tags. These tags could serve as catalysts to direct individuals to local resources and experiences and to facilitate self-guided city tours.   

Sajal Kherde, Anthony Kyle, and Phil Stubbs took second place at Startup Weekend with their 20 x 20 concept. 20 x 20 is an online platform for local artists to sell their oil paintings and wall hangings. The platform also provides analytics and includes a story about the art and the artist behind the creation. By Sunday evening, the team already had artists signed up to use their platform.

Team E3, composed of Grace Pesch, Jay Franson, and James Perreault, won Startup Weekend with their “What Were You Thinking?” card game. This game, based on the nine Enneagram personality categories, could function as a unique way to teach empathy, improve personal relationships, and provide team building opportunities. The team marketed their game on Facebook and had preorders by Sunday evening. 

If you missed out on the event, you can catch up with the pitches by checking out the Facebook live video on our social media. You can also visit our video of the weekend to better understand the impact an event like Startup Week has on the Rochester community.

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 The Assistive Tech Challenge (November 3rd) 

The Assistive Tech Challenge pitch event took place on Saturday November 3rd as part of the Assistive Tech Expo at the Rochester Technical and Community College Heintz Center. This business pitch competition sought solutions to eliminate employment barriers, reduce dependency on caregivers, enable richer social interactions, and elevate access to community infrastructure for people living with disabilities. The competition was facilitated by the Destination Medical Center Discovery Square Team, The Arc Minnesota Southeast Region, and the disABILITY Mayo Clinic Employee Resource Group.

Twenty-eight teams applied to compete in this inaugural competition, DMC’s very first tech pitch event, including a team from Naples, Florida. Teams competed in two divisions, an Open Competition for ideas from the community and a Professional Division, for businesses with less than $250,000 in annual revenue. First and second place in each division received $5,000 and $2,500 respectively from The Arc Minnesota.  

In the Open Division, Samantha Grover came in second place with her concept AbleKitchen. AbleKitchen is an all-in-one recipe, meal planning, and shopping application to make cooking more accessible for people with, and without, disabilities. Rochester team of Cody Schmidt and Nick Elliott won first place in the Open Division with their “Adapt-A-Cart” prototype, a device that allows for seamless attachment and detachment of a wheelchair to a grocery cart to make shopping simpler and more efficient.

In the Professional Division, Minneapolis business Mobility 4 All won second place with their “kinder, gentler ride service for senior and people with disabilities.” Vitals Aware Services, also from Minneapolis, took first place in the Professional Division. This business created technology that enables real time communication between first responders and persons with mental illness during times of crises.

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Global Entrepreneurship Week (November 5th-9th)

Rochester’s Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) is a grassroots, weeklong effort to celebrate entrepreneurship across the city. Twenty-two events took place over the course of the week, organized by multiple components of the entrepreneurial ecosystem, including: Rochester Rising, Collider Coworking, Rochester Area Economic Development, Inc., 1 Million Cups Rochester, Community and Economic Development Associates, The Commission, Destination Medical Center, Grand Rounds Brewing Company, Gray Duck Theater, The Half Barrel, the Mayo Clinic Office of Entrepreneurship, Mayo Clinic Ventures, Mortenson, NAMI Southeast MN, Rochester Entrepreneurial Network, the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce, Café Steam, Taco Jed, Techweek, Winona State University, Women in Science and Engineering Research, BrandHoot, and Narrative Experiential Designs.

These events brought in over 600 participants, offering a wide taste of this city’s entrepreneurial culture. Events such as these are essential for an entrepreneur-led community. You can see all that happened by searching for the hashtags #gewroch on social media. Check back in over the next week for more in-depth stories about some of the events that took place during the 2018 Rochester Global Entrepreneurship Week.

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