Abby Margulis
Special to The Aspen Times

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October 10, 2013
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Would-be entrepreneurs unite for Aspen's inaugural Startup Weekend

Entrepreneurs will have 54 hours to create a high-tech idea at the inaugural Startup Weekend in Aspen beginning Friday.

Over the weekend, the top ideas will be chosen and the participants split into teams to create a model to launch a new business.

The weekend concludes with presentations from each team in front of a panel of judges who will pick a winner.

Lead organizer Alex Huppenthal first attended Startup Weekend in Portland, Ore., in April. Being a participant inspired him to bring that excitement back to Aspen, he said. The event will be held at the Aspen Music Festival and School campus, located at 2 Music School Road, off of Castle Creek Road.

“Startup Weekend empowers entrepreneurs to network with people in the local community so they don’t have to move to Chicago or New York or a big city to find those resources,” Huppenthal said. “They can find those resources in this community and those resources are people: engineers, designers, business managers, coaches, mentors — and that’s what Startup Weekend brings together.”

Huppenthal is described as a serial entrepreneur on the Startup Weekend website. In 1995 he created one of the first DSL modems and presented the DSL Broadband business to Internet Service Providers at ISPCON.

Startup Weekend, a Seattle-based nonprofit, is a grassroots movement where entrepreneurs can come together and find out if their startup ideas are viable. There have been more than 400 events in more than 100 countries around the world. People in London, Mongolia, Brazil and South Africa have come together for the three-day workshop.

This weekend’s event is about bringing people together to share great ideas in a safe environment and create success.

Scott Courts, an investor and business developer, is eager to see how the weekend unfolds and what people come up with.

“Sometimes the greatest ideas are quirky,” said Courts, one of the judges in the event. “Ideas are strange. You have an unprecedented opportunity to connect as human beings.”

People have the opportunity to network with a variety of others who share their passion. Startup Weekend is not just full of participants — there are also speakers, coaches, judges and businesses that will be present to help throughout the process.

The opening speaker is Marc Ostrofsky, a New York Times bestselling author of “Get Rich Click!” He has founded five high-tech Internet and telecommunication magazines. Other speakers include Chip Comins, chairman and CEO of American Renewable Energy Institute, and Tania Dibbs, a full-time studio artist who lives and works in the Roaring Fork Valley.

Four coaches will meet with the teams throughout the weekend to provide help and advice. A panel of six judges will decide the winners at the conclusion of the three days.

Prizes for the winners are being kept secret until the end, but Huppenthal has revealed that the prize will be a package of specific services to help this new business.

What is more exciting to Huppenthal is that a larger community of entrepreneurs can be formed here in Aspen. He believes that bringing this opportunity to western Colorado will benefit the valley to become a stronger local community by providing the resources here to encourage people to stay in this city.

“We have talent here and great entrepreneurs here,” Huppenthal said. “We have great ideas that have started here and have gone somewhere else, but I want to see them stay here.”

This weekend isn’t about people coming together for just one weekend, but on average 36 percent of groups that formed at Startup Weekend are still working together three months later, according to the Startup website.

“It actually creates successful businesses,” Huppenthal said. “It’s a good lightweight process. It’s intense but it’s huge fun too.”

Participants have many different opportunities this weekend to connect with other individuals about their ideas and to move forward as entrepreneurs. Telluride Venture Accelerator and American Renewable Energy will be two companies present to hear ideas, offer advice and offer funding.

There are 60 people pre-registered for the event, but there is still space for more participants. This weekend will be experimental for Aspen, but the organizers hope to host another Startup weekend in the spring.

“Entrepreneurship allows someone to be free,” Courts said. “It’s the greatest opportunity we have ever had in this country.”

To register or for more information on Startup Weekend, visit aspen.startupweekend.org.

Abby Margulis is an editorial intern working at The Aspen Times. She is a junior at DePauw University in Indiana.


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The VailDaily Updated Oct 10, 2013 02:49PM Published Oct 11, 2013 10:47AM Copyright 2013 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.