Viewpoint: Spark your start-up

BY RIDHISHA RUGHANI

Published January 7, 2012

The local entrepreneurial scene continues to grow as MPowered Entrepreneurship, a University student organization, aims to spur start-up activity with Startup Weekend Ann Arbor. With a mission to expose students to entrepreneurship and support student entrepreneurs, MPowered is one of the driving forces on campus that is engaging students in entrepreneurship.

From January 20-22, East Hall’s Psychology Atrium will be buzzing with students and local Ann Arborites alike as teams work around the clock to build start-ups over the course of the weekend.

Startup Weekends take place across the world and bring together tomorrow’s entrepreneurs. At Startup Weekend Ann Arbor, participants will grow a concept into reality by both pitching ideas and joining forces with other participants to work on their ideas. Participants will test their skills as they rapidly develop a business model and prototype. Throughout the weekend, teams have the opportunity to engage with various prominent entrepreneurs, technological experts and venture capitalists in the form of mentors, speakers and judges. The weekend culminates with teams pitching their companies to a board of judges. The top team will be awarded a trip to San Francisco, sponsored by the University’s Center for Entrepreneurship, where they will have the opportunity to pitch their start-up. Additionally, teams will have the opportunity to receive three months of free virtual tenancy at Ann Arbor SPARK!

Back by popular demand, Startup Weekend will be at the University for a second consecutive year, hosted by MPowered Entrepreneurship. Last year, Startup Weekend U of M was the largest Startup Weekend to be held at a university, hosting over 100 participants from various backgrounds around the greater Ann Arbor community.

Events like Startup Weekend are highly beneficial for a budding entrepreneurial community such as the one at the University. It provides an ideal environment to find potential partners and learn new skills. But most importantly, it gives individuals a taste of the challenge, fervor and pace of the real start-up world.

Through Startup Weekend we can see that it takes a certain environment to build an entrepreneur. It requires highly passionate individuals, access to financial and educational resources, networking opportunities and supporting mentors. Such an environment is forming on campus. At the University, students are beginning to make entrepreneurship a part of their education. Along with taking entrepreneurship courses, students went above and beyond by submitting more than 3,000 ideas to this year’s 1,000 Pitches competition. Students are taking advantage of resources such as TechArb and enrolling in the Entrepreneurship Practicum — both of which have seen their largest classes yet. In Ann Arbor, start-up communities like the Tech Brewery, are filled with companies. Tech meetups occur weekly and monthly through organizations such as a2geeks, Mobile Mondays and A2NewTech Meetup. We are attracting the attention of new investors who are looking toward Ann Arbor start-ups to invest their money. By bridging the gap between the University and the Ann Arbor community, Startup Weekend aims to further accelerate the momentum already building locally today.

We have to continue to act to keep this momentum alive. At the University, we are the leaders and the best. We have the talent and the resources — let’s make the most of them. Startup Weekend’s tagline is, “No talk, all action”. We’re not just talking about making change, we are making change happen.

On Jan. 20, MPowered Entrepreneurship will showcase Ann Arbor’s next generation of entrepreneurs with Startup Weekend Ann Arbor. Undergraduate and graduate students from all majors are encouraged to attend. Past Startup Weekends have seen participants from backgrounds such as education, design, business, law, computer science, engineering and medicine.

For more information on how to apply visit annarbor.startupweekend.org or contact Ridhisha Rughani at rrughani@umich.edu. The deadline is approaching so apply now.

Ridhisha Rughani is a Business sophomore.