OSU students make an impression at Portland Startup Weekend

Nicole Phelps (head of table) gained confidence in her abilities after successfully pitching a startup idea and leading a group of 11 people to develop a proof of concept for DownTheLine at the Portland Startup Weekend. (Photo by WeThinkItMatters.)

Nicole Phelps (head of table) gained confidence in her abilities after successfully pitching a startup idea and leading a group of 11 people to develop a proof of concept for DownTheLine at the Portland Startup Weekend. (Photo by WeThinkItMatters.)

In one crazy weekend — 54 hours to be exact — 11 new startup businesses were developed.

Three Oregon State computer science students sacrificed sleep to test their entrepreneurial skills at the Portland Startup Weekend on April 26-28. One student had her idea selected for further development, and two students were part of the overall winning team.

The weekend started with 47 ideas for a startup, pitched by participants. After the votes were in, the top 11 moved on to form teams composed of hackers (software developers), hustlers (business and marketing experts), and hipsters (user experience and graphic designers).

Just a week before the event, Nicole Phelps, a junior, decided to pitch a business idea at her first startup weekend. She proposed a mobile application that would help individuals plan their future. Users organize goals on a timeline and use crowd-sourced comments for gathering wisdom about how to reach their objectives.

“I thought I had a slim chance at getting my idea picked since most of the pitches were serious ideas that people had been working on for two months to two years before this event,” Phelps says.

To her surprise, she got the third highest votes. Then the race was on. Participants chose the projects they wanted to work on and Phelps ended up with a team of 11 people to develop a proof of concept and a final pitch for the team’s app, DownTheLine, by Sunday.

Meanwhile, seniors, Charles Catino and Quintin Cummins both chose to join the LivFly team. Catino said he liked the simple and solid idea of creating an app to match running partners based on where they live and how fast and far they run.

“This was my third startup weekend and each time I have learned something a little different,” Cummins says. “It is a lot of fun to see the project I worked on, LivFly, shape and transform throughout the weekend but also to see the development of all the other ideas that were pitched.”

Although it’s a lot of hard work, the effort paid off for the LivFlyteam who took top honors at the event as the overall winner.

But winning is clearly not why the students attend startup weekends.

“These events are fantastic for networking and exploring the creativity of the business world. Startup weekends are also an excellent opportunity to improve my team skills because you have no idea going into the weekend who or what kind of people you will be working with,” Catino says.

Phelps says although she was disappointed she did not win, the experience of learning and networking was more important and far exceeded what she expected.

“I have much more confidence in my abilities now because of what I accomplished. And I see now it does not matter how old you are or what gender you are, because I am 22 years old, female, still in school, and I led a team of 11 people (all male, except one) at least 10 years older than I am,” she says.

~ Rachel Robertson

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