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Startup Spokane helps local entrepreneurs develop their ideas, launch companies

November 13, 2018

Startup Spokane returns this weekend for its 11th round of coaching entrepreneurs through creating a company in 54 hours.

On Friday night, about 30 people will pitch business ideas to a crowd of investors, coaches and mentors at Spokane Valley Tech. Audience members will vote on the 60-second pitches, selecting 10 favorites.

From there, teams will assemble to develop the concepts through research, marketing and prototype stages. On Sunday evening, each team will give a short presentation on their prospective startup.

“If you ever want to know what it’s like to be an entrepreneur, this is a great way to get exposed. … It’s an intense weekend, with highs and lows, aha moments and a sense of achievement,” said Megan Hulsey, program manager for Startup Spokane, which is part of Greater Spokane Incorporated.

Several local companies trace their beginnings to the local startup weekends.

Spiceologist was conceived during a Startup Spokane event by owners Heather Scholten and Pete Taylor. The company sells rubs, spices and herbs nationwide.

“Launching a company in 54 hours may seem impossible, but we beg to differ,” Taylor said in promotional materials for the event.

Beardbrand, now headquartered in Austin, Texas, also grew out of a startup weekend in Spokane, where one of its co-founders still lives. Beardbrand sells grooming products for beards and mustaches.

Seattle-based Rover.com, which has a Spokane office, grew out of a startup weekend in Seattle, Hulsey said.

Startup weekends are held internationally. Startup Spokane schedules its event in mid-November, which coincides with Global Entrepreneurship Week.

The cost for the local startup weekend is $40, including meals. Online registration is required.

People don’t have to have a business concept to pitch to attend the event, said April Needham, an executive on loan to Startup Spokane from Avista Corp.

Many who come simply enjoy being part of the teams that develop and refine the ideas, she said. The weekend also offers opportunities to network with people who started their own companies and with potential investors.

“It’s a high-energy weekend, and it just flies by,” Needham said. “We work until 10 p.m. and come back the next morning at 8 a.m.”

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