03-30-2020  6:07 am   •   PDX Weather    •   SEA weather  
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Bruce Poinsette Special to The Skanner News

When Jeff Martens came to Portland Startup Weekend (PDXSW) two years ago, he had left his last employer and was looking for a fresh start.

"I was going to look for a job but then I thought it would be great if I could start my own business instead of getting a job with someone else," he says. "Fast forward a year and a half later and we've raised venture capital."

PDXSW is a competition where aspiring entrepreneurs try to bring their business ideas to life over the course of 54 hours.

The main event is April 27-29 at the Portland State Business Accelerator. Some of the main speakers, mentors and judges include Bill Lynch, co-founder of Jive Software; Scott Kveton, co-founder and CEO of Urban Airship; Jim Huston, manager of Portland Seed Fund; and Monica Enand, co-founder and CEO of Zapproved.

Martens is the co-founder and CEO of CPUsage, a PDXSW success story. He says when he came to the event that he didn't know anyone. However, when he pitched his idea for a business on Friday night, it became popular.

By Sunday, he had the foundation and confidence to go forward with his business. CPUsage has since raised venture capital from Silicon Valley investors and now Martens helps run PDXSW, along with lead organizer Shashi Jain, to show his appreciation.

At PDXSW developers, designers, marketers, product managers and startup enthusiasts are all encouraged to purchase tickets, which come in three different categories: for graphic designers, software developers and non-technical participants (lawyers, salesman, finance people, etc.).

"It shows people that are out of the job that you can start something on your own," says Martens. "It doesn't take as much as it took 20 years ago. With a few people at an event like this you can assemble a team and get a minimum viable product out by Sunday night."

Startup Weekend is a global charitable organization, founded in 2007 by Oregonian Andrew Hyde in Boulder, Colo. Now it's headquartered in Seattle, Wash.

It's had over 450 events in more than 300 cities in 90 plus countries. There are more than 45,000 alumni and 5,000 plus ventures that have been started.

On Friday night, participants make open mic pitches to sell their ideas and recruit team members. Since there are over 100 attendees, PDXSW lets everyone vote up to three times to narrow the list down to 15.

Saturday and Sunday are used as workdays. By Sunday night, the teams demonstrate prototypes and get feedback from a panel of experts. Afterwards, the experts designate four winners.

"It's chaotic but organic," says Martens.

There are four different categories for winners.

First, there is an overall winner and then there are three subcategories for other outstanding startups.

One subcategory is Customer Validation, which refers to talking to customers and figuring out how much they would be willing to pay for the product. Martens says it's important so companies build something customers want instead of developing a product in a vacuum.

Another category is Business Model. Martens says PDXSW isn't interested in "stereotypical revenue projections". The judges for this subcategory are looking for things like prices, analysis of the competition and whether you would charge as a service.

Lastly, participants can win in Execution. The objective of this subcategory is to develop a tangible product. Martens says it doesn't have to be fully functional but the panel of experts does want to see a basic prototype.

"There are some teams that come in with a great idea but they just talk about it from Friday to Saturday night and never get anything done," he says. "That's an indication of where you might go with it down the road. We want to see that people have actually tried to build something."

PDXSW gives away a few thousand dollars worth of prizes, including a new LCD projector, donated by Infocus, $250 gift cards for team building exercises and copies of the book "The Lean Startup" by Eric Ries.

The overall winner receives a $2500 legal package from Immix Law Group. This can be used to incorporate a business and develop a stockholder plan.

According to Martens, PDXSW is considering expanding and putting on themed events. He says people have expressed putting on an event specifically for youth who might not be interested in college but have entrepreneurial aspirations.

PDXSW is looking for community members to get involved as volunteers and mentors, which will help it expand.

"We need people that are passionate about business and entrepreneurship," he says. "It's an event owned by and run by the community."

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