After a 54-hour, weekend-long frenzy of planning, evaluating, researching and collaborating at Las Cruces’ first-ever Startup Weekend, one New Mexico State University team emerged victorious – but that’s far from the end of the competition story.
The top two teams from the local entrepreneurial battle – including the first-place team of Mykola Novak and Nancy Hastings – will now compete with winners from other Startup Weekend events in the Global Startup Battle – and your votes are key to their success.
An initiative created by Startup Weekend, Global Startup Battle aims to generate a stronger global community of entrepreneurs through the largest startup competition in the world. Teams that win at the local level then produce a pitch video, and global votes will determine the top 15 teams in each of five categories: Champion’s Circle, E-commerce Circle, Innovators Circle, Activate Circle and Women’s Circle. Finally, a panel of judges decides which team is the overall winner.
In 2012, more than 130 cities participated in Global Startup Battle, and GSB 2013 is expected to be even larger.
Novak and Hastings’ business concept, Lovely Camera, is a service for people who want to customize their camera body with bold designs. Novak, an MBA student in NMSU’s College of Business and a technology commercialization associate at Arrowhead Center, said he got the idea of making cameras another reflection of personal style while on a trip.
“The idea came to me during a visit to San Francisco,” he said. “Everything is very bright and colorful there, and I wondered – why are all the photo cameras black?”
He said the target consumers for the service would be young women who are interested in photography as a hobby and are looking for something with better quality than their cell phone or point-and-shoot cameras – many of which are available in a wider variety of colors and styles. These buyers might not be ready to buy a $2,000 professional camera, Novak said, but there are good-quality, mid-range options that his company could then customize with expertly airbrushed designs, turning a plain black camera into a stylish accessory.
Novak, originally from the Ukraine, has a degree in industrial engineering and has also worked as a professional photographer. He said the Lovely Camera concept needs more market testing and cost structure development, but he feels that the next stage in the Global Startup Battle competition will be a valuable learning experience, no matter what the outcome.
Hastings is a technical communication and business writing instructor in the NMSU English Department and a Daniels Fellow for the Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative in the NMSU College of Business. She serves as the project’s design communicator.
For their first-place finish in Las Cruces, the team will receive legal services from Albuquerque firm and Arrowhead Innovation Network partners Peacock Myers; incubation membership at Arrowhead Center’s Technology Incubator; and business cards from the Las Cruces-based LNG Company.
Second-place finishers Samat Jain and Steven Black also won legal services from Peacock Myers for their startup idea, GreenShare.co, a free web-based service that connects local communities so individuals can share items from books and movies to tools and lawnmowers.
Zetdi Runyan Sloan, Startup Weekend Las Cruces coordinator and program manager at the Arrowhead Technology Incubator, said the 21 startup pitches she saw during the weekend showed the high level of innovation coming out of our region.
“The ideas that were presented had real potential to power our economy going forward,” Sloan said. “They were bigger than solutions for an individual, a family or a city – they were solutions for the economy.”
She said the frenetic pace of Startup Weekend has continued all week as the teams worked to produce their pitch videos and get their competition materials ready.
“We’re excited to see that the top teams have not taken a break and have jumped right into the next steps for advancing their business ideas,” she said. “They’re visiting Arrowhead Center’s incubators and are getting plugged into all of the vast resources and connections they will need to explore and advance their business model.”
Voting for the teams in the Global Startup Battle begins Nov. 27 and continues through Dec. 6. To view the 60-second pitch videos and vote on your favorite, visit the Startup Weekend Las Cruces web page, http://lascruces.startupweekend.org. The top 15 teams in each circle category will move on to the final round.
Hastings said the competition is obviously tough, but she hopes the NMSU community and the region will get behind the project by voting daily.
“Our success in the coming round will be measured in a large part by the support we have from the larger NMSU community as well as the support of people in southern New Mexico,” she said. “We would like to ask for everyone’s help, because we are going up against teams from the Silicon Valley, with a tremendous support base.”
The grand prize for the Champion’s Circle includes $20,000 in match funding for an Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign, a visit to Google Headquarters in San Francisco, opportunities to chat with celebrity entrepreneurs and mentors; and press and promotional support. Grand prizes in other circles also include valuable travel, mentoring and support services.
For more information about Global Startup Battle, visit globalstartupbattle.co. To learn about Startup Weekend Las Cruces, and get information about next year’s competition, like the Facebook page www.facebook.com/SWLasCruces.
For more information about the Las Cruces teams competing in the Global Startup Battle, visit their web pages, lovelycamera.com and greenshare.co.