Most hackathons ask participants to code together to solve a problem. But at Pittsburgh’s latest Techstars Startup Weekend, participants developed and pitched ideas for entirely new ventures.
The Feb. 2 to 4 event was hosted by InnovatePGH in partnership with prominent national pre-seed investment program Techstars and served as a chance for super-early-stage entrepreneurs to fine tune their ideas and make connections. It was the region’s first Techstars Startup Weekend since before the pandemic, 2019.
Prior to the new year, InnovatePGH Ecosystem Community and Research Manager Charles Mansfield told Technical.ly that during the weekend-long ideation session, groups would come together to come up with ideas, and then present and pitch them. Another goal of the event was to give entrepreneurs new to the Pittsburgh tech ecosystem insight into available resources and allow them to make connections.
On the other side of the event, Mansfield feels it was a success.
“It was amazing. We ended up with about seven teams pitching their ideas to our panel of judges,” he said. “They were all very polished, especially for having only been at it for like 50 hours or so. The progress that they made from day one to day three was really astounding.”
The attendees included participants from universities inside and outside the region such as Cornell University, the University of Pittsburgh, Duquesne University, Carnegie Mellon University and Grove City College. While only three teams placed, Mansfield said the judges were impressed with the ideas all the participants came up with.
The winner of the event was Meet Cute, a company developing a place-centric, rather than people-centric, dating platform: Instead of matching with potential mates based on appearance or personality traits, the app would ask, for instance, “Do you like going to this specific restaurant?” and connect users to others who respond similarly, Mansfield said.
As the winners, Meet Cute team members received two dedicated desks for one year at InnovatePGH’s Avenu Workspaces ($7,200 in value) and up to $5,000 of incorporation fees from Dentons. Second and third-place winners were awarded one dedicated desk at Avenu for six months.
Judges most valued validation, execution and business model soundness, said Mansfield, who was impressed with the diversity in skill sets present among the participants.
Techstars and InnovatePGH are discussing possible future partnerships, and while nothing is final, Mansfield believes another Techstars Startup Weekend could be equally successful next year.
“It’s really good at introducing [and] bringing people into the fold,” Mansfield said. “The Pittsburgh entrepreneurial ecosystem is in a lot of ways not a closed circle, but you see a lot of the same people doing a lot of the same things and talking about all the same things, if you go to enough events. But Techstars Startup Weekend can … bring people into the ecosystem that haven’t been here before.”Atiya Irvin-Mitchell is a 2022-2023 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Heinz Endowments.
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