Some of you may not think of Indiana when you think of innovation or startups. Maybe you just think of basketball and corn? While we do enjoy a nice serving of corn while watching the Hoosiers, we also have quite the hotbed of entrepreneurs. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. This weekend, Indiana hosted two separate Startup Weekends: South Bend & Bloomington. This wasn’t the first time either. Big things are happening from the northern tip of Indiana, through the center of Indianapolis, all the way down to my hometown of Evansville. The spirit of entrepreneurship is not a new one but it is finally being recognized from the other guys. It’s beautiful.
I was honored to be one of the mentors at Startup Weekend Bloomington on the Indiana University campus this weekend. Thanks Matt & Jess! It was strange to return to the campus since my first visit at the age of 16. At the time, I had high hopes of attending the school but ended up applying elsewhere. Also strange to return to a Startup Weekend as a mentor and not an attendee. It was a karate chop to my old life plan and a nice one too!
Startup Weekend Bloomington or #swbtown, brought in a fantastic amount of young minds. Also, old minds that were just as fantastic. I arrived Saturday to find teams already hacking and planning away at their ideas. They were basically carving an ice sculpture that continued to melt until Sunday night. I quickly jumped in and started learning about the teams. There were eleven! So…many…ideas! It was exhilarating. After I described to each team who I was and assured them I was not some weird lady that looked like a junior high student, we started getting some traction. It was hard to pick a favorite although I perhaps may have.
Unlike my first Startup Weekend, I had the chance to watch each team grow and pivot. Some of the ideas were completely different than their original pitch. The vast personalities were also fun to watch. Some attendees seemed to be seasoned pros at drafting up plans and financial projections. Some seemed to use the weekend as a study hall. Some generally had a great time and left with a whole new appreciation of business models. I loved the ability to stand back at times and just listen. I’d listen to bytes of what teams were saying or watch from the corner as they racked their brains. Slightly creepy but I was observing their process of problem solving.
The final pitches blew me away. One team had a 13 year old, a 13 year old! Another had four paying customers by the end of the weekend. Just a ridiculous accomplishment! Every team had a unique solution to a problem. Every team won. At least to me they did. The goal of Startup Weekend is not to win. It is to learn and challenge yourself in order to progress yourself. If someone were to only base success on winning multiple startup competitions, then they best not partake at all.
I am so extremely proud of the few teams I spent some quality time with. I hope to have taught them a few things but really, pardon my sappiness, they taught me more. It was riveting to be thrown back into the one event that single handily changed my life. I wanted to share my story, my knowledge, and my failures with them. Watching the teams perform their final pitch was a lovely feeling. I was proud and I felt more nervous than them, I think. I can’t wait to mentor in the future. But more importantly, I can’t wait to continue learning about how entrepreneurs are born and bred here in Indiana.