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Thursday, 17 January 2013 11:36

Shark Tank, Saratoga Style

By Patricia Older | News

SARATOGA SPRINGS – If you are one of those people burning with ideas but can’t seem to get the notion out there or develop it further, this may be just the ticket you need – 54 hours of buzzing excitement, networking, a team of like-minded individuals working with you and the possibility of having your idea backed by an investor. Think Shark Tank Saratoga style – that’s Startup Weekend Saratoga.

“It is like a true collaborative brain,” said Bob Manasier. “A lot of people come here with great ideas, some come to network, others come to maybe join a team. It is a great opportunity to showcase your idea and it is a great way of networking for business.”

Startup Weekend Saratoga, a part of Startup Weekend International, is coming to town March 1 – 3. It is designed to match hopeful entrepreneurs with investors and mentors in a 54-hour marathon where individuals with an idea for a product or business have the opportunity to pitch their idea to the audience. If their idea is one of the top vote gatherers, a team is formed to use the rest of the night and the following day to develop the idea into a viable product or business.

“It is where 120 people come together and we match people with ideas with business people bringing like-minded individuals together,” said local organizer Bob Manasier. “The ones who get the most interest then form a group and develop the idea to pitch to a panel of judges.”

Manasier, who is an entrepreneur himself, said that at many of the Startup Weekends, the majority of the ideas are for applications and programs aimed at technology, but that he hoped there would be more ideas around the manufacturing aspect given the close proximity of the tech park in Malta.

“Typically there are a lot of apps and software ideas, but for here, we’d like to see manufacturing ideas because we think it would have more of an impact on the region,” said Manasier, who has an office in Saratoga.

While people who already have launched their idea into a business can come in and pitch it with hopes of garnering investors, Manasier said the actual contest is for people who have not started a business or marketed the product.

“It cannot be a real company or product yet,” said Manasier. “But you can come in with your idea and pitch it.”

The event begins with networking on Friday night. There will be food and drinks for participants with life and business coaches circulating throughout.

“There will be legal counsel, marketing executives, accountants, venture cap coaches,” said Manasier. “It is like directional resourcing. Then they work on their pitch.”

With anywhere from three to fifteen minutes, the person with the idea will try and pitch their idea during the open mic portion of the event with the hopes of gathering the most votes.

“When you are fundraising, you have less than a minute to hook the funder,” explained Manasier. “This works the same way.”

After the pitches, the winners of the Friday night pitch will form teams with other like-minded people, usually about six per team, and begin trying to develop the idea into a more concrete presentation.

“You have to decide if it is tangible and does it have an impact,” said Manasier. “You need to figure out how to market it and how it will you make it work.”

The teams spend Friday night and throughout Saturday developing the idea into a tangible business plan.

Kyle Kesterson of New York City and self-proclaimed Startup Weekend junkie says he never knew his love of drawing cartoon creatures could turn into a lucrative business.

“We took doodling and characters and turned it into a possible business,” said Kesterson of the app they developed for a Facebook game. “It is like planting a seed you do not know where it is going to go or grow.”

Startup Weekend organizers suggest that to prepare for the event, participants can do a few things beforehand to give them a slight advantage.

According to the website, participants should do as much research as possible in order to give a persuasive pitch and attract a team; then to boil the idea down to the basics. They then need to practice their pitch using a timer.

“With 60 seconds, you only have time for a hook,” says the website. “So pull out the most attractive points of the idea and forget the rest.”

On Sunday the teams will get together and once again pitch their idea to the audience, showing what they have done over the weekend to make the idea appealing to investors and business people.

“On Saturday and Sunday the teams focus on developing the idea, and then on Sunday they will demo their prototypes,” said Manasier, who has been involved in over 80 startup businesses. He added that the overall winner will receive a package of services designed to launch their idea into a reality.

“Startup Weekends are a lot like research and developing weekends,” said Manasier. “You are learning through the art of creating. You bring your idea, build a strategy with a team and then test it.”

He added that even the networking involved is invaluable to participants whether they come to pitch an idea, join a team or be a sponsor.

“You get to network with some of the best minds in the community,” said Manasier. “People can get involved as a mentor, judge, sponsor or organizer.”

Cost for the weekend is $99 with an early bird special of $75; students are $49; and scholarships are also available. Participants sign up for which ever area they feel is their niche. The areas of expertise include developers – software engineers, coders and developers; designers – anyone with a background in design; non-technical – anyone who is in business, marketing, PR; manufacturer – employees at a manufacturing firm, product designers and people interested in developing products.

For more information on the event or to sign up, visit their website at Saratoga.startupweekend.org or call (518) 584-9737 or (845) 494-9737.

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