By Nathan Solis, Record Searchlight, November 2015
REDDING, California – The Redding Startup Weekend took over the lives of several dozen people this past weekend, as they brainstormed and created projects ranging from smart phone apps to tech services.
For close to 30 hours teams grinded down their ideas, from vague concepts into working prototypes. The event had the feeling of an episode of Shark Tank on caffeine. Some projects were simple, such as photo uploading apps. Others were more complex projects, like a video group chat.
In short, the projects did not exist on Friday but by Sunday, after a marathon of work, teams presented their ideas as business models.
The three-day startup event brought out the innovators and first-time entrepreneurs from the North State and beyond.
The team members behind the What Are the Odds? app came from Chico State, Portland, Oregon and Cincinnati.
Their project was a party app, which coupled gambling and dares that could be played at a number of social functions, such as a casual get together at a bar or a family reunion.
Rachel Barton of Redding had no experience with tech startups before this weekend. She was encouraged by instructors at Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry to try and engage a business community, so that maybe one day she too could start her own business.
“I learned so much during this weekend. It was just so exciting to be part of something that was first an idea and then we were presenting to the judges,” Barton said.
The app Sensu5 took the top prize at Sunday’s closing ceremony. The app involved a five-question journal process.
Team leader Bryan Cosby said the process forces users to change their habits when taking photographs on trips. With the five questions, involving the five senses, users are forced to recall specific details.
“Memory is fragile. If I answer these five questions I can instantly recall that day,” Cosby said.
Judges felt the app tapped into a market with the most potential and presented the best business model.
Many teams were bleary eyed Sunday morning, having stayed up late on Saturday, working on their projects, some being apps, others providing a service. Mentors offered advice such as don’t get bogged down by numbers or make the product the story.
Solemate, pitched by Joshua Larson of Redding, wanted to provide a service to a niche audience – people with different sized shoes. Larson, who suffered an accident as a child, requires two sizes when shopping for shoes. He wants to give his audience the chance to exchange shoes over the internet.
Francois Olwage and Thayse Campos were part of the group who developed the photobombing app, along with Jonah Dahlquist and Jesse Kuntz. They polled people at the Sundial Bridge and online to see if it made sense.
To clarify, photobombing is making a face in the background of someone else’s photo.
Event judge Eric Hiatt said the competitors had to consider a few important categories as they presented their projects. Did it solve a unique problem and did it make sense to the general public.
Another aspect Hiatt considered was the business model.
“Is (the product) unique? How does it differentiate itself from its competitors? And of course, how will it make money?” said Hiatt, who is also executive director of Shasta Angel Group for Entrepreneurs in Redding.
Event organizer Joshua Johnson described the weekend as identifying a unique need or problem and presenting a viable solution.
“But while also creating new problems,” Chris Siepmann said jokingly, who was working with the group Justice Bows.
That group, helmed by Gabriel Viggers, 12, had a tangible product — bowties. The vision of that project would expand over the course of the three day event, with potential marketing angles, endorsements from athletes, recycling clothes into bowties, and turning a simple accessory into a business model.
Viggers, a student at Grant Elementary School in Redding, said he wanted to create a business so he could buy a football video game. His father, Garrett Viggers, is behind the app Limelight Health app, so the entrepreneurial apple does not fall far from the tree.
“I knew that it would make sense to go with something simple, something I like,” Gabriel said as he hot glued a bowtie from an old pair of pants.
Johnson, who organized the event at the newly opened Shasta Venture Hub in an industrial section of Redding off of Caterpillar Road, said it took two months to put the startup weekend together.
“We want to create a platform for people to explore creative ideas, we want Redding to be a creative ecosystem and we want to play off this forward momentum we’re currently experiencing,” Johnson said, who is also the CEO of Mindbox Studios, which is housed at the venture hub.
Paras Dhanuka, 13, worked on Bonfire, a communication app that could work as a video conference with the ability to share links and other media.
Dhanuka said he participated in the event, because he wanted to work on his communication and marketing skills. Dhanuka, who attends University Preparatory School in Redding, said he has been working on apps for several years now.
“I wanted to get to know the business side with this event. It’s good to know we have that here,” Dhanuka said, motioning to the venture hub with his hands.