Startup Weekend Set for Fayetteville Beginning Friday

Northwest Arkansas will host Startup Weekend beginning Friday and running through Sunday at the Iceberg co-working space in downtown Fayetteville.

Sponsored by the Kauffman Foundation, Startup Weekend represents a grassroots movement that was started in Seattle and is now held in cities across the globe. It brings together local entrepreneurs who collaborate and create startup ideas over a span of a weekend.

Participants pitch their ideas and teams form organically around the top ideas, determined by popular vote. From there, teams have 54 hours to create a business model. Judges determine winners, to whom cash prizes and in-kind services are awarded. Most Startup Weekend teams are tech-based, but startup ideas of all kinds are welcome.

Startup Weekend came to Little Rock for their first time earlier this year, and one of its startups, Press Baby, went on to attract funding and participate in the ARK Challenge business accelerator in Fayetteville.

The northwest Arkansas event, sponsored in part by Arkansas Business and Innovate Arkansas, is part of the Global Startup Battle in which the top two teams from each Startup Weekend held this week will earn a spot in the Champion's Circle, powered by Google for Entrepreneurs.

Teams who make it to the Champion's Circle will compete for prizes that include $20,000 in cash, a trip to Google's headquarters and the chance to be mentored by "A-list" mentors.

"We expect a talented crowd to compete for Google funding plus more," said event organizer Jordan Carlisle.

That crowd will include a group of high school students from Little Rock's eStem High School, a public charter. They are coming as part of the Noble Impact program, which partners with the Clinton School of Public Service to engage students to pursue public service through entrepreneurship.

Co-founder Chad Williamson leads a Noble Impact program at eStem, and said the students expressed interest in Startup Weekend.

"We've been talking about Startup Weekend at different times throughout the life of the course because we believe the approach is engaging not only for adults but for high school students as well," he said. "The selection process was student driven. Each student that was interested in attending Startup Weekend actually sent me a text to confirm their wish to participate."

For Williamson's students, Startup Weekend won’t end in Fayetteville.

"There were also other students that expressed significant interest in planning the first ever High School Startup Weekend that we will launch at the beginning of next year here in Little Rock, and we are working with Startup Weekend in Seattle to make that happen," Williamson said.

"Therefore, all the students have a great understanding of what Startup Weekend is all about and we're happy to have one group experience it first hand. Some students just want to come with us to northwest Arkansas to support their classmates," he said. "I think that's awesome and indicative of our classroom culture."

For more information or to sign up for this weekend's event, visit NorthwestArkansas.StartupWeekend.org/.