Google For Entrepreneurs Powers Startup Weekend Tampa Bay 2014

What makes Tampa's upcoming Startup Weekend distinctive? 

For one, Google for Entrepreneurs is backing the event. And new in 2014, the weekend will expand to include Youth and Maker events along with the core startup-driven competition.

Three years ago, Startup Weekend formed in Tampa as part of an international movement in more than 200 cities around the world. At the weekend-long, volunteer-led event, anyone is welcome to pitch an idea for a startup business. For the next 54 hours, teams form, vote for the top ideas, and dive in to all aspects of developing a fresh new product -- from coding to marketing to creating a working prototype. There are winners, and sometimes real-world businesses form as a result.

The winner of the third Startup Weekend Tampa Bay developed his proposal from a pain point he'd encountered upon arrival to the event. Seeking a more interactive, real-time way to engage with other attendees, Todd Goldberg pitched the product that would go on to win Tampa's 2012 Startup Weekend -- EXMO, now Eventjoy. The business, which provides fee free ticketing and organization for events, is now a Y-combinator backed Tampa Bay success story.

Wazinit, an app to help consumers identify food ingredients and allergens, has achieved notoriety of its own since winning Startup Weekend Tampa Bay 2013. The beta-stage mobile application gained a place in Tampa Bay WaVE's First WaVE accelerator program, garnered almost $1,000 at crowd-sourcing festival OneSpark in Feb. 2014, and took a second place finish as a Top Tech creator at the event.

A similar standout startup could evolve from this July's Startup Weekend Tampa Bay. Don't consider yourself an expert, or even an experienced, techie? Co-organizer Michael LaPlante says that diversity amongst attendees will be a focus in 2014. Traditionally, the event caters to a tech-savvy crowd who already know about coding or creating a product.
 
"This year, we are really trying to target a different demographic and go outside of just technology,'' LaPlante explains. "We want all entrepreneurs to feel welcome to come pitch their ideas and have a life-changing experience.''

"You will be able to contribute, no matter what, if you participate,'' he says.

A weeklong event "focused around bringing the community and all the events together into a culmination of 'awesomeness' '' is also on the radar, LaPlante teases. This Startup Week concept is set to roll out in six core cities, including Tampa, according to Startup Weekend founder Andrew Hyde.
 
Startup Weekend Tampa Bay 2014 will take place July 25-27 at the Hillsborough Community College Dale Mabry Campus. To register or volunteer, visit the Startup Weekend Tampa Bay 2014 website.

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Michael LaPlante, Startup Weekend Tampa Bay

Read more articles by Justine Benstead.

Justine Benstead is a feature writer for 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida.
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